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It’s Monday and it’s already been a busy week for me.
I wrote a story about Minnesota Twins pitcher Pat Neshek for today’s paper, and it was a harrowing experience.
Not only was it the first baseball-related piece I’ve done in 10-years, but the entire interview was conducted over email. So I had to write a feature about someone I’ve never met or even spoken to before, which was very weird for me.
Check out the story here: Twins Neshek Leading Double Life
Thankfully, Neshek is super cool. He’s a big fan of Alexisonfire and told me that their songs Happiness by the Kilowatt and Control got him through the minors, which I found kinda funny since their latest CD, CRISIS, got me through Pennsylvania (see, Mountain Top entry) and has been on extended play in my car for the last three months.
He’s a blogger, a big sports card collector and autograph seeker, so it was interesting to hear that St. Louis Blues forward Paul Kariya is hardest autograph to get in Neshek’s estimation.
You can check out Neshek's blog & message board here: www.patneshek.com
I was never really big on the whole autograph thing as a kid, though I told Neshek this story about my first baseball autograph.
It was from Kansas City Royals reliever Jeff Montgomery – during a game at the Skydome with my dad.
It’s funny, I can’t remember how old I was but I could probably describe the exact outfit I was wearing and pick out the exact seats – we were sitting in the first row three seats to the left of where the pitchers would sit in the visitors bullpen.
I threw Montgomery a ball in the bullpen (during a game!) and he signed it and threw it back. Years after that people would ask me who my favourite baseball player was and I'd say, "Jeff Montgomery!"
Then they’d look at me like I was insane.
To this day, Montgomery still has a very special place in my heart... not because he was any good, but because it takes me back to great moment in my childhood.
Sports has a great way of doing that -- taking you back to when you were a kid – that’s probably why I like it so much.
I keep that ball in a little glass case now, though the pen has bled into the cheapo ball I bought from the souvenir store at the ballpark. Still, if someone offered me $1,000 for it tomorrow, I don’t think I could sell it.
NOTE: Please feel free to make me an offer!
I think every sports fan has a memory like that, so I asked Neshek about his brush with autograph greatness and it turns out his was also with a former pitcher.
“Rusty Meacham -- former baseball player but for me I was in college,” said Neshek, who played his college ball at Butler. “The guy stopped and signed like 12 cards for me and asked me if I played and told me that he didn't have any tools to get to the big leagues yet he was still there.
“It was pretty neat to see a MLB guy say things like that and kind of changed my perception on the game. He really opened me up to being friendly with the fans and just that short meeting kind of changed how I did things.”
So now that I’m in a mood for nostalgia, let me hear your favourite autograph memory – sports, entertainment, whatever – it doesn’t matter.
And yes, that means your fave memory too, Terry Doyle.
As always - questions, comments, compliments, complaints, threats etc: firstname.lastname@example.org
A couple that stand out.
Veteran major leaguer B.J. Surhoff. I had gotten my hands a 1984 Olympic baseball. It was not used in a game, but it was that type, just like you can buy a baseball from each World Series, etc.
I waited outside SkyDome (that's what it was called then) after a Blue Jays/Orioles game for Surhoff. Finally he came out and a few people and I walked alongside him. As I was handing him the baseball I said "It's a 1984 Olympic ball"
His response: "Yeah right"
Then when he looked at it he realized that indeed it was a ball from the 1984 Olympics and proceeded to sign it.
Another would be working until midnight and then picking up a friend in Markham and driving to St. Catharines for a sports collectibles show. Maurice and Henri Richard were among the people signing autographs. By the time we got to St. Catharines we slept for a bit in the car and then hung around the hotel because we wanted to make sure we got in early.
Ended up getting a few things signed by the late Rocket Richard, including a Hall of Fame stick that I have a bunch of HOFers on.
And finally, took that same stick to the big Sports Collectibles Expo near the Toronto airport and had Johnny Bower sign the stick. As he was signing, a guy walking by bumped it (turned out it was a guy who should know better since he runs a big Toronto-based sports collectibles business). With the stick bumped, Johnny's marker got bumped and made an error. He looked at it for a moment and worked that error into the autograph and his #1 so that it did not look like an error at all.
The one I enjoyed the most was Knight's Alumni Brendan Shannhan during the Memorial Cup at London.
Having to wait by players entrance since game had started to get into my section behind net I got talking with Shanny.
In a close game at the time he said don't worry London have to much for them today, he signed my Jersey and Hat.
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