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  #1  
Old 09-27-2013, 12:35 AM
Michael B Michael B is offline
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Default Karma can be a great thing!!

I am sure there are more than a few members who over the years have written to athletes for their autograph. I count myself among that group. When I first started collecting baseball, hockey and basketball in person at hotels in 1983 I never thought of writing to athletes. As I got to know some of the collectors in the Boston area I learned that they would write to the athletes care of the teams and, using Smalling’s book, at home. I purchased ‘The Baseball Address Book’ and started writing retired baseball players. I ventured a little into retired football (Original Boston Patriots) and Basketball Hall of Famers when you could get mail forwarded in care of the hall. In the early 1990’s I started doing a lot of retired basketball and Olympians. Both of these thanks to my good friend C.J. Aponte, who was the first person to produce good lists of athletes in other sports. I eventually focused most of my energy on Olympians, both active and retired and continued for a few years until I moved from Massachusetts to Virginia for my job in Washington, D.C.

I had stopped writing Olympians when I moved down here. Quite a few other pursuits were occupying my free time. In 2010 I casually started writing to Olympians again. For me it is not just the medal winners, but anyone who competed. Very similar to those who try to get the signatures of anyone who played for a particular team. Even though there are multiple methods to reach current athletes, including their national governing body (NBG), such as USA Swimming, USA Track etc. there are less avenues to consistently track down retired Olympians. When I decided to start writing again I thought I would work on the athletes from the earlier games that are still living, including 1936, 1948 and 1952. Using several databases and internet phonebooks I was able to locate quite a few. What helped me was that I always keep a reporter’s notebook handy to make notes whenever I hear about or read about an athlete.

This long introduction brings me to the reason for this post. In 2012 I wrote this gentleman who competed in athletics (track and field) in the 1948 Olympics in London. He finished fourth in the finals. Interestingly, the gold medal winner of that race lives in Washington, D.C. about a mile from my office. Shortly after writing him I received back my SASE with two signed index cards and a note saying he had not signed an autograph since the 1948 Olympics. This was one of the more interesting notes I have ever received. While I enjoy collecting the autographs of Olympians, my true passion is my photography collection of U.S. Olympians. This collection has grown greatly since that first unpublished (type 1 for those who follow that) photo of Jesse Owens in 1936. It is now 3,000+ original press, studio, personal and other photos, 1500+ transparencies (slides) plus glass plate negatives (30 or so), regular negatives and magic lantern slides. I checked my archives and saw that I have a nice official London Olympic photo in my collection showing him winning a preliminary heat. I made an 8x10 print and sent it along to him with a note. Part of my philosophy is that it is easy to take, but it is just as important to share when we can. He sent me a nice letter thanking me for the photo, talking about finishing 4th, but setting a personal best in the race and the fact that at 85 years old he is a bit heavier than in 1948. I thought that would be it until two weeks ago.

I arrived home from work and there was this large box that came in the mail (1’ x 1’ x 6”). I was not expecting any new purchases in a box that large. I looked at the return address and saw his name. I opened in up and what you see below is what was in the box. The actual cloth number (9x14) that he wore during the 1948 Olympics matted and framed and signed by him and 44 track and field teammates. He included a letter that said his children were more interested in the photo and he though I may enjoy this as an autograph collector. He also quoted me about not just taking but sharing when we can. I was speechless. Over the years I have received quite an array of items from athletes: photos, postcards, letters, cards, stickers, bible tracts, patches and even a few books. This just tops them all. As someone who really enjoys Olympic history and history in general, it cannot get any better than this.

See also the scan of the photo in my archives of him wearing the number.

For those who read this, thank you for indulging my long-windedness.

Cheers,
Michael
Attached Images
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File Type: jpg barten.jpg (78.2 KB, 380 views)

Last edited by Michael B; 09-27-2013 at 12:38 AM.
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  #2  
Old 09-27-2013, 01:01 AM
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Chris Wood
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Awesome story!
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  #3  
Old 09-27-2013, 01:09 AM
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That is amazing! What a cool story, thanks for sharing it.
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  #4  
Old 09-27-2013, 03:23 AM
Big Dave Big Dave is offline
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A truly awesome story.
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  #5  
Old 09-27-2013, 05:37 AM
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Default Wow!

Michael,
What a cool story! Congrats, that's definitely one for the books.

BTW, I completely subscribe to the giving back philosophy with regards to collecting. It not only is fun, but sometimes it pays amazing dividends...
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  #6  
Old 09-27-2013, 06:00 AM
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David Linardy
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Great story. Thank you for sharing!
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  #7  
Old 09-27-2013, 06:29 AM
Mr. Zipper Mr. Zipper is offline
Steve Zarelli
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Wow. Truly a moving story.
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  #8  
Old 09-27-2013, 07:03 AM
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Great story, congrats.

