A Super Fan’s Story: Be Careful What You Ask For

Hoyt WIlhelm Knuckleballer Hall of Fame

Hoyt WIlhelm
Knuckleballer
Hall of Fame

 

 

Baseball Super Fan Autograph Collector

Baseball Super Fan
Autograph Collector

Bob Gibson Fastballer Hall of Fame

Bob Gibson
Fastballer
Hall of Fame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A very good friend told me a story yesterday about an experience he once had with Hall of Fame pitchers Hoyt Wilhelm and Bob Gibson during an appearance they were making in Houston. It was so funny that I couldn’t resist sharing it here with the part of the world that is our readership at The Pecan Park Eagle, but I also had to come up with a fair way to write the story that would both keep it fresh and also serve  the interest of protecting my friend’s identity, in the remote event that he might not want to be personally acknowledged as the baseball autograph super fan collector who set these whole chain of his real and my imagined conclusions into motion as to how this tale began and “might have” concluded.

Let’s just tag my anonymous baseball buddy with “Super Fan” and leave it to that anonymity forever. Only “Super Fan” is free to reveal his true identity on these public pages. I will never tell.

Here’s how it happened:

Once upon a time, Super Fan came unexpectedly upon two Hall of Fame pitchers, Hoyt Wilhelm and Bob Gibson, sitting happily together at a Houston public event. (I won’t even go so far as to say it was a baseball game – or even to reveal the name of the ballpark where the anonymous site chance meeting took place.)

Be that as it may, Super Fan was prepared, as per usual, for this sort of thing. He carried with him a brand new MLB baseball and a jet black permanent ink roller ball pen to get just the right kind of non-fading signatures of each man that he so coveted.

The Hall of Famers greeted Super Fan with understanding and respect for his interest in their signatures. Hoyt Wilhelm smiled and even reached out to take the pen and ball that Super Fan wanted to use in this exercise.

“Say, man,” Wilhelm suddenly uttered, as he rolled the ball on all stitched sides for a total look. “This is a dad gum  brand new baseball! – You don’t want me to sign a ball that doesn’t even look like it’s been used in a game, do you?”

“I kind of wanted you sign a fresh ball,” Super Fan tried to utter.

“Well, ‘fresh’ ain’t good enough for me,” Wilhelm cut in to say. “Any ball I sign has got to, at least, look like it’s seen some game action!”

Wham!

Before anything else could be said, Wilhelm had stood up and slammed the ball hard to the rough concrete floor in front of his seat and then caught the now baptized article on the first high bounce.

“There!” Wilhelm said, as he first observed and then showed the now rough two-inch skimmer streak that newly blessed the ball’s cover on the sweet spot.

“Now I can sign the thing!” Wilhelm added as he wrote his name over the tattered section and handed the ball to the now sinister-grinning and also standing Bob Gibson.

“Shoot, Wilhelm!” Gibson chuckled. “You’re a knuckleballer. You didn’t put any real game action on this ball at all. Let me show you what a Gibson fastball will do to bring out the game action life of this little old baseball!”

KA-BOOM!

Gibson hurled the baseball to the concrete in front of his space with the same kind of force he once used on the mound. It’s contact with the sidewalk-hard floor sounded like a mortal landing of such a pitch upon the head of an unfortunate batter. It bounced thirty feet high, but Gibson also caught his descending treasure on the one-bounce fly and then spent time admiring the gash that now stretched across another stitching as an imprint on two panels of the Super Fan baseball. Then he too signed the ball and returned it to Super Fan, as both Hall of Famers shook his hand and thanked him for his sincere interest in their autographs.

In his wrap up of the story, Super Fan told me: “I was lucky the ball survived as a recognizable relic with the signatures of those two great Hall of Fame pitchers.

“No,” I said to Super Fan, “you were lucky that Bob Gibson put the act to rest when he did!”

“What would you have done had Bob Gibson carried the cause of game-worthy appearances in this matter to the next level?”

