“Stay out of my way. Don’t get in my way.”

Winters here in Western New York are definitely challenging. Due to our unique position in relation to the Great Lakes, we can boast of having more snow and less sunshine than any other region in the continental United States. One of the hopeful signs of warmer temps ahead is the commencement of Major League Baseball’s Spring Training in Florida and Arizona. My favorite team, the San Diego Padres, had an excellent 2020 season and are poised for another good run in 2021.

I began following the Padres in 1970 when I was fourteen years old. Over the past fifty years, there’s been A LOT more “thin” than “thick,” but the Pads did make it all the way to the World Series in 1984 and 1998.

I was so thrilled when the Padres finally made it to the World Series in 1984. Sure, they ended up tanking against the Detroit Tigers, winning only one game, but that was anti-climactic after the Pads shocked the nation by improbably beating the heavily-favored Chicago Cubbies in the NLCS.

When the 1985 season rolled around, I was still pumped up and I resolved to see the Padres play in-person for the first time. In those days, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together after paying the bills and couldn’t afford vacations, but SOMEHOW I was able to scrape the funds together for my wife, our two sons (ages 10 and 7 at the time), and I to drive to Montreal (six hours away) to see my beloved Pads play the Expos.

That was all happening in the middle of the baseball card craze. A strange hysteria overtook baseball fans and even non-fans. People got it into their heads that baseball cards were a great investment and began buying them up. Card manufacturers quadrupled their production as baseball card shops, yes, baseball card shops, began popping up in cities along with baseball card shows at hotels and convention centers. Our sons and I got caught up in the frenzy and I began my collection of Topps-brand Padres team sets and Tony Gwynn cards. Tony was the Padres’ most popular player. He was called up to the Padres from the minors in 1982 and would go on to play 20 seasons, compiling an incredible 3141 hits and a jaw-dropping .338 lifetime batting average.

While in Montreal, I was determined to get Tony’s autograph. At the stadium, I overheard some savvy fans say that Tony liked to use a particular exit after contests with the Expos, the one leading to Pie-IX station of the Montreal Metro. So immediately after the end of the 9th inning, I frantically dragged my family through the crowd to the exit as if we were going to see Jesus Christ. About 30 other fans had the same plan, and when Tony finally appeared we all thronged around him. Tony’s public persona was that of a smiling and very friendly guy, but that wasn’t the case in this situation. He said very firmly and unsmilingly, “I will sign your items, but don’t get in my way.” So we all walked along with Tony as he reluctantly signed our cards, photos, and baseballs while repeating his warning again and again, “Stay out of my way. Don’t get in my way.” I was put-off by Gwynn’s very unfriendly attitude, but I also understood that it was the result of being constantly harassed by autograph hounds. My wife was a bit befuddled as to why her twenty-nine-year-old husband was jostling with a crowd of other adults for an autograph of a baseball player, like some sixteen-year-old bobby-soxer waiting outside of a New York City dinner club at a Frank Sinatra show in 1947. It’s embarrassing to think about now.

Thirty-six years later, I don’t know what happened to that Tony Gwynn autograph. I don’t desire any celebrity’s autograph at this point. What’s it for? What do you do with it? Tony Gwynn died in 2014 at the age of 54. He succumbed to complications from a 17-year struggle with mouth cancer caused by his regular use of dipping tobacco during his playing days. I don’t know if Tony was a Christian or not. He didn’t discuss his religious beliefs, if any, in public. The bottom dropped out of the baseball card frenzy a long time ago, but there are still a few stores here in the ROC area that cater to sports collectors. News sources report that card collecting is actually making a small comeback among nostalgic, middle-aged males with an excess of time on their hands during this pandemic.

“Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” – Isaiah 2:22

20 thoughts on ““Stay out of my way. Don’t get in my way.”

  1. Autographs are part of celebrity status…I too have no desire for autographs-PRAISE GOD!
    You would not believe the amounts of my money my husband has WASTED on sports cards! 😳He’s sorry now-I tell him just don’t do it anymore-he said NO PROBLEM 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s embarrassing recalling how I chased after poor Tony for his autograph like a celebrity-smitten teenager. I still order the Topps baseball cards Padres team set every June for about $10. It’s fun for me to occasionally riffle through the old sets and recall former players, but I know they’re all going in the trash can someday. Our sons won’t want them.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Tom, I know what you mean. We’ve been confined to a 5 km limit for months here, so I’ve been sorting out a lot of “stuff” I’ve kept over the years, in the process of redecorating. I came across an old diary I had written in 1976 and can’t believe some of the things I thought was a priority back then! Of course the old diary could represent “social history” and my daughters could have a giggle when they read it in years to come but to me it was like a stranger had written it. I came to know the Lord in 1978 and “all things became new.” I shake my head in disbelief at some of the things I’ve written…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How was work?! Feeling 100%?

    My dad is a MASSIVE and I mean MASSIVE sports collector. He doesn’t stay after games, he goes to autograph signings.

    I promise if you and Corinne are ever in Lancaster, I won’t take you in my basement or anywhere near my dad!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mandy! Work went pretty well and I’m so happy to be home and R&R-ing today! 🥳 How was your weekend?

      Whoops, I didn’t mean to step on your Dad’s toes, just relating my own square peg experiences/views. I’m not quite an ascetic monk myself. I still buy the Topps Padres team set every year. I think I might be the only guy East of the Rockies with every single Padres team set beginning with their inaugural season in 1969. I realize they’re all going in the trash when the Lord calls me home, but I still enjoy collecting them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re totally fine! I wrote a long winded response and I felt like it didn’t honor my dad, so I deleted it. Then after I hit send I was like, ah Papa Tom doesn’t know my brain and won’t know how to take my comment either!

        Maybe your grandkids will want your collection! I told my dad that when he’s gone I will open a place where is collection will be displayed free to the public!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Gotcha! Nope, I don’t foresee anyone wanting my Padres card collection except for some young fan in San Diego. The Yankees are obviously king here and all of the Yankee games are on cable. I’m glad I’m a Padres fan because I don’t have to invest the time. Five minutes of game highlights every morning and I’m good.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, brother! Started reading “Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc.” That was close to a suicide mission for those 250 Army Rangers to scale the sheer cliffs and capture the German artillery battery. When they reached the top they discovered the Germans had removed the five big guns.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I tried as a kid to collect baseball cards, but never got into it since I didn’t watch or care for baseball. But that led me to get into comic superhero cards.
    Wow that is quite a story with the celebrity autograph! When I worked security in Hollywood we had to often stop the professional autograph collectors from harassing the celebrities; these arent fans as guys who sell them on Ebay and they were a rough lot

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, I think most of the ball players back in those days rightly assumed that many of the adult autograph hounds were in it for the money. There was also the question of authenticity. Anybody could forge a signature with a Sharpie.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I just read a John Calvin quote: “Our hearts are an idol making factory”. So true!
    The useless fervor of sports was exposed during the pandemic…how apropos for arenas to erect cardboard fans in the seats! Too bad they didnt have cardboard players. Haha..
    Have a good week brother!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lisa Beth! College and professional sports is definitely an idol here in the U.S. Fans forget that it’s a huge money-making business and all about entertainment. They turn it into a religion.

      Liked by 1 person

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