Jeff
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  #9  
Old 09-27-2013, 08:07 AM
mighty bombjack mighty bombjack is offline
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Nice story and unbelievable piece!

You've got quite a big and enjoyable job researching the names on that tag.
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  #10  
Old 09-27-2013, 08:09 AM
cubsguy1969 cubsguy1969 is offline
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Wonderful story. Thanks so much for sharing.
Rob
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  #11  
Old 09-27-2013, 09:06 AM
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As the late Harry Caray would say, "Holy Cow!" Truly unbelievable, I'm speechless how sweet that was of him, do you think any modern athletes would do that today? Hell no
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  #12  
Old 09-27-2013, 09:10 AM
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Very nice - Karma is a good thing!!
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  #13  
Old 09-27-2013, 09:29 AM
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That is fantastic!!!! What an incredibly generous and thoughtful gesture!

Any recognizable names on the number which the rest of us might know?
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  #14  
Old 09-27-2013, 10:23 AM
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Holy Cow!!! That is awesome!!
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  #15  
Old 09-27-2013, 01:24 PM
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Very nice story - thanks for sharing.
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  #16  
Old 09-27-2013, 01:28 PM
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Now this is what the true meaning of giving is all about. It's funny when you give freely you get back so much more in one way or another...it's an amazing concept that I try to live by too. Instant Karma's going to get you!Thanks for sharing
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  #17  
Old 09-28-2013, 03:00 AM
Michael B Michael B is offline
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Thank you for all of the kind words. I greatly appreciate it. This is one of the few forums where people would enjoy this. Most of my Olympic collector friends, those folks who had tables in the Olympic pavilion at the National, are more interested in pins, medals and the such. For a few of them the first thought would be: ‘How much would this sell for in one of the Olympic auctions?’. This is staying with my photograph collection and eventually my college.

I have fully identified all of the signatures on the number. I did it the first night as I have had most of them in my collection.

Of the 45 signatures, 44 competed and one was an alternate on the relay team that did not compete. It contains all of the athletes (3 per event except relays) who competed in the following events, along with U.S. medals in that event:
100m (gold, silver), 200m (gold, silver), 800m (gold), 1500m, 5,000m, 10,000m, 110m hurdles (gold, silver & bronze), 3000m steeplechase, 4x100m relay (gold), 4x400m relay (gold), high jump (bronze), pole vault (gold, bronze), Long Jump (gold, bronze) and triple jump.

In these events there were less than all three competitors and medal winners if signed:
400m – 1 (bronze), marathon – 1, 400m hurdles – 2 (gold), 10km walk – 2, shot put – 1 (silver), discus – 1 (bronze), hammer – 2 (bronze) and javelin – 1.
None of the competitors in the 50km walk or the decathlon signed it. To me it is complete as it is, but there are at least three living who did not sign it and one is a gold medalist.

For the person that asked, some of the names you may recognize who did sign: Harrison Dillard – multiple gold medal winner, Mel Patton – gold medal winner and on the cover of Life magazine, Mal Whitfield – multiple gold medal winner, Tuskegee Airman in WWII and lives here in Washington, D.C., Johnny Kelley – Boston Marathon legend.

Last edited by Michael B; 09-28-2013 at 03:00 AM.
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  #18  
Old 09-28-2013, 06:37 AM
Bestdj777 Bestdj777 is offline
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Such an awesome piece and so great to hear it has a permanent place in your collection. Thanks for sharing the story.
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  #19  
Old 09-28-2013, 08:31 AM
2dueces 2dueces is offline
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Great story. I guess I missed something. Did you mention his name and what event he finished 4th in? Sorry if I missed but I read the story 3 times and can't find that info. Congrads on a cool piece.
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  #20  
Old 09-28-2013, 03:37 PM
Michael B Michael B is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2dueces View Post
Great story. I guess I missed something. Did you mention his name and what event he finished 4th in? Sorry if I missed but I read the story 3 times and can't find that info. Congrads on a cool piece.
Hi Joe,

No, I did not mention his name. That was on purpose as I was trying to respect his privacy. I hope people understand that.
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  #21  
Old 09-29-2013, 02:44 PM
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I venture over to this forum only occasionally to see what's new. Stumbled onto this post. Now I feel like it was my lucky day! Thanks!
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  #22  
Old 09-29-2013, 11:50 PM
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Wow!! Speechless!! Congrats
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  #23  
Old 09-30-2013, 07:53 PM
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Barry Blumenfeld
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As the late great Bill King would say "Holy Toledo!"
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  #24  
Old 10-12-2013, 07:37 PM
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Late coming to this post, but that is truly amazing.
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