For the past few years, I've been going to Florida each February for spring training. I've obtained autographs from such stars as Jason Giambi, Tommy Lasorda, and Randy Johnson this way. This year, however, practices started a bit late-and therfore I was only able to go to two camps. The Phillies camp in Clearwater was very spread out-meaning little to no opportunity for autographs. I didn't see a single player sign at all. At the Tigers camp in Lakeland, however, there was a large, barricaded area for us to wait for the players. As the players arrived, they all promised that they'd sign at the end of practice. However, I had to leave early to catch my flight home to New York. So, I went into the parking lot, about to leave, when I noticed a car pulling up. The sign on the space said "Reserved for Al Kaline". I quickly took out my index card and sharpie, ready to have an encounter with the greatest Tiger of them all. As the Hall of Fame outfielder came out of his car, I politely asked him for an autograph. He snapped at me "Come on, kid, let's go, I'm late." I then handed Mr. Kaline my index card. He then proceeded to add "And on a blank piece of paper too? Lovely." After the sarcastic remark, I then asked Mr. Kaline to add a "HOF 80" inscription to the autograph that he signed for me. He told me "You can do it yourself, kid." and he then proceeded to enter the clubhouse. The interesting thing about this all is that when he left the clubhouse, Mr. Kaline also signed for all of the waiting fans before heading onto the practice field. But, he didn't say a word to anyone. Now, Mr. Kaline is as close to a deity as a human being can be at Tigers camp. The entry street is "Al Kaline Drive" and the main practice field is "Kaline Field." He also got the best parking spot in the lot-better than the owner's space! But it puzzles me how someone so revered and beloved can be such an arrogant jerk to these same fans who made him a success-and a Hall of Famer-years ago. I'm back in New York now, and I'm going to collect at some Broadway stage doors tomorrow-my favorite place to collect. At least you can ALMOST guarantee that THOSE guys will be nice....
Bye for now,
PS: I'm in negotiations to do a mail-in private signing with Orioles Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver. Any takers?