Friday, February 22, 2013

AUTOGRAPH MEMORIES: THE NEAR MISSES


In previous series posts, I've told the stories behind some of my autographs. I treasure the memories as much as the signatures and enjoy sharing them with you.

Let's go from fairy tales to tales of failure. Time to recount the ones that got away, with these three spring training near misses the most painful.



GREG MADDUX


A friend and I were in West Palm Beach in 1996, a week before Grapefruit League games started. We were taking a road trip through the parks on the east coast, watching workouts and intrasquad games and, of course, hunting autographs.

Greg Maddux had been invisible most of the day. Later on, he appeared walking in foul territory by home plate in the stadium. He was in street clothes, looking like he had just showered, and was dressed nicely. He was heading to where we and others were on the third-base side.

He stopped by the rail and began signing. That's when some man got so excited and careless that he jabbed a Sharpie toward him, point side out, and marked Maddux's shirt. Maddux threw his hands up, didn't say anything and walked away. Couldn't blame him one bit.

Just another example of how the actions of one ass-clown can ruin it for everyone.





GEORGE BRETT


About 1990 in Baseball City, George Brett was taking batting practice on an auxiliary field. I was with a few other fans, and after about 20 minutes, he stopped, collected some bats, and started walking back toward the clubhouse. 

He was sweating profusely, looking in no mood for interaction, when someone spoke up. Surprisingly, he stopped, leaned his bats against his leg and took a ball from an outstretched hand.

He signed a couple others while continuing to drip like a busted sink pipe but then grabbed his bats and ran away just like that. Maybe he was in search of a towel.

I run from the dentist, not to pursue autographs. But that didn't stop some from tearing out in pursuit like neighborhood mutts nipping at the butcher's heels.

Props to Brett for stopping, but, gee, couldn't he have signed more than three? If not, why bother at all? I then threw in my towel. As in, my day was done.




DON MATTINGLY


An hour before the game against the Orioles on Easter Sunday 1989 at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Don Mattingly began signing along the first-base line.  

I was on the third-base rail and ran over there faster than you can say the Lord's Prayer.

I found space as he made his way down the line toward me. No doubt I was getting him. As he got closer, I could hear him talking with fans. I also could hear church bells in the distance. I was about to receive communion in the form of an autograph from Monsignor Donnie Baseball. 

Holy moly!

About five or six fans from me, he stopped moving and stayed in the same spot signing. I had a choice to make: Be patient like Job and stay along the rail or move over and get into the mob, hoping he stayed put. I moved, but by the time I got close enough, he trotted away to warm up.

Curses. From heaven to H-E-double-hockey-sticks. While most think of either Jesus Christ or Peter Rabbit on Easter Sunday, I recall how the Autograph Gods conspired against me. By the end of the four-hour drive home, I promised never to dwell so much on this silly hobby.

But as you can tell I haven't been able to forget.

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