Strahan Exits With Autograph
The smile stretched ear to ear, and the gap between his teeth looked larger than ever. Former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan decided to ride off into the sunset just after gripping the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy in his hands. With perhaps the biggest upset ever in his biggest game, Strahan decided to hang up the pads and call it a career, at least as far as his playing days were concerned. Two weeks later, he was hired by Fox and will join Howie Long, Jimmie Johnson and Terry Bradshaw on the NFL pre-game show this fall.
One of the best defensive players ever, Strahan put an exclamation mark on his seven-time Pro Bowl career with the unlikely victory over the previously undefeated Patriots in January. After the Super Bowl, I mailed a request to Strahan in care of the Giants, having no idea that he was going to retire. He signed both the card and picture in about four months. I’m guessing he’s going to be even tougher via the mail now that he’s retired. As far as the other three analysts on the Fox show, forget about it. Bradshaw’s through-the-mail autographs are ghost-signed, and Jimmy and Howie don’t answer their fan mail.
Former Bears Kicker Thomas Headlines Charity Auction
For the last three months, I helped out with my former high school’s first hall of fame induction dinner and auction. McQuaid Jesuit High School, in Rochester, N.Y., recently built a spacious new fieldhouse which sports three basketball courts. With the opening of the facility, it was decided that now would be a good time to launch an athletic hall of fame. Headlining the event was former Notre Dame and Chicago Bears kicker Bob Thomas, now an Illinois Supreme Court judge. Back in the 1960s, Thomas played soccer and football for McQuaid, which were both in the same season. He would finish one game and strap on the helmet for the next game, many times in the same day. He was a walk-on at Notre Dame, where he kicked the game-winning field goal for the Fighting Irish’s National Championship in 1973.
In his speech, Thomas spoke of how coach Mike Ditka let him go prior to the ’85 season and went with a rookie kicker instead. Thomas knew the Bears were destined for greatness that year and was disappointed to say the least. When Iron Mike delivered the news, Thomas wanted to wait until all his teammates were in team meetings before cleaning out his locker. When he finally made it to his locker, someone was sitting inside waiting for him. That someone was none other than Walter Payton, who spent the next two hours consoling his friend.
In the cocktail hour before the dinner, I had the chance to meet Thomas. I told him I read his book in which he tells the story of going into a card store with his kids some years ago. One of his boys spotted his dad’s rookie card and remarked “Dad, they have your rookie card marked $1. It only books for 50 cents.” He remembered the story and said he was going to use it in his speech. I brought along a football and an old Sports Illustrated with a picture of Ditka congratulating Thomas on one of his successful field goals. He signed both in silver, and it will go on my local legends wall down in my man room.
With only two months to pull together the auction for the event, I sent out approximately 75 letters to guys I knew had high success rates and quick turnaround times. I received numerous items back in response to the letter, many of the athletes sending multiple autographs for the auction.
Stan Musial sent back a signed black-and-white photo, along with a certificate of authenticity from his company, Stan the Man Inc. It brought $130 at auction. New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, another local guy, sent back a signed New York Giants hat. We received signed books (horror writer Dean Koontz), signed cards (Rob Ray, Ben Roethlisberger) and many signed photos. We had 61 silent auctions and four live auction items and raised more than $2,000 for the school. Not bad for two months’ work. We also had quite a few alumni and friends of the school donate items such as two, $150 tickets to former major league umpire Ken Kaiser’s Don Mattingly tribute dinner, a signed golf flag of Jay Haas and Yankees tickets. It was the first charity auction I ran but not the last.