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INSIDE THE GAME: Whose autographs do you value, and why?

INSIDE THE GAME: Whose autographs do you value, and why?
INSIDE THE GAME: Whose autographs do you value, and why?

It's funny how things just pop up in front of you when you least expect it. Recently, it's been a couple of things I've seen that have disturbed me, but also made me think.

The first was on television, a spring training baseball game, to be exact, when I saw a rush of mostly overweight, sunburned middle-aged men rushing down to the railing along the third-base line, reaching over whoever or whatever was in front of them to thrust a Sharpie and a program at a player walking toward the bullpen so they could warm up.

Maybe it's just me, but it's always sorta boggled my mind how people would lose their minds, dignity and a substantial portion of their financial resources for the scribbled signature of a person of some kind of renown.

I do admit that at one time, mostly when I was a kid, I sought autographs and I still have a few of them, the ones holding the most value to me personally from Minnie Minoso, Ernie Banks, some of the Minnesota Vikings "Purple People Eaters" from my first NFL game (a remnant obtained outside the venue, Wrigley Field) and one from Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger that came from some very, very dear friends during the most difficult time of my life.

The ones I have, I didn't beg for, pay for or grovel for. It was just a time when I was in the same place, had a pen and paper, and they were happy and willing.

I can understand because, believe it or not, I was once asked for my autograph. Back in the 1980s, I was part of a group of "local celebrities" chosen to play against the WLS 89ers softball team at the Armory field in Peru. That station was enormously popular at the time and there were kids on hand seeking autographs of all their radio personalities — among them Tommy Edwards and Les Grobstein — and I guess they swept me up in the fray.

It felt good, but I digress ...

No matter what the case, I was never one of those mercenary, dollar-signs-in-their-eyes freaks who would climb over small children and old folks to get an indecipherable scribble from some athlete who will leave my favorite team in a year, a singer who will end up a one-hit wonder or a politician who might one day end up in prison.

Yes, I say the last one because I live in Illinois.

But it brings me to the second observation, and it came from Facebook.
One of the many ads for goods and services I came across was for an auction house that, coincidently in light of my last statement, was a note and signature written by Abraham Lincoln.

I immediately thought how incredible that would be, to have something actually handled, thought-up and written by one of the greatest presidents in our country's history. Once look at the current high bid — it was in the neighborhood of $7,000 — told me that would never come to pass, but what a concept.

That led me to consider what other autographs I couldn't afford (many), or more importantly that I would actually value (very few). It's kinda fun to think about, what personalities you actually respect, whose work you admire, whose accomplishments were groundbreaking or history-altering, and I came up with a few.

I would love to have anything owned, touched or signed by:

• Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who is right there with Lincoln and George Washington as our country's greatest leaders.
• Walter Payton, the great running back of the Chicago Bears. I did have one from the time I interviewed him, but that's been gone for parts unknown for many years.
• Lou Gehrig, my personal hero whose baseball skill was only surpassed by his integrity and courage.
• Thomas Edison, the great inventor who changed the world as we know it with his genius.

See? That was actually fun for me. It measured what beliefs I hold dear, what character traits and contributions to society I feel were praise-worthy, what I respect most highly.

Who's in your top five?

Try it. You might be surprised what you learn about yourself.

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