It was like sending an autograph request to God.
And he usually answered.
More than 30 years after he coached his last game at UCLA, John Wooden was still one of the most reliable autograph signers in sports.
When a high-priced baseball player would ignore his mail, a collector or fan could almost always count on The Coach to respond relatively quickly, with a simple, elegant signature–even as he aged well past 90.
Last winer, family members asked fans not to bother Wooden with autograph requests at UCLA games he attended. Now, recent health issues have made it impossible for him to keep up with fan mail as well. In fact, he’s still at an undisclosed LA-area hospital recovering from pneumonia.
On Tuesday, family members requested that fans no longer mail or ship items for his signature.
"We appreciate the support and respect fans from all over the country have given our father over the years, but our family feels it has become necessary to make this request ," said Nan Muehlhausen and Jim Wooden, Coach Wooden’s daughter and son in a joint statement.
"The amount of mail Dad receives on a weekly basis is just overwhelming, and that doesn’t include the items sent to the basketball office at UCLA. Dad would try to sign every item if he could, but the number of items he is receiving has increased greatly in the last few months and the family feels it is time to make this request.
"We hope everyone understands and respects our request. Dad is 98 years old and we believe that signing his name for hours on end on a daily basis is not in his best interest."
Muehlhausen and Wooden added that items that have already been mailed or shipped will be returned to the post office or shipping service to be returned to sender.