Jim Siergey: The Name Game

April 1st, 2019

I’ve never been much of an autograph hound. I have a few books signed by their authors which are nice keepsakes but the books would have meant as much to me without the signatures.

Many years ago when my wife worked as an R.N. at Illinois Masonic Medical Center she came home with something for me.

“This person came on the floor” she explained, “ and lots of people crowded around him.  He was signing autographs so I got one for you. I think he was a baseball paper.”

She handed me a little scrap of paper and scrawled upon it was the name Ernie Banks.

“Yep, “ I said, “He was a baseball player. Thanks.”

I put it down somewhere and it was never to be seen again.

Do not grieve for me as the loss of Mr. Cub’s John Hancock didn’t cause much concern. You see, I’m a White Sox fan.

Speaking of which, I do have a baseball that is signed by Pete Ward. Ward was a third baseman who played for the Pale Hose in the mid-60s. He had a couple of productive seasons before injuries shortened his career.

Wardball

Mr. Ward...

 

I liked Pete. His uniform number was 8, the same as mine when I played on my grammar school basketball team, of which, by the way, I was the entire third string.

As with the Banks autograph, I did not seek out Pete’s signature.

A friend of mine who at the time worked in the business of baseball was at a banquet where he found himself seated next to Mr. Ward. Knowing that I was a fan of Pete’s from back in the day, Tim asked him to autograph a ball which he then presented to me when we once again met up.

Another friend, learning of this, supplied me with a Pete Ward baseball card as well as a wooden stand with plastic encasements for both ball and card. This I still proudly display although time has not been merciful to Pete’s signature as it has faded away. It lives on dimly just as does my memory of him scooping up ground balls at third base and occasionally banging one out of the park.

The only time I went up to a celeb and asked for his autograph was back in the 1970s. It was at the old Kingston Mines. R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders, a string band made up mostly of underground cartoonists, were performing.

After the show I brought with me up to the stage an advertising flyer that contained a Robert Crumb drawing of the band. I meekly asked Crumb if he’d sign it. My memory is dim but I think he may have sighed in slight annoyance but he appeased me.  On the corner of the flyer in tiny letters he printed R.CRUMB.

Somewhere in the netherworld my autographed parchments of Ernie Banks and Robert Crumb are, I hope, laughing it up and having a good time.

I should have had Crumb autograph a baseball.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was March Madness

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