When I was a kid, many, many moons ago, I got Gordie Howe's autograph.
The Detroit Red Wings legend - Mr. Hockey - was at a Detroit department store for a public autograph session. My mom or dad, I don't remember which, hustled me there to have Howe sign a picture of him I had.
Afterwards, I wrote out a note that I saved with the picture - I have both to this day - as a reminder Howe had actually signed the pic and it wasn't some company-generated, automatic signature.
To say I was thrilled to have Howe's autograph is an understatement. Besides my dad, the NHL right winger was my idol. I loved Red Wings hockey - still do - and followed Howe's career with a passion.
A few years later, I got Howe's autograph again at a book-signing session.
In addition, just a few years ago, I got Howe to sign a Red Wings puck when I interviewed him for a story while he was in Marquette stumping for a downstate politician during an election year.
I treasure all three autographed items to this day.
I got to thinking about this the other day when an Associated Press story reported a man from Odessa, Fla., had more than 4,000 autographed baseballs in his possession.
Actually, the number was 4,020, which the Guinness Book of World Records has officially sanctioned.
Dennis Schrader, 65, picked up his first autographed ball when he was 9, when New York Yankees star Mickey Mantle did the honors at a spring training game in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Schrader went on from there, getting autographed balls himself, obtaining others at auctions or public sales, and through purchases at businesses dealing in memorabilia.
Among the balls he has obtained, according to the AP story, are ones signed by "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Babe Ruth (nine of them) and Joe DiMaggio (with Marilyn Monroe's autograph during their brief marriage).
Schrader estimates the total value of his collection to be between $2 million and $3 million. It's encased in a 12-by-14-foot room at his home complete with a bank vault door, motion sensors and video camera surveillance.
Naturally, it all seems to be excessive - and obsessive. But it has also no doubt given the Florida man a lot of pleasure over the years.
Besides the Howe autographs, my collection is dwarfed in comparison. I have autographed baseballs by Nolan Ryan and Bob Feller, courtesy of my brother-in-law, as well as one signed by both Al Kaline and Ernie Harwell.
I also have pictures signed by hockey legends Nicklas Lidstrom and Scotty Bowman.
None are worth much, but they're nice to have, nevertheless. They make nice displays in our sports-themed basement taken over by my two teenaged sons.
The memorabilia provide a personal connection for me, however small, to some sports legends.
That may be priceless.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.