|ESPN.com: Dodger Thoughts||[Print without images]|
... Grich was an 8-year-old, sandy-haired boy from Long Beach, taking in his first baseball game with his father at Wrigley Field the year before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. All he wanted was an up-close look at "my hero," Steve Bilko, a slugging first baseman for the Los Angeles Angels of the competitive, Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
"When the game was over, I ran down to the dugout," said Grich, his voice rising like a kite catching wind. "All the other kids were around him and I was in the back."
So he tore an empty popcorn box into a long strip, stuck a stubby pencil at its end, stretched it over the crowd and into the strike zone of Bilko and screamed, "Steve Bilko, please sign my autograph!"
"He saw how adamant I was," Grich recalled. "In pencil, he autographed "Steve Bilko" on this little piece of cardboard box. I was so thrilled and so excited that I grabbed it and ran all the way up the aisle, waving to my father, shouting, 'I got Steve Bilko's autograph! I got Steve Bilko's autograph!'"
Grich went home, taped the autograph into his scrapbook on a page with the game's ticket stub and the box score he clipped for the next morning's newspaper. Now, 54 years later, he still keeps that souvenir.
"So when I got to the big leagues, any time a kid asks me for an autograph, it's a rare that I turn down an autograph because of what a thrill it was for me to get his autograph," said Grich, who was in uniform Sunday as a spring training guest instructor and signed autographs for 30 minutes before the game. ...