Sunday, December 13, 2015

That Time I Ran Into Royalty at the Mall

It's a Saturday afternoon.  You're pretty bored because you're on your off-weekend from work and you don't have anything going on until the evening hours.  So, you decide to feed your inner teenager and go kill time by walking around the mall.  After dipping in and out of Brewery Collectibles and Hot Topic, you turn a corner and BAM!... you damn near walk right into Ferguson Jenkins and Lee Smith.
Okay, that's not quite how it happened, but it's not really far off either.

My father had been to the Orland Square Mall the night before and mentioned that he saw the two MLB legends had an autograph session that was just wrapping up; he was told that they would be setting up again tomorrow too.  Father Burbs kindly passed this information on to me and I set about trying to confirm the tip.  

There was nothing to be found anywhere on the mall's website and the only appearance of theirs that I could confirm was a "meet & eat" dinner fundraiser at a local restaurant that night.  So, I figured maybe that was what they meant.  Still, I had nothing better to do; so, why not do a few laps and see if I could even find a trace of such an event, fully expecting that nothing was happening there.

Well, after walking the lower level and killing time in the aforementioned Brewery Collectibles and such, I came upstairs and, just as I was about to lose the shred of hope that I had, I walked past a folding table, turned back around and was locked eyes with Fergie Jenkins...

An approximation of my feelings at this moment

I quickly turned into a stammering, tween 1D fan and was completely star-struck.  Luckily, there was an assistant standing nearby to keep me even keeled,

There were all sorts of items that were provided for signing - bobbleheads, baseballs, postcards and a full, healthy selection of different baseball cards.  There was a charge and it escalated from $20 a piece for the cards.  Hmmmmmm....

I've done my fair share of charity work, especially in my nerdy phase

Normally, I'm not one to pay for someone's signature (something something pride yadda yadda); however, the event was being held by Big Brothers Big Sisters, a charity my girlfriend used to work for and with which I've done a lot of volunteer work.  Thus, I knew that the money was going to a worthy cause (plus, I already drove all the way out there), so I plopped down the $40 for some baseball cards.

After having the pleasure of exchanging small talk with the living-legends, saying how they weren't exactly who I expected to run into at a mall (Fergie apologized for not being Arnold Schwarzenegger and I made sure Jenkins knew he was much cooler), I was allowed to pick which baseball cards they would grace with their penmanship.

Lee, contrary to his career on the mound, started the show and, in a knee-jerk reaction, I selected his rookie card.  In retrospect, I kind of wish I chose one without the facsimile signature, seeing as the real one overlaps the fake one.  But, since I'm not about to flip this card and I am unconcerned with resale value, it doesn't really matter in the long run.

I'm just happy he didn't get Cinnabon all over it - seeing as he was enjoying a bag of cinnamon covered something as I approached the table.  Of course, that would have made for a funny story too.

Fergie than completed the experience, much like he completed so many games in his prime.  "Fly" seemed enthused that chose the Ted Williams Co. card and we briefly bonded over how each card in these sets is like a piece of artwork.  He also took the opportunity to sing the praises of these cards to Mr. Smith, who was unaware of their existence.

Ferguson must know a thing or two about baseball cards, which makes him a million times cooler.

Normally one has to pay extra for inscriptions at these sort of events, but Mr. Jenkins was kind enough to add his without request or charge.  Bonus points.

At this point, I was able to get out a thank you; but, I was too frazzled to think about asking for a picture.  I really wish that I'd been able to; but, I guess I can settle for two signed baseball cards.

Additionally, I was extremely surprised at just how little fanfare was attached to this event.  I had heard nothing about it in it's lead up, there was no signage at the mall advertising it and there was hardly anyone stopping by, even though the mall was jam packed with Christmas shoppers.  I mean, I was able to pretty much walk right into their table, after all.

                                           At least 94 West had this little sidebar for their event, though it's still not much.

Anyway, that's the story of how I ran into two Chicago Cubs legends at the local shopping mall.  Of course, I should be able to say two Hall of Fame pitchers too. but I suppose that's a rant for another day.  If any baseball writers happen to be reading my humble, little blog - vote for 7x All-Star Lee Smith and his 478 career saves... if Sutter, Fingers and friends get to be in, so to should Smith.

Have you ever unexpectedly bumped into celebrities in places you didn't really expect to?  Perhaps you caught Don Sutton munching on Pizza Hut in your local food court or Pete Rose chowing down on a local casino's buffet selection... one of those might be more expected than the other.

I will always treasure these cards and the day in which I bumped into MLB royalty... snacking on Cinnabon and not being the Terminator.


  1. I think Fergie may be trying to up Bob Feller and Pete Rose in the number of items autographed. But you really can't go wrong with signatures from two all time greats. And great choices on the cards you got signed!

    1. Thank you! Yea, he seems to be pulling out all of the stops lately.

  2. MAN!!! I would have dropped by Orland and spent $40 for those two sigs. I wish I had known.

    About the weirdest run in with a celeb I can tell: Johnny B and Pirahna Man underneath the stands at the old Chicago Stadium. It's when I worked for The Sting. The Loop was doing some promotion with the game and I happened to be in this room they had under the stands just off gate 3 1/2. I forget what I was there to get, but into the area walks Brandmeier with Pirahna Man. He made some quip about not realizing Pato Margetic was so short and we exchanged a couple off the cuff jokes back and forth about soccer players. Then they left.

    1. I should have thought to send you an e-mail, my bad! That is a pretty odd and random encounter, such an off-color guy, but pretty funny. Also, had no idea you worked for the Sting.

    2. I bought my Honda Civic from Pirahna Man at Carrs Honda on Western Ave. He talked to me about Buddhism.

  3. I got Ozzie Smiths autograph on a napkin at Red Lobster as a kid. Sadly that napkin got lost in a move. Sweet pickups

    1. Well, that's a pretty tragic loss. Moving is good for that sort of thing.

  4. I got Ozzie Smiths autograph on a napkin at Red Lobster as a kid. Sadly that napkin got lost in a move. Sweet pickups

  5. "Ferguson must know a thing or two about baseball cards, which makes him a million times cooler." It sure does!

    Nice job not falling all over yourself. I have big time problems with that when I'm around baseball royalty.

    1. Well, I only didn't because I mostly kept my mouth shut. However, I was still trembling 20 minutes afterwards.

  6. That's a pretty cool story. I had an interaction with a local boxing celebrity a few years back, but I didn't realize who he was until later. In relation to your closing video, my wife and I are going to the Postmodern Jukebox show in Boise this week. I hope it turns out to be a good time.

  7. I met Fergie when I was a wee lad at a local autograph signing. It's one of my earliest baseball-related memories and he couldn't have been nicer. Fergie was actually at the show I attended a couple weeks ago. I was tempted to ask him if he remembered me. And I'm jealous you got to meet Lee Smith, he's one of my favorite '80s Cubs. (He's a surefire HOFer in my book as well.)

  8. The coolest celebrity sighting for me was Woody Harrelson. I was at the Upright Citizens Brigade show in NYC and he was there too. Too this day I regret not asking for an auto.

    I remember seeing Greg Oden in the airport, but he just looked way too sad to approach. He was in the midst of all those injuries.

    Congrats on the cool in person autos. I liked the choice of the Ted Williams card for the Fergie auto.