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The Autograph

By Bandy Boy, 08/13/18, 10:30AM CDT


Another Story in the History of USA Bandy

When I was six years old future baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew moved into my south Minneapolis neighborhood. He was in his prime as a homer hitter. In later eras he would have earned $20 million dollars per year and lived in a gated community. In the early 1960s his salary allowed him to live in a nice house in a middle class Minneapolis neighborhood. My mother pinpointed the house Killebrew lived in and on a Saturday morning in July loaded me into the car and drove me the 5 blocks to get there. The Minnesota Twins must have had a home game that night because when we arrived Killebrew was outside, mowing his lawn. Out of the car my mother popped.

"Mr Killebrew. This is my son Christopher. He is a big fan of yours"

"Hello young man. I see you brought your glove. Want to play catch?"

Yes sir I sure did. And so at age six I played catch with Harmon Killebrew in his just mowed back yard. His kindness was magnificent.

"What do you say Christopher", my mother asked me when the catch was over.

"Thank you Mr Killebrew"

"You are welcome Chris"

On a March morning in 1995 Cathy and I took 3 year old Ian and 2 year old Delaney to the Como Zoo in St Paul. Afterward we stopped at a restaurant for breakfast. While we were sitting at our table future baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield walked into the restaurant. At 6'6" he stood out among the crowd. Winfield was in the final season of a 23 career. Cathy walked Ian over to him.

"Mr Winfield. This is my son Ian. He is a big fan of yours"

"Are you a baseball player"?  Ian asked in his flute pitched voice.

"Yes I am" Winfield responded in his deep baritone.

Winfield noticed that Ian was holding a blue crayon and the kids' coloring menu from the restaurant.

"Would you like my autograph"

Big eyed Ian rapidly nodded his head up and down.

"What do you say Ian?" Cathy asked.

"Thank you" said Ian in his tiny voice.

"You are welcome Ian".

At age 3 Ian did not know much about baseball and did not know who Dave Winfield was. Even so he was thrilled that this obviously important man would show him personal attention and kindness.

On February 9, 1997, sixteen years into my bandy career and only months shy of my 40th birthday I walked from the Vasteras bandy arena to our team bus. We had just beaten Canada 5-1 to earn 6th place in the World Championships. We had decided to shower back at our hotel so we were still in uniform. Standing  a short distance from the bus was a Swedish man of about 30 years old. He was a father. Standing next to him was his little girl. About four years old she was the same age and size as my daughter Delaney who was back home in Minneapolis with Cathy and Ian. In the little girl's hand was a pen and a sheet of paper. Her father was encouraging her to approach us but she was reluctant. So I walked over to her.

"This is my daughter Anna. She watched your game against Canada"

I crouched down to Anna's level and spoke to her in Swedish.

"Hi Anna. My name is Chris. How old are you"?

"Four" was her answer in both word and fingers.

"I looked at her pen and sheet of paper.

"Would you like my autograph?"

Big eyed she nodded her head rapidly up and down.

I carefully signed my name and added my number 5 to the sheet of paper.

"What do you say Anna?" her father asked.

"Thank you",  Anna said in a tiny voice.

"You are welcome Anna"

Anna had no idea who I was but she seemed thrilled that this man who seemed so important would be so kind to her. Neither she nor her father would have understood that I was also thrilled, just like I was as a six year old playing catch with Harmon Killebrew in his just mowed back yard.