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Canby family receives baseball signed by family member, a former San Francisco Seals player

COURTESY PHOTO: GARY MILLER - Gary Miller (left) passes along a little bit of Lien family history to David Lien - a baseball signed by Canby native Alfred Lien, who played for the San Francisco Seals.It turns out that a baseball player born in Canby, who pitched for the San Francisco Seals, a well-known minor league baseball team from the old Pacific Coast League, somehow created a piece of memorabilia in a collection that was all about the San Francisco Giants.

This particular baseball was signed by Canby-born and educated Alfred Woodrow Lien. He graduated from Canby High School in the mid-1930s, and started his career playing in the minor leagues until 1942, when he moved onto the roster of the Seals. The team actually was pretty famous, and Lien did good work for them. Stats indicate Lien won a total of 196 games during his 17-year career with the Seals. One of those years he won 20 games.

Prior to joining the Seals, he pitched for minor league teams from Joplin, Mo. to Binghamton, NY and Wenatchee, Yakima and Tacoma, Wash. He was also uncle to David Lien, who has lived in Canby his entire life. Miller remembers his Uncle Al wanting to teach him how to pitch and how to throw.

"We must have worked out about two hours, I was about 10," Lien said. "It was when we lived on Juniper and I didn't work out very well," said the self-confessed nerd.

But David Lien remembers him as a "really nice guy." Apparently, they went camping up to Deschutes and had "really fun trips, Lien said. He added that his uncle was an extremely nice man who loved to have fun, he loved the Clackamas County Fair and would come up from his home in Palo Alto, Calif., every year for the fair.

There are a couple of things Lien mentions that he has remind him of his famous uncle. One is his baseball mitt, the other is a photo his sister has of Lien pitching. There also are some scrapbooks that his aunt kept. One of those had hand-written notes with stats regarding a guy named Joe in 1936-37, which Lien thinks was about Joe DiMaggio.

David Lien also heard stories about his uncle. For example, when David Lien was in college he was working for Loomis. It was a union job, but because he was paying for college, he didn't have much money. He was called into the office and told he had to go visit the union because he wouldn't be able to drive anymore until he paid his dues.COURTESY PHOTO: GARY MILLER - This ball was signed by Alfred Lien and was recently returned to his family.

"Well the union was located in the Trans America building and their office was on the 82nd floor. I went there and didn't know how I was going to be able to pay the dues. They had mounted up. When I got there, the only person there was a man. I told him the problem and gave him my name. This was more than 20 years since my uncle had pitched. It turned out the union official was an old friend of my uncle's and he told me not to worry, he would pay my dues."

But the family didn't have anything else to show off from Uncle Al, which is why David Lien was so surprised and quite anxious to know that someone found a baseball signed by his uncle.

Gary Miller had a friend who lived in Medford who died recently. The friend had a huge collection of baseball memorabilia from the San Francisco Giants. There were only a few items in his friend's collection that weren't related to the Giants, one of them being a baseball signed by Al Lien when he played with the San Francisco Seals. Most of the other items were tied to the Giants, except for a few commemorative cancelled baseball stamps with Pete Rose and Lou Gehrig replicates.

When Miller visited the sister of his close friend, he found the baseball and his friend's sister told him to take it. Miller decided to try to find the Lien family. He called the Herald office and told his story to ad salesperson Debbie Guinther, who put the request out on Facebook. Lien's daughter saw the post and called her dad. Lien then called the Herald and learned someone had an autographed baseball signed by his late uncle. He then called Miller and they recently got together and exchanged the ball.

Lien called the episode "really cool." He talked about how it's a small world and how special Miller is.

"This whole thing is amazing how it all came together. Gary is a very giving person, a very kind person. He got the ball and researched it, and the only thing he thought about was finding our family," said Lien.

Lien is going to save the ball and eventually pass it on to one of his grandkids.

Carol Rosen
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