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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Athletes may be scumbags, but not Graig Nettles

Posted By on Tue, Aug 21, 2007 at 3:03 PM

Joe P. Tone's story "Signature Scumbags" [August 15] about retired pro athletes selling autographs includes quotes from former Tribe and Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles, which brings back memories of a Friday night Tribe game during the summer of '71 against the Kansas City Royals. My wife and I and another couple attended the game in the old Municipal Stadium. Paul Splittorff was on the mound for K.C. When Splittorff fired one of his pitches toward home plate with Nettles at bat, the third baseman hit a high pop foul that arched right over our heads, and I watched as it zoomed straight down toward us. The ball slammed into a wooden seat in front of me, bounced straight up and as it hung in mid-air in front of my wife's face, I grabbed the ball with my left hand and pushed it tightly against my tummy, as my right hand was holding a camera. A guy in front of me tried to pry my fingers off the ball until I said, "Okay, okay. I've got it." Then he backed off. Ken Nicholas, my co-worker at the old Central National Bank headquarters building at E. 9th and Superior, suggested we walk over to the stadium during our lunch hour the following Monday and try to get Nettles' autograph while the team was practicing. We did, and as Nettles walked toward the dugout, I said, "Are you Graig Nettles?" I showed him the ball and said: "This is a foul ball you hit Friday night. Would you sign it for me?" He jokingly said foul balls were his most common hit and graciously signed the ball -- for free. Louis H. Pumphrey Shaker Heights

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