Steamboat Springs My 8-year-old daughter Maggie has taken a liking to volleyball.
I have taken her to three or four Sailors' games and she thinks she might have a future in the sport. Maybe so.
At least she'll have the height.
Last week, I bought her a volleyball. She brought it with her to the Sailors' match with Battle Mountain. After the match ended she asked Sailor senior Katie Carter, who will play volleyball at UCLA next year, to autograph her ball.
High school volleyball players don't often get asked for their autographs, so one of the other players grabbed a camera and took a picture of Katie signing Maggie's ball. Maggie then asked others to sign her ball, which they all did happily.
It reminded me of my own high school experience.
One fall before I had even played a varsity basketball game, our coach asked four of us to travel to a local elementary school to put on a short clinic.
We wore our uniforms.
Of the four players who went to the school, I was easily the worst.
I was 6-foot-6 and weighed about 150 pounds.
I had an Afro, acne and braces and walked on my toes with an exaggerated bounce the way kids do when they're not quite coordinated.
But to the 6-year-olds at Lugoff Elgin Primary School, I may as well have been Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
I was just about the tallest person they had ever seen and after our clinic ended they lined up to get my autograph. While James "Boo Boo" Jefferson, an all-state player on our team, watched in amusement, I signed about 50 autographs. And I did it without tripping and falling.
There was no reason for me to be signing autographs then and I have only been asked to sign one since.
While waiting for a flight to Portland, Maine in the Boston airport in 1988, a guy who clearly had had too much to drink mistook me for a Boston Celtic and asked for my autograph. I told him I was Jerry Sichting and signed a cocktail napkin for him to that effect.
I'm pretty sure he sold it for $7 on eBay last year.
I've never been much of an autograph collector, but my daughter's autograph seeking made me think about the odd assortment of autographs I've collected over the years.
In 1976, I got Reggie Jackson's autograph. Jackson was playing for the Baltimore Orioles and my dad took me to Baltimore's Memorial Stadium to see the Orioles play the Yankees. It was my first baseball game and before the game, I got Reggie to sign my program. During the game, I was trying to keep score in the program and the pen I was using sort of exploded. I also spilled hot dog mustard on the program.
Not realizing the potential value of a Reggie Jackson autograph, I tossed the ink and mustard-stained program in the trash.
When I was at the Naval Academy, I got autographs from football player Napoleon McCallum and basketball player David Robinson.
I also got Roger Staubach's autograph when he came to a homecoming event. I gave all of them away. I also worked security at a Naval Academy concert featuring Huey Lewis and the News and .38 Special.
I got those guys' autographs but I couldn't tell you what I did with them.
The weirdest autograph I ever got was from a Navy football player named Eric Rutherford. Navy upset undefeated South Carolina in 1984 and Rutherford, a defensive end, had a huge game.
My girlfriend's dad also owned a psychology book written by Rutherford's dad. So my girlfriend's dad sends me the book and gets me to have Rutherford sign his dad's book. I think Rutherford signed it "to Fletcher Williams, the guy who bought my dad's book."
In 1988, I was at a Hooters Restaurant in Jacksonville with my aunt and uncle.
Playboy centerfold and former Hooters waitress Lynn Austinwhose main claim to fame, I think, was a fling with baseball player George Brettwas there. She was signing copies of her centerfold. Knowing my Venezuelan roommate, Rosendo Javier Rodriguez, was a Playboy subscriber and Lynn Austin fan, I figured I would get him an autograph. I told Lynn it was for my roommate and could she make it out to "Rosendo, with love." When she finished writing, my uncle turned to me and said, "O.K. Rosendo, let the others get their turns."
The last autograph I got was for my wife.
Every year in Alice, Texas, there is a men's only "Politicos Barbecue" with a top politician as the featured speaker. In 1992, then Texas Gov. Ann Richards agreed to speak on condition that women were allowed to attend the barbecue. I sneaked into the event, approached Richards as she was making her rounds, and pulled out a black and white photo of her.
"The only reason my wife let me come to this barbecue is if I promised her I would bring back an autographed picture of you," I said to Richards. A security guard said, "no autographs" and started to push me back, but Richards stopped him and signed the photo. "Tell your wife I said, 'hi,'" Richards said.
Of the autographs I have secured over the years, Richards' signed photo is the only one still around.
Maggie still has her volleyball too. Of course, some of the names got a little smeared when she was playing with the ball. But I don't think she cares.
Like her dad, she understands the thrill is getting the autograph, not necessarily keeping it.