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Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Autographs - Preserving the Moment

Have a fond memory about getting a ballplayer’s autograph? Chris Dial has many. He’s shared a bunch of his with us, let’s share a few of our own with him.

I like autographs.? Sure, some people think they are cheesy and they certainly   shouldn?t be a ?market?, but I like ?em.? For me, they put a cherry on top of   the whipped cream of the moment.?

I?m not talking about those knuckleheads that plop down $20 at the mall to   get Pete Rose to autograph the August 19, 1985 edition of Sports Illustrated   ?Ty Cobb, Here I Come?.? I?m talking about interacting with a player for a minute,   congratulating him on his game, and having him sign your ticket.? Those moments   are spectacular.? Sometimes they impress your friends, but mostly the autograph   helps you recollect those seconds when you were chatting with a hero.?

I have quite a few autographs, ranging from gifts from friends who did see   Red Schoendienst in the mall to a ball mailed to me from a player shortly after   life-threatening surgery.? All of my autographs were gathered as an adult, but   none of them is for sale.?

Here?s my stories:

Joe DiMaggio
  Okay, I plunked down a big chunk of change to see the Yankee Clipper in person   and have him sign a ball.? I guess on some level it was an ?investment?, but   I had my wife come along and take a photo of me standing there with Joe D. signing   the ball.? Even though there was no chatting, I was giddy as a schoolgirl just   being that close to such a legend.? It was like spotting him in Dinky Donuts.

Bill Buckner
  I went to graduate school at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville from 1986-1989.?   One night in the early 1990s, I was at a Knoxville Smokies (AA ? Southern League)   baseball game at lovely Bill Meyer Stadium, when I spot the Jays? roving hitting   instructor walking toward the field.? Bill Meyer Stadium doesn?t have a tunnel   from the locker room to the dugout, so everyone walks right by the bleachers.?   It?s Bill Buckner.? I whip off my Mets cap, and scramble over to him for an   autograph on my program.? Naturally, I startle him.? He isn?t expecting to be   recognized (no names on the uni’s).? As he takes my program and pen, my ?friends?   start yelling, ?Don?t do it! He?s a Mets fan!?.? I winced, but Buckner signed,   and we laughed all night.

Steve Karsay/Carlos Delgado
  Another night at Bill Meyer Stadium in 1993.? Karsay was the starter and Delgado   was the catcher.? Karsay was a really hot prospect at the time.? I got my first   foul ball at a baseball game.? After the game, I got both Karsay and Delgado   to sign the ball, congratulating them on a great game.? At the time, I thought   Karsay would be the story, but Delgado has really become the star.

Chris Weinke
  Yes, the Florida State QB.? Weinke and I actually developed a chatting relationship,   us both being named Chris and all.? He was a weak-hitting first baseman, and   I was a loudmouth in the first base bleachers.? I also fancy myself as an amateur   photographer.? Very amateur, wink, wink, grin, grin, say no more.? I like taking   sports action photos, and took a really good shot of Chris at bat, and he kindly   autographed it.? I also gave him a photo of him and Michael Jordan when Jordan   actually reached base.? Our chattiness actually centered on football.? I was   aware of his heavy recruitment when he was coming out of high school and we   talked about his returning to FSU.? I wonder if?

Frank Thomas
  Thomas was one of my first autographs ever.? Like so many of you reading this,   I felt seeking autographs was somewhat gaudy.? Then I saw the Big Hurt at a   Knoxville-Birmingham game at Bill Meyer.? He was an absolute stud.? I think   he doubled twice and tripled.? It was about the 10th game of the   1990 season, but something about Frank screamed superstar.? After the game,   I went out on the field, asked him to sign my players? stat sheet, patted him   on the back, and assured him, ?You?ll be in the bigs by the end of the season.??   I?m sure he slept better.? And sure enough, he was.

Dallas Green
  During warm-ups at a Braves-Mets game in Atlanta, Dallas was lounging against   the corner of the dugout.? I was sitting down there, and I asked him, ?When   Piersall ran around the bases backwards, what were you thinking??? Green turned   around really slowly, kind of squinted at me and said real mean-like, ?I?d have   killed the sonofabitch.?? I laughed and he signed my scorebook.? For those historically   challenged, when Jimmy Piersall (?Fear Strikes Out?) hit his 100th   career home run, he ran around the bases backwards.? Dallas Green was the victimized   pitcher.

