I got Bart Starr’s autograph without even knowing it was him
When I was young, my parents owned a resort in northern Wisconsin. Miller’s Hidden Haven on Lost Land Lake. Always liked the way that sounded. I’ll never forget riding around the resort with my dad in his red GMC pickup truck. Like all little boys, I loved riding in the back. We’d just ride around and “fix things” as I recall. Those were wonderful times that will stay with me forever.
The locals call northern Wisconsin God’s country. Our resort was on a heavily wooded point on the lake. It truly was God’s country. My best friend, Michael Brandt lived a couple of miles away at Lost Land Lake Lodge. When we wanted to hang out, we’d jump in our boats and meet up somewhere on the lake. Mine had a 7.5 horsepower blue and gray Evinrude. I loved that boat. I was in second grade when I started running around the lake by myself. Seems odd now.
When fall arrived each year, it was time to close down the resort and make the long drive back to Dyer, Indiana for the winter. One year as we were getting ready to leave, my dad announced with a great deal of excitement that we would be taking a side-trip to Green Bay. He was a huge Packer fan, and of course, he made the natural assumption that I was one as well. While that was true, I really wasn’t into football back then as much as he was.
When we got to Green Bay, we drove straight to Lambeau Field, home of the Packers. The team was working out on a practice field adjacent to the stadium. In those days, fans could walk right up to the players when practice was over. My dad could barely contain his exuberance as he handed me a pen and pad of paper. “Go get some autographs,” he said with genuine enthusiasm.
With more than a little trepidation, I walked up to a group of Packers. I was a small skinny boy and these guys looked like they were at least eight feet tall. I asked the biggest one for his autograph. (assuming he must be the best player since he was the biggest player.) He got down on one knee and smiled as he signed my pad. “I’d be happy to give it to you,” said Steve Wright, (a so-so player who’s name I’ve remembered all these years) “but why don’t you ask that guy over there for HIS autograph?
I walked up to “that guy over there,” and asked him to sign my pad. He leaned over and said, “Sure I will,” as he reached for my pen. After he gave it back to me, I thanked him and ran back to show my dad all two of my autographs. He could barely contain himself as he read the second name out loud: “Bart Starr!” He was beaming. My dad was the happiest “boy” on the field that day.
I’m a Colts fan these days, but whenever I get the opportunity, I root for the Green Bay Packers. I remember sitting with my dad in front of the television all those Sundays and watching our team. Those images will never leave me.
My dad’s gone now, but come this Sunday, I’ll be thinking about that day long ago, when I got Bart Starr’s autograph for him. I’ll be cheering for both of us.