|SABO WASN'T VERY POPULAR AT A TAMPA SPORTS AUTHORITY.|
Reigning NL Rookie of the Year Chris Sabo was a top dog in the memorabilia biz in 1989.
Or so I thought.
That March, a free autograph signing was arranged at a Sports Authority in Tampa, about a half-hour west from where the Reds held spring training in Plant City.
Meet Spuds. Get his autograph. For free. Check, check and check. I'm so there.
Sporting Rec Specs, a quick bat and oodles of hustle, Sabo became a must-follow player in '88. It didn't hurt that he also bore a likeness to the suave bull terrier Spuds MacKenzie, the star of the Bud Light commercials who slobbered over an assortment of bimbos in the late '80s. A real dog's dog.
Bracing for a massive turnout for the early Monday evening appearance, I arrived about an hour in advance. The store had some shoppers but no one there to meet Spuds, as best as I could tell. About 10 minutes beforehand, a few other fans arrived. About then, some employees began setting up a table and chair, and a short line formed.
Sabo got there more or less on time but was hard to recognize without his Specs. Silly me was expecting him to be wearing them. I don't think he said five words to anyone. I was among the first 10, and upon greeting him, he smiled, nodded and signed my baseball neatly.
I stuck around a little longer to buy something. Before leaving, I wanted to see how many remained in line, walking to the back of the store where Sabo was. Shockingly, he was all alone, abandoned like a puppy in a thunderstorm. There was poor Spuds collecting dust among the basketball hoops and canoes amid the hum of the AC and intermittent squawk of the store's intercom.
It was so quiet back there you could've heard the shotgun blast coming from Old Yeller's pen clear from Texas. Sabo looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there, so I decided to throw him a bone.
There was a one-autograph limit, but I figured, screw that. He'd probably like something to do about then, and I had a card. Wanted to crack a joke about the turnout while he signed it but didn't know if he'd take it the wrong way and garrote me with a nearby canoe line. Certainly with no witnesses around, he could've, so why risk it, right?
Hindsight being 20/20, maybe his appearance should've been at the local animal shelter.
|SPUDS WAS NICE ENOUGH TO SIGN 2 ITEMS.|
|BUT THE NUMBERS WERE SPARSE AT A TAMPA APPEARANCE.|