Last week, Jeff Pearlman wrote an article on ESPN.com about how Nomar Garciaparra showed no love towards Dodgers fans during autograph day, the last ever at Vero Beach, Florida.
Pearlman said, “In one of the least fan-friendly displays I’ve ever witnessed as a baseball writer, Garciaparra spent the absolute minimum amount of time signing.” He never looked up. He never said a word. When fans offered a hearty “Good luck!” or said “You’ve always been my favorite!” he either grunted or pretended the sentiment was never expressed.
I don’t think that Garciaparra’s less than friendly attitude warrants him the stigma of “rapidly fading has-been” by Pearlman, but it did get me thinking. In the limited time I witnessed Garciaparra in public, he always seemed like a nice guy to me. Feelings about Garciaparra aside, Pearlman did say something that I agreed with. He said, “I wanted to tell him (Garciaparra) that fame is fleeting, and the ability to make someone’s day — to make a memory — is a gift few of us possess.”
Good point indeed.
I can remember sitting with my uncle at Wrigley watching the Cubs during batting practice. Sitting with my uncle at Wrigley Field meant pretty darn good seats, so I always had the opportunity to weasel my way up to the front row and try to get an autograph. The day I got Mark Grace’s autograph while he was jogging by the bullpen still ranks in the top ten of my favorite Cub moments.
Or how about waiting for the players after the game outside the parking lot (before it turned into the zoo it is today). We would wait forever for Maddux or Sutcliffe to come over and sign. I remember my mom telling Gary Scott (remember him) he played a great game and he didn’t even play that day. He still signed my scorecard after he chuckled heartily at my mom. One time, Hector Villenuava signed a ball for my best and friend and I while he was getting into his car, and then proceeded to give us free cologne samples. On the way home from the games we would replay those type of moments, each time making them bigger and bigger in our heads.
Situations like that did make my day and were and are monumental to my memories of Wrigley Field and more importantly the Chicago Cubs. My family and friends and I still talk about those times, although now it is to mostly make fun of me. So, is it an athlete’s responsibility to sign autographs? Do baseball players owe fans something because we “pay their salaries?”
I don’t think someone not signing an autograph means they are a bad guy. I get the idea that everyone has a bad day. If a player decides to sign autograph after autograph after autograph, great. If not that is ok too. I am more interested in the way they carry themselves in general and their work off the field; names like Kerry Wood and Derrek Lee come to mind.
The game of baseball is not like it once was. We (and I use the term we loosely here) turn baseball players and athletes in general, into heroes when they really should not be. They are over-hyped and most of them have egos to match. They are overpaid to play what at the end of the day is a game, a game that at its best is played for hours during those long days of summer with a group of friends.
What do you think? Is it a baseball player’s responsibility to make memories for the fans? What baseball player or athlete in general made your day…made you a memory?