Thursday, July 31, 2008

My First Autograph . . . that wasn't

Do you remember how nervous you were the first time you asked for your favorite player's autograph? Do you remember the cold sweat collecting under your team hat and your hand shaking uncontrollably as you extended your autograph pen?

In 1983, I was about 8 years old, when I went to the Spectrum to see the greatest player (in my mind) come to Philly since Julius Irving - Moses Malone was there! It was the thrill of a life-time for a Jersey kid to get to see the "The Doctor" and Moses play at the Spectrum.

My Dad and I arrived at the game pretty early. Actually we arrived before the Spectrum doors were open. Why? If you grew up in my house, there were a few things you learned before turning age ten:
1) No one talks during 60 minutes,
2) Democracies only exist when you move out of the house, and
3) You should do everything in your power to avoid traffic.

Due to this third virtue, we arrived at the Spectrum before most soft pretzel vendors had prepared their coin changers.

Once we walked in with the cleaning crew, and found our seats, I saw Moses warming up for that night's game . . . by himself! It was that moment that my Dad came up with the most brilliant idea my 8 year old ears had ever heard, “you should ask for his autograph?" Brilliant! Who knew this was even possible?! I thought he must have learned this concept on a Sunday night watching “60 Minutes” when I was trying to choke down my mother's meatloaf.

I grabbed my newly purchased GameDay program, borrowed a pen from my father's pocket-protector, and proceeded to race down the Spectrum steps faster than I had ever come downstairs on Christmas morning.

As I approached the freshly waxed Spectrum hardwood I could feel my body temperature getting warmer, the oxygen starting to leave my bloodstream, and the collar on my 76ers t-shirt beginning to strangle me. I quickly collected my thoughts as best I could, took a deep breath, and asked Moses in my best Peter Brady puberty cracking voice, "Mr. Malone . . . can I get your autograph?" I reached out with a pen in one hand, my program in the other, and both arms shaking as if I were holding 50 lbs in each.

Mr. Malone walked up to me, sized me up as if I was the opposing team's center, and in most booming, deepest voice that I’ve heard since hearing Darth Vadar at the drive-through, he said, "$2!" All I could squeak out was, "what?" Moses this time offered a more insightful explanation than his previous response to my autograph request, "Kid, if you want my autograph, you need to pay $2." Gravity pulled my pen and program back to my side, my shoulders sulked, and I began the greatest walk of shame back to my seat. How was I going to explain this humiliation to my best friend Joe? How bad was I going to get made fun of in Miss Barrett’s class? Mr. Kling, our school gym teacher, would probably give me the biggest wedgies of my life! I was devastated, nervous and scared all at the same time.

I know, $2 for an autograph doesn't seem like much, but when you're 8 years old and you're anxious to see the greatest player to lace them up for your team since Dr. J., then two bucks is a big deal! I was crushed and never again asked for his autograph.

The following year I ended up getting my first 76ers autograph. Leon Wood was gracious enough to sign his name on my GameDay program for free!

I can't remember if the 76ers won that Moses Malone game. But I remember asking for his autograph, having fun at the game, and leaving to go home at the end of the third quarter to beat the traffic.

*thanks to for posting this on their site*


tastelikedirt said...

I'm not sure if this is a sad or a funny story.

JRJ said...

I hope it's a funny story! :) It didn't work out that time, but it was a great experience and got to meet Leon Wood! ha.

Thanks for stopping by the blog.

Wax Heaven said...

Cool story! Read it at!

JRJ said...

Mario - Thanks for stopping by and the comment. And I thank for posting this on their site.