Don Drysdale
  Asking for autographs, as an adult, can be pretty embarrassing.? At a Dodger-Brave   game, Drysdale was on the field doing some pre-game interviews.? My wife urged   me to ask for his autograph, knowing that just spending those few seconds with   a Hall of Famer would mean a lot to me.? As he left the field through the dugout,   I did get up and ask, and he unceremoniously signed my notepad and moved on.?   Not the moment I?d hoped for, but we looked one another in the eyes and I said   ?thank you? and he said ?you?re welcome.?? He passed away a few months later.

Andy Tomberlin
  Who?? Tomberlin played for the Mets briefly in 1996-97, and he is from a high   school near where I grew up.? He played at Piedmont High School near Monroe,   NC.? His best friend?s brother, Eric Tsitouris, lived on the same hall as I   did at Pfeiffer College.? Eric?s dad, John, was a major league pitcher for the   Reds in the 60s.? Okay, not a fancy autograph, but one with some local color.

Dick Allen
  I lived in Philadelphia briefly, and while I was there I joined the a group   from Delaware County that had it?s own Hall of Fame and would have luncheons   with assorted local baseball celebrities. ?When Dick Allen was the speaker,   I took a long lunch.? By chance, the table I sat at was also the one Allen sat   at, and he sat right beside me.? He told general stories about how great of   a time he had playing baseball and was jovial the entire time.? It was a nice   autograph, right in the sweet spot.

Gene ?Spider? Benson
  At the above luncheon, while Dick Allen sat to my left, Negro League star Gene   Benson sat to my right.? ?Spider? was even more engaging than Allen, telling   of stories of Negro League All-Star games with all the big Negro League names.?   It was a real honor to talk to him, and exchanged letters with him a few times   afterwards.? He and Dick signed the same ball, but I really treasure the Spider   signature more.? I always hear from Buck O?Neill (whose autograph I got at a   Babe Ruth Conference at Hofstra), but I?m disappointed we don?t hear from more   Negro League stars.

Roger Maris
  Roger Maris? daughter, Sandra, went to Pfeiffer College for a semester or two.?   I was on the orientation committee, and when I heard it was Roger Maris, I snapped   up that assignment in a flash.? Roger was the nicest guy you could ever meet.?   We moved his daughter?s stuff into her room, and sat down and had a few tall   Buds.? He gave me a nice hat and signed an autograph, ?Chris, Thanks for All   the Help, Best Always, Roger Maris?.? I got a snapshot of Roger and his wife   and Sandy, which I still have framed on my wall with Roger?s rookie card and   the note.?

George Brett
  Brett is a great guy.? He is Joe Average and an absolute hoot at 2 AM.? In 1996,   I met a friend in NY for a lark.? We went out drinking at a tavern called The   Whiskey.? Late that night, about 2 AM, in walk George Brett and Joe Montana.?   It was really odd.? Montana moves to a both in the corner and broods, while   Brett hangs out at the bar shooting the breeze and drinking beer like we were   old friends.? I had to get his autograph ? the situation had been too unbelievable   to not have any proof.?

George Brett ? Part Deux
  This past summer, I?m in the Dugout Club at a Dodger-Padre game - the game   was in a rain delay.? Yes, a Dodger game was in a rain delay.? Who comes   into the club and plops down two seats over but George Brett.? After a few glances   at one another, I walk over and remind him of where we?ve met before.? He remembers!?   Well, he remembers the late night out with Joe Montana.? Fortunately, I?m with   the same friend I had been with in NY.? We chat for an hour or so, swapping   golf stories and drinking a few beers.? Finally, George takes a picture of Bryan   and me.? Then we get a picture with George.? What a guy.

Doc Gooden
  Opening Day 1994.? Gooden gave up three HRs to Tuffy Rhodes.? I took one of   my finest baseball photos that day in Wrigley Field.? Just Gooden in full motion   with nothing but the green grass around the mound.? I really like that photo.?   I get it blown up and catch the Mets in Atlanta later that season.? I take two   prints of the photo, giving one for Doc to keep (sure?) and he autographed the   other, while we talk about that game.? It really was hanging with a hero.? The   photo is hanging in my den.? Gooden will always be one of my favorite Mets.

Darryl Strawberry
  I had a subdural hematoma in 1991.? While in the hospital, my friend Bryan wrote   the Dodgers telling Strawberry about my condition.? I don?t really know   what he wrote, and I?m sure Bryan didn?t mention I was 26, but while I was recovering   at home, I received a package from Dodgertown in Vero Beach.? I opened it up,   and there was an autographed baseball from Darryl Strawberry, my favorite player.?   I didn?t know how or where or what at the time, but it is still one of the best   gifts I?ve ever gotten.? Regardless of what else happens in Straw?s life, he   took the time to send an ailing fan an autographed baseball.? I?ll always pull   for Darryl.

