HSN throws a strike

My parents, mall junkies, would flit back and forth between high-end stores, while I wandered aimlessly looking for ways to burn up the four or five hours between my long-gone fiver and the trip home. South Coast Plaza, circa 1976, frequently brought big-time sports stars to lure in the crowds, and I, for free (sic!!!), received autographs from the likes of Brooks Robinson (whom I see has gone corporate) and Ken Norton (ditto).

One day, however, the Pickwick bookstore scheduled my all-time baseball hero, Nolan Ryan (damn it, him, too) to appear and sign autographs. Oddly, they slated Ryan’s appearance in the middle of a school day, but, miraculously, my father pulled me out of school and off we went.

Big stuff, this, what with the chance to shake hands with the fastest pitcher in baseball, a man I had witnessed throw his record 383rd strikeout a few years earlier in the nose-bleed seats at the Big A.

Well, surprise, my father got us there like two hours early, so we waited . . . and waited . . . and waited some more. Hours later, management announced that freeway traffic prevented NR from attending the signing. My vocal, pissed-off father somehow failed to salve one crushed little boy’s disappointment. So, so close. I pined about it for weeks.

Flash forward to 1990 and a mouse- and roach-infested Chicago apartment. MM has the Home Shopping Network on, and it switches from an ad for clothes, or whatever she was looking for, to a signed Nolan Ryan baseball like this one:

In graduate school and newly married, I knew better than to blow $40 on a useless ball, but, one messy fight later, I called the number on the screen. Total self-indulgence and reckless selfishness? Yes. Poor fiscal management? Check. A ridiculous line in the sand given my weak-kneed propensities in more important arenas?  Affirmative.

None of that mattered, though, when, ignoring the fierce glare from the sofa, I unwrapped the package, took the ball in my hands, and felt waves of emotion (silly but authentic) sweep over me.

Fourteen years late, the boy got his hero’s autograph, but he’s still waiting for that handshake.


~ by Moldorf on March 7, 2010.

One Response to “HSN throws a strike”

  1. what a nice story. I also take my son to the big A and last year they had there 50th anniversary so they brought acouple of old players. One of them was Nolan Ryan but I guess he couldn’t make it do to his health.. so we did not get to meet n greet him but today I picked up my son from school so we went to the goodwill to buy a used picture frame and I found this ball holder with the wood piece and it says nolan Ryan … I pick it up and the ball is autographed by the man himself… no price on the ball. So we “my son and I” go to the cashier trying not to look to exited and ask her how much for the ball and she rang us up for five bucks!!! wish I could send you a pic

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