On August 10, 1981, my best friend, Willie, and I stood in a short line of kids in one of the aisles behind home plate at Rosenblatt Stadium before an Omaha Royals game to get Mickey Mantle's autograph.
As a 14-year-old budding Royals fan, I already hated the Yankees, but somehow I knew that getting Mantle's autograph trumped such hatred. Willie was a Dodgers fan, so he didn't exactly love the Yankees either, but there we were waiting for Mickey Mantle to sign our stuff.
I have no recollection about how I obtained the piece of paper you see above (maybe it was supplied by somebody at the ballpark?), but when it was my turn, I handed it to Mantle and he autographed it. We didn't engage in any small talk, but none was really necessary from my perspective. I added the date to the piece of paper, folded it, and shoved it into my pocket.
As much as I understood that Mantle was bigger than life, my 14-year-old mind didn't comprehend the importance of doing a better job of preserving his autograph. But understand that I came from the era in which kids used clothes pins to attach duplicate baseball cards to the frame of their bicycles so that when we pedaled, the cards made contact with our spokes and made a cool flapping noise. We had no earthly idea that baseball cards had worth which could have been cashed in at some future point.
And now that I think about it, before we realized baseball cards had monetary value, Willie and I would make trades based on how cool the picture on the card looked or simply how much we wanted a certain card. Are you sensing a coolness theme yet? Once price guides entered the equation, it zapped all the fun out collecting for me.
Anyway, for some strange reason, when I got home from Rosenblatt Stadium, I colored in the date on the Mantle autograph. But at least I had the sense to wrap it in plastic and that has preserved it well over the past 32 years.
It's the off season, so it's the perfect time to share your memorabilia stories. I'm particularly interested in hearing stories about what or how you obtained memorabilia at the ballpark as a kid. So share away.