Once you become a sportswriter, it’s considered unprofessional to ask for autographs and I never have. I like my job too much to do something that could endanger it.
But Mickey Mantle wouldn’t take no for an answer.
I was 22 when I started at the Norwich Bulletin, a small paper in Connecticut that had a great sports staff at the time. It was a great place to work and I was fortunate enough to cover some interesting events.
A few years into my tenure there, I was sent to write a story on a charity dinner at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino. Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Billy Martin were the guests of honor and they held a press conference.
There were only a few writers there and one or two television stations. We asked a few questions and when the formal part of the press conference broke up, I walked up to Mickey to ask him another few questions.
I had my notebook and pen in hand as I approached. “Excuse me, Mr. Mantle …,” I said.
Before I could get my question out, he grabbed the notebook and pen. “Sure thing, kid,” he said as he scrawled his name with those distinctive M’s. “Here you go.”
I told him I wasn’t trying to get an autograph. “Tough (crap),” he said. “You got one.”
I was tempted to throw ethics to the wind and get Whitey and Billy, too. But my conscience won out. Still, I had Mickey and that was pretty good. Drink in hand, he answered a few of my questions and we shook hands.
I tore that page out my notebook and added it to the modest collection of signatures obtained when I was a kid. I have Juan Marichal, Sparky Lyle, Paul Blair, Sen. Ted Kennedy, assorted Patriots, and the wrestler Don Muraco. I tried to get the Grand Wizard and was rebuffed.
As autograph collections go, it’s pretty lame. But having Mickey makes up for it.