Here is my small collection of things signed by some well-known people, at least to the Boomers among us. Got one you'd like to show off? Send me a scan of it here.
The true, unasterisked Home Run King. Aaron has always been more proud of his other major league records, though: most career runs batted in, extra base hits, total bases, and 25 All-Star Game selections. Some months before Number 715, I mailed him this August 1973 Newsweek cover with a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). Many weeks later--and probably thousands of signatures later--it arrived in my mailbox. This "Hank" one replaces the lost "Henry" one on a folded scrap of paper I got at a 1957 hot stove league appearance in Fond du Lac, Wis. After shaking my hand, he told me that, with my skinny fingers, I "ought to be an infielder or a pie-annah player."
Another King, of the Blues, autographed the back of my business card after I had finished interviewing him backstage. He politely refused my request for a rare "Riley B. King" version. "The only place I do that," he explained, "is on the back of my paychecks!"
"Clean Gene" sank his own 1968 Presidential chances when he foolishly answered a political question honestly. Asked what kind of President he would be, he said, "I'd be adequate." Ouch! Then Robert Kennedy entered the race and it was all over for McCarthy. The rowdy Chicago Democratic Convention handed us Richard Nixon. I got the autographed glossy--"with appreciation," it says--after I sent him a contribution for his 1976 independent run against Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.
When astronaut Eileen Collins signed this 8x10, she had just become NASA's first female space shuttle pilot, the night-launched STS-63. In 1999, she became the first woman to command a shuttle flight, STS-93. Collins retired as a U.S. Air Force colonel in 2006. She is a board member of the insurance and financial giant, USAA.
My fifth grade class brainstormed questions for her, including whether she is left-handed (no, but her niece is) and does she still get teased as she did as a young Air Force flier (never while in NASA). She graciously answered my students and enclosed this photo with a nice inscription.
Dr. Henry Heimlich
I took this picture of Dr. Heimlich in the 1970s demonstrating his famous "Heimlich sign" to indicate a person is choking. He came up with the abdominal thrust technique known as the Heimlich maneuver or "hug" in 1974, after noticing the interplay between lungs and diaphragm while performing chest surgeries. Since then, the Heimlich has saved thousands of lives.
I found the photo while doing my retirement cleaning and sent it and an SASE to the medical center associated with him. He kindly returned it signed in bright blue marker.
His memoirs, Heimlich's Maneuvers: My Seventy Years of Livesaving Innovation, was published in 2014. The doctor died in December 2016 at the age of 96.
I bought this signed CD from McGuinn's wife/manager/roadie Camilla before a concert in Waupun, Wisconsin, of all places. (He says he doesn't do stadiums, casinos or dinner theaters. Not much has changed, because the previous time I saw him, in 1969, leading the Byrds, it was in a high school gym.)
Go to his Folk Den web site for free downloads of 100 songs, with lyrics, chords and a story for each. If that were not enough of a bargain, McGuinn is accompanied by such greats as Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Odetta!
After becoming a teacher, I was still writing my music column Earwaves and got a press pass to cover the release of the Milwaukee Brewers' 20th anniversary video. Info materials were distributed in these white pinstriped folders. While munching on free food in the team's clubhouse, I asked Uek to give a written hello to my middle-school students.
Bob Uecker, who boasts of his .200 lifetime batting average, parlayed his dry, self-deprecating humor into interviews with Johnny Carson (who nicknamed him "Mr. Baseball"), 45 years and counting as a broadcaster, the TV sit-com "Mr. Belvedere," and three Major League movies. He is a member of MLB's Hall of Fame as a broadcaster.
At a Rapid City, South Dakota, strip club called the Seventh Avenue Flame Room, the star attraction was Lovey and her pet boa constrictor. The highlight of her set was not, it may surprise you, the snake's appearance, but an energetic tassel dance to the tune of Ms. Warren's "Bounce Your Boobies." Warren was a feminist pioneer, at least when it came to civil rights in the bedroom. As a gift to the Air Force buddies in our gang of Flame Room patrons, I bought this signed CD. Rusty has been a lot easier to track down than my 1970s friends. Hey, Ron, Brad, and Bill: I've got your "Boobies."