“What if Gibson had kept the ball after he signed it and – then – made the following suggestion:

” ‘OK, Super Fan! Stand back over there about 60’6″ and lean your head forward! – After the next pitch, you will be able to tell your friends the ball was your prize for making the mistake of taking batting practice against Bob Gibson!’ ”

Super Fan laughed hard at my suggestion, but the look in his eyes (which I had to imagine since we were talking over the phone, but it’s one I have seen before in him in other matters of far-fetched possibility) told a slightly different story. His eyes said, his soul said, “I almost wish that Gibson had beaned me. – I’d be a different person today.”

Different person all right. A dead versus a live person.

I’m glad he didn’t bean you, Super Fan. Had he done so, I doubt you would have been around last night to tell me your very funny true story. And I would be forced to grieve the loss of your fun company.

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Astromde Attachment 10: The Pecan Park Eagle

_____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 Responses to “A Super Fan’s Story: Be Careful What You Ask For”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    Bill: Unless I misunderstood, you seem to imply that Bob Gibson has died.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Tom – the death of Bob Gibson was neither stated nor implied, but I did find and correct the error in that sentence in which I wrote “died” instead of “did”, the intended word. This kind of error always reminds me of one I read in the New Orleans Time-Picayune years ago about an NFL Saints touchdown pass that, had it been literally true, it would have been the biggest time-consuming pass play in football history. It read: “Danny Abramowicz caught the ball and then ran nine years for a touchdown.” – Thanks for the heads up.

  2. shinerbock80 Says:

    Lots of people have autographed baseballs, but they are better when they come with a great story. One example- my Ernie Banks autographed ball has a smear on one side because when I held the ball out to get signed, Ernie was eating a Snickers bar, and a glob of the gooey caramel center stuck to his finger and got on the baseball. Ernie laughed, said “Oh, man, I’m sorry” and tried to wipe it off. So not only is it a great story, but if anyone ever wants to clone Ernie Banks, I have his DNA.

  3. Sumner Hunnewell Says:

    You can get *much* more mileage out of a story like that – rather than, “They said, ‘Sure.’ They signed the ball and I walked away.”

    I asked Frank Howard at a local card show to sign a really pretty 1965 baseball card. The light was bad & he couldn’t see what he was doing, so half way through the signature he stopped, tore the card in half and offered me a signed picture instead. I mean, what do you do in that case? He was very gracious about it.

    The half-signed, two-halves-make-a-whole card sits inside his biography, “Frank Howard: Gentle Giant.” AND I got a story out of it, too.

    Sometime I’ll tell you about my “Leon Durham” jersey…

  4. stanfromtacoma Says:

    One of my favorite baseball stories is probably just a story rather than true. I have no desire to go to baseball reference or some other website to see if this checks out. Here goes:

    Hank Aguirre was a left handed pitcher for the Indians and other teams. In his rookie season he was brought into a game to pitch to Ted Williams with two men out in the inning. Aguirre strikes out Ted Williams and the catcher rolls the ball back to the mound because it’s the end of the inning. Instead of leaving the baseball on the field, Aguirre picks up the ball and after the game goes over the the Red Sox clubhouse and asks Ted to sign it.

    Ted grabs the ball and muttering under his breath signs it. He hands the ball back to Aguirre who now has a great souvenir from his rookie season.

    The next day Birdie Tebbetts brings Aguirre into the game again to pitch to Williams. This time Ted hits the ball off the center field wall at Fenway at the triangle. Ted is standing on second when the ball is relayed back to the infield. Aguirre gets the ball back from the second baseman and Ted yells to him, “Hey, do you want me to sign that one for you too.”

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Aguirre should have responded to Ted’s taunt, by trotting over to 2nd base from the pitcher’s mound with the same double ball and pen in hand and extended both to Williams with a smile and a doffing of the cap, just for flourish.

  5. stanfromtacoma Says:

    I would have liked to have seen that Bill. That story by the way is from the late Dave Niehaus, who was a wonderful broadcaster for the Mariners. Dave on the radio was way better than watching the game on TV.

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