Oh, and I did get the Rose autograph?


Chris Dial Posted: May 30, 2001 at 06:00 AM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Colin Posted: May 30, 2001 at 12:07 AM (#603850)
So Chris, or anyone else for that matter, what kind of technique do you recommend for an adult who's looking to get an autograph at, say, a minor league game?
   2. Craig Calcaterra Posted: May 30, 2001 at 12:07 AM (#603854)

Sometime in the mid 80s -- I think it was 1986 or so -- I was on vacation with my family in the big motorhome, driving through somewhere in North Carolina. As we pass through a little podunk town, my dad pulls over and stops to make a phone call at a pay phone. He gets back into the RV and says "we're stopping for lunch." As we pull away from the phone booth, I see a sign that says "Welcome to [town I can't remember] Home of Gaylord Perry."

Five minutes later we are pulling up to a house next to a large peanut farm, and a woman comes out. She says to my dad "are you the fella that just called? Well, come on in!" She welcomed us inside and says "Gaylord will be here in a minute." My brother and I freak out as we look around the room and see pictures of Gaylord Perry, jerseys, and other stuff. That woman was Gaylord Perry's wife, and five minutes later in walks Gaylord freaking Perry, having just came in from doing whatever you do to peanuts.

Gaylord and his wife were awesome. They said that not too many people just up and stop by, and that they were always glad to see fans when they did. She fed us sandwiches. Gaylord signed autographs (as with any RV vacation we ever took, we had baseball cards with us, and yep, a few Perry cards too). He showed us a bunch of memorabilia he had in his living room and pictures of him and his former teammates.

Before we left, Gaylord took us back to his office, reached into a drawer and gave us each a baseball autographed by George Brett (he had all kinds of former teammate stuff). He gave my mom an autographed T-shirt commemorating the pine tar incident (apparantly he took the bat off of the on-deck circle when Brett was freaking out). My dad took polaroids of my brother and I with Gaylord and with that, we left.

I was saddened to hear a couple years later that Gaylord's wife died of cancer. Around that same time I saw an interview with him (he was coaching for the NC State baseball team if memory serves) and he seemed like a much sadder guy than the smiling fellow we met that day. I guess that's to be expected. What wasn't expected was how cool they were to a bunch of vacationing dorks from Michigan. I'll never part with the Gaylord stuff, no matter how much you pay me.

   3. Mike Posted: May 30, 2001 at 12:07 AM (#603859)
I went to the 2nd to last game at County Stadium in Milwaukee (Reds-Brewers), and before the game I got Ron Villone to sign my ticket stub. I asked him if he was excited about "next year," (the Reds obviously weren't going to the playoffs), to which Villone replied, "This season's not over yet." GREAT answer - plus, Villone went out in his next start and struck out 16 Cardinals while pitching a CG 2-hitter. It's like the TUMS commercial with the baseball fan who believes that nachos are the key to a big inning - "Remember Villone's great start? Yeah, that was me..."
   4. Chris Dial Posted: May 30, 2001 at 12:07 AM (#603861)
Autographs at minor league games will depend on the league. The closer the player is to the majors, the more difficult it becomes. Kids sign autographs in A because they can't believe anyone asks. In AA, they still are happy to do it, but there are more players who find it bothersome. At AAA, plenty sign, but the players are much more detached. Of course, there are exceptions.

For getting autographs, players hate the guy standing there with a dozen cards for him to sign. I like to get my scorecard or program signed. It's more of a memento rather than an investment.

Mostly getting autographs is just asking. Let's see, Colin, you are in Columbus? How about scoring a Drew Henson for my wife?
   5. Colin Posted: June 01, 2001 at 12:07 AM (#603867)
Chris - I don't know if I want to get into that familial can o' worms. ;-)

But henson is back now, right? I'd forgotten that. I'd like to catch Marcus Giles on his June visit, just in case the Braves trade him for the rotting carcas of some Andy-Ashby-esque stiff come July
   6. Boileryard Posted: June 08, 2001 at 12:07 AM (#603890)
I was in Boston in 1991 to with my family to see a Sox-Twins game. The Twins won behind Scott Erickson and a Kirby Puckett homerun. It was about 95 degrees out so we stopped at the Boston Marriot for a drink after the game. After a few minutes, my uncle (I was 11) tells us that he just saw the Twins team bus go by. Of course we didn't believe him, but a couple of minutes later, Puckett and Erickson came in to eat. The waitress brough us over to their table and we got cards and a Twins hat signed. It was the only time I have randomly run into a ballplayer, but I still feel bad for interrupting their meal.

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