Daniel J. Travanti
I think I only paid $15 for this signed glossy, even though he was still starring on TV's Hill Street Blues. It was at a charity auction in Horicon, Wisconsin. (A personal check endorsed by Clark Gable went for $75.)
My favorite "Mr. Ed" episode was "Leo Durocher Meets Mr. Ed," the one where the title horse, bat in mouth, hits an inside-the-park home run. I bought the Dodger one for my brother on Young's web site, which went dark at the end of August, 2014. This Uncle Scrooge one is mine, displayed for years in my elementary classroom. Mr. Young, "Wilbur Post," died in 2016 at age 96.
Tom T. Hall
Another SASE score, 1982, on a record company-supplied glossy. My little girl loved listening to Hall's Songs of Fox Hollow, so out came the big envelope, thin cardboard, and stamps. Country artists are among those most accommodating to their fans.
Dan Plesac was a Milwaukee Brewers closing pitcher in the 1990s. He finished his Major League career five teams later, being the last Philadelphia Phillie to throw a pitch at Veterans Stadium, imploded in 2004. He is now a popular MLB Network analyst.
I was working as a newspaper photographer, wandering the sidelines at County Stadium (also demolished), when Plesac began imitating various batting stances of American League sluggers. He wouldn't sign my ball until he showed me his "Eddie Murray stance."
Well, two Turtles anyway: founding members Mark Volman (left) and Howard Kaylan, both in their late-60s, who sometimes perform as Flo & Eddie. The Turtles' web site offers a free autographed 8x10 if you send them a large SASE. That's a lot more fan-friendly than another of my favorites, John Fogerty, who will mail you back an autograph, but only if it's on Fogerty merchandise of $100 or more.
Steve Nagy was the first to bowl a perfect 300 game on national television. He was twice bowler of the year and is a member of the PBA Hall of Fame. Nagy was appearing at a local alley for the Brunswick Corporation, which makes balls, pinsetting equipment and accessories. My dad, a member of the "7-10 Club" in his league, got this note from the star. As Nagy's handout card shows, put a lot of English on his throws and put a lot of pins down. He died of stroke complications at the age of 53.
R. Buckminster Fuller
Frances Hodgson Burnett
One of the small group books my fifth grade students often chose was The Secret Garden by Mrs. Burnett (1849-1924). I always tried to find an artifact to bring the author or era to life for them. I got this autograph, probably the close of a letter or inscription from a book, signed four years after the publication of Garden. Her other famous children's novels were The Little Princess and Little Lord Fauntleroy. All three of those were made into movies more than once.
Two World War II Air Heroes
I probably overpaid for these "collectors' cards" signed by familiar names from WWII, then postmarked and flown on related aircraft in the mid-1980s. But, being an Air Force vet and history lover, I went ahead and bid anyway.
Jimmy Doolittle is best known for the 1942 "Doolittle's Raid" on the Japanese mainland, an idea conceived by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to boost American spirits after Pearl Harbor. It also freaked out Tokyo leaders who had been selling its military as invincible and caused them to recall some of its offensive forces to defend the homeland.
The crazy idea was to load 16 lumbering B-25 Mitchell bombers onto an aircraft carrier, have them take off and bomb Japan, then crash-land in friendly Chinese territory. Most of the crew members survived, including Doolittle, then a lieutenant colonel. He retired as a four-star general and Medal of Honor recipient.
Doolittle recommended Paul Tibbetts to help develop the B-29 Superfortress. Tibbets became the plane's chief test pilot and, of course, flew the Enola Gay to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. He stayed in the military when the Army Air Corps became the U.S. Air Force and ended his career as a Brigadier General.
(Included in the same sale was a cover autographed by Gen. Curtis LeMay. But because he was George Wallace's vice-presidential running mate in 1968, I decided not to inflict it here.)