Tom Gastall was a "bonus-baby" catcher for the Orioles in 1955 & '56 and played 52 games over those two seasons. (As far as I understand it, bonus-babies were like first round draft picks today, except they were technically free agents since there wasn't a draft and it was stipulated that they spend their first two seasons with the big league club that signed them.) The O's obviously thought that Tom had some real potential to blossom. He was very athletic and had been a three sport star in high school and college, excelling at baseball, basketball & football, and was even drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1955.
Tom secretly was learning how to fly so he could play winter ball in Venezuela and had bought a used plane for practice. On September 20, 1956 Tom's plane crashed into the Chesapeake Bay. After five days of searching, his body was discovered by rescuers; Tom's life was over at age 24. On the 50th anniversary of Tom's death, John Eisenberg wrote a great article in the Baltimore Sun about him. John does a much better job than I ever could of writing about the tragic events surrounding Tom's life and death, so check out the link.
Because Tom passed away so many years ago, his autograph is hard to track down. There have been a few signatures posted on ebay priced in the hundreds of dollars which is well out of my price range. The same autographs keep popping up and not selling, so I think the owners might be pricing Tom's autograph a little too high. This above unsigned picture (image borrowed from ebay) is even listed for $100. It's obviously the picture that was used to make his Crown card, which is his only Orioles card and was created 35 years after his death, so he obviously never signed one of them. I picked up my signed note sheet on ebay for a very reasonable price, and am thrilled to have an autograph of a player who died so long ago. You're next Howie Fox!
Since I wrote that post in March 2009, I've discovered that their might be a few autographs of other former Orioles that are harder to obtain because the players "disappeared" for many years following their playing careers. The only autographs that exist of them would've had to have been signed during their playing careers and survived over many years. Regardless, I'm thrilled to have an autograph of a player who has been dead for almost 55 years.