Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Red Grange

When I was younger (so much younger than today) I wrote letters to professional athletes and asked them for autographs. I would tell them that they were my favorite player, or that I had some connection with their school or team, and I would ask for their autograph. Some letters were an exercise in creative writing for me. I would send a self-addressed stamped envelope along with the letter and the card to make it as easy as possible for the player to sign the card and send it back. Usually, I’d just send the letter to the stadium or team headquarters.

One day, my buddy Nate changed the game when he came home with a book that had the home addresses of many retired athletes from all sports. This opened up a whole new avenue for my letter-writing career. I could now write to the legends in each sport!

During the summer of 1994, I found a cheap box of unopened packs of hall of fame brand football cards and bought the whole thing. This gave me cards for players like Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, Gene Upshaw, and many, many others. Because these players were much older in some cases (Johnny U or Otto Graham). I would tell them that my dad was a huge fan of theirs and it would sure mean a lot if they would sign a card for him. One such legendary figure I wrote to was Red Grange.

Red Grange was a football player in the very early days of the sport. (like leather helmets early!) He played for the Chicago Bears and was a key figure in legitimizing football as a sport on a national level in the U.S. For his time, he was a superstar and one of the best in the game. He even caught a TD pass from Bronco Nagurski to win the 1932 championship for the Chicago Bears. As a legend and one of the all-time greats, I thought it'd be cool to have his autograph. So I wrote him a letter.

"Dear Mr. Grange," I said. Then I gave him my name and told him a little about myself and how much I loved football. I continued, "My dad and I are both very big fans of you as a player, we think you were great." Despite the fact that his career likely ended before my dad was even born, and neither of us had probably ever seen him play I went on and on and on about how much of a fan of his I was and how I really thought he was a great player. Naturally, I asked for his autograph towards the end of the letter noting that it would “mean a lot for a couple of his biggest fans” to have his autograph. With that, I sent it on its way. Several weeks later I got a response.

"Dear Andrew," it read. "If you and your dad were such big fans of Red, you would know that he died three years ago. Thank you for the letter, Margaret Grange."


  1. Love it. I also love that this didn't slow us down a bit. I kept right on telling lies to hall of famers.

    How crazy is it in hindsight that someone published a book of home addresses of famous athletes?

  2. This is one of my all time favorite stories about you. Between the laughter you were pretty chagrinned.... a word Nate Grow is most familiar with.