By Rich Klein
Sometimes when you see a person whom you have not seen for years you are either surprised at how their appearance has evolved or even forgotten about them because your image of them is frozen in time. Such was the reaction of many people when they recently saw O.J. Simpson in a court room last week. He’s graying now and has put on a lot of weight. When someone who used to be in the public eye disappears and then you hear about them or see them, sometimes there just a shock of how they evolved. For me, one time I vividly remember being shocked was when John Ehrlichman passed away in 1999. Seeing O.J. today was just a shock since you always believed he would look the same and look like the same great running back in the 1960’s or 1970’s or as the car rental pitchman in the 1980’s. Even as it refers to O.J. my memories are different and there are some hobby tales attached.
My first memory of seeing O.J. Simpson in person was during the insane time now known as the 1991 National Sports Collectors Convention. The NFL had a party during the show in which the guests could graph up with the players and yes I took advantage of the opportunity. As I have written, I clearly remember Simpson saying to me “I bet you’re going to get several autographs from me tonight”.
I sure did and ended up trading those away to other members of the Beckett team. In fact, we used to keep track of items we traded with each other in addition to baseball cards. Among the items we traded back and forth included color TVs and golf clubs for baseball cards. Since at that time we were pretty well constrained by our ethics code, trading among ourselves was the best way to get cards into each other’s hands.
The next time O.J. Simpson popped into a Beckett’s rep world was in 1994. One of my co-workers, Dan Hitt, had a trip to Chicago the week after Simpson took his flight to Chicago on the evening that Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson lost their lives. Dan said he was staying in a hotel near the Rosemont Convention Center and was able to walk in the field near the show and always wondered why that field was not closed off because of the possible connection to the murder investigation. While this is just a side part of the whole event, to me, it’s just another fascinating part of the whole case. Nearly 20 years later, this is just another part of the puzzle to piece together.
The third and final memory of O.J. Simpson at a card show was when he made an unscheduled–and not allowed– autograph appearance at the 2005 National Convention. I remember walking the show floor and being a bit surprised to see Simpson getting ready to sign autographs. Needless to say, this event was closed down pretty quickly with Simpson escorted out the door and the dealers expelled from the National. I think a few people got autographs before the table was permanently closed down.
I was personally very sad to see the recent story about the Philadelphia A’s Historical Society closing down. Having known many of the movers and shakers of that club, it was sad to realize that they lost the battle against time. As very few of the Philadelphia A’s alumni are still living and there is nothing legendary about the team the memories of the A’s are passing into the ether. I prefer to remember the great stuff the A’s Society did from creating card sets to selling autograph books at reasonable prices to having a nice place to visit from everything I hear=d about the place. And as I wrote at the beginning of the year, let’s always remember and honor the past and keep an eye on the present at the same time. Hopefully someday, clubs such as the A’s can become part of clubs honoring teams such as the Phillies and just be a combination of yesterday, today and even tomorrow.
I would think a great project in the DFW area would be to do oral history of the early days of the Texas Rangers while many of the players are still living in the area and most are still alive and able to tell the stories of playing under Ted Williams, Whitey Herzog and Billy Martin and playing in games such as the Cleveland 10 cent beer night. And someone like Rusty Torres would be even cooler to interview as he was in uniform for all three forfeited 1970’s American League games. Maybe the Rangers need a team historian.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]