Although I was a Minnesota Vikings fan then, I admired Starr and I told him so. In my 10-year-old handwriting, I told him he was my favorite player, but I liked the Vikings the best of all. Looking back, I realize that was like someone writing New York Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio and telling him that his favorite team was the Red Sox.
It was blaspheme, I know. But I was a kid. And maybe that was what inspired him to write back. I guess the collectors’ craze wasn’t what it is today; people weren’t begging for autographs just to sell them later and make a small profit. He knew the request was from a real kid. An adult wouldn’t have been that stupid to tell Starr that his favorite team was Starr’s bitter rival.
I included a small 5x7 index card and a stamped envelope with my address on it and sent it off, hoping.
I’d forgotten about the letter that winter. Spring came and, as the snow melted from the northern Minnesota landscape, our thoughts turned to baseball.
Then one day in late July, the postman slid several letters through our mail slot. I recognized the handwriting on one letter. It was mine. It was the envelope with my printed scrawl that I had included when writing him.
Bart Starr wrote back.
He signed the index card and added a “thank you” on a separate piece of paper.
I placed the card by the Packer’s page in my 1971 NFL Official Record Book that my father bought for me. and I looked at it throughout the 1971 season.
In 1998, my mother passed away suddenly and in the aftermath of cleaning out her house, I found a box full of my old sports books that had been there for years. I sorted through them and found the 1971 NFL Official Record Book.
“Surely not,” I thought as I opened the book and turned to the Green Bay page.
But there, between the Detroit and Green Bay pages, was the card. It remained pressed, preserved in that book for 27 years. The card was more ivory now than white, aged over time.
But the name was legible and crisp.
By 1998, autograph collecting had become more of a business than an innocent child’s enjoyment and hope. I don’t think I could write to players now, at least those with the star caliber of a Starr, and expect an autograph in return.
I saw in a collector’s magazine several years ago that a Starr autograph sold for $35. It was projected to raise to $60 if he died and I was saddened. There are people out there who are waiting for Bart Starr to die so their autographs will gain value. I also realized that the art of writing to players and asking for autographs is over. It would be futile now in a world that hopes for Hall of Famers’ deaths merely to make a few more bucks.
I hope Bart Starr never dies. I don’t care about the increase in value of my autograph. Finding that card in the box of books in 1998 was worth more than any monetary value.
I have the book sitting by me now. I’m looking at the card and now, 41 years after receiving it, the value of it means so much more than money.