March 30, 2014 by billysparrow
Every autograph collection has to start somewhere. Mine appears to have begun in the summer of 1980 when an envelope arrived from WNBC TV in New York City. Inside that envelope were three photos signed by the top guys on the local newscast: news anchors Jack Cafferty and Chuck Scarborough and sports anchor Marv Albert.
Now, if you are an avid reader and/or a friend and you are pretty good at math, you will deduce that at the time of these photos’ arrival, I was three years old. Thus, you might wonder why a three-year-old was interested in obtaining autographs from the guys on the local newscast, as a newscast isn’t exactly thought to be a toddler’s favorite TV program.
Well, I wonder that, too, so we have that in common. Maybe they were just easier to get hold of than Big Bird.
I should point out that, to the best of my knowledge, I did not take pen (or crayon) to paper and request these autographs. I believe it was my grandmother (Grammy Sigman, also partially responsible for The Grammy Sigman Collection of baseball autographs that I will delve into some other Sunday) who sent away for the photos. Why she did so is still a bit of a mystery, but I am told that I was actually into the news at a very early age (though three seems a bit of a stretch) and started “reading” newspapers pretty early on. I suppose it helped that we were a three-newspaper household (Daily News delivered in the morning, Staten Island Advance delivered in the afternoon, and the Post that my dad brought home from his commute at night) throughout my entire childhood, and you could add in Newsday and the much-missed National Sports Daily in my high school years.
So, I suppose my desire to be a journalist was born right in the family home. But I didn’t necessarily want to be on the writing side of things. No, I wanted to be a sportscaster. In fact, I don’t remember ever having an answer other than “a sportscaster” to the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It was sportscaster or bust, probably right up until high school, when the dream went away for some reason (I’m gonna guess it was a bout with pudginess and the belief that a camera was not going to be my friend) and I thought more about writing. And look where that dream has taken me! Right here! Going on wide tangents about autographs and “Saved by the Bell” episodes! Dream big, kids!
Anyway, back to the photos. They are pretty great, though I don’t know if I appreciated their greatness when I was three (they stayed in the envelope neglected and unframed for many years, so I’m guessing I wasn’t that revved up about them). Jack Cafferty was probably my least favorite news guy of the three, but the hair and sideburns in that headshot are things to be admired. (And to the best of my knowledge, the smudge has always been on the autograph, which makes me hope it was caused by some errant scotch in the newsroom.)
And in case you really don’t get an appreciation for that hair, here’s a clip from 1980 featuring the news team (plus weatherman Frank Field, minus Scarborough, who had the night off).
What three-year-old wouldn’t be enraptured, right?
Cafferty may have had the hair advantage, but Chuck Scarborough was always my guy when it came to the news. The family never wavered from the NBC newscast, and Chuck never wavered from NBC, so we formed a tight bond. I don’t watch much TV news at all these days, but when I do, NBC is still the first choice. And it’s somewhat comforting to see Chuck still at the helm. And I’m also grateful that he put the date on his photo, so I know that I got my first autograph when I was three years old.
Marv Albert was definitely my favorite, though. He more than anyone else was the reason I wanted to be a sportscaster (though by the time I actually got to do something resembling play-by-play at one game in grammar school, I went for more of a Dick Vitale approach, which is to say that I just screamed a lot and was annoying). I’m not sure what it was about Marv that enthralled me (probably the Albert Achievement Awards, because I love sports bloopers, or really any bloopers), but I do know he was the king. And he gave me not only his best wishes, but his very best wishes.
And here’s my king in a promo from the year of my birth (with a cameo from Scarborough).
So there you have it: my first three autographs. It would still be a few years before I got my first in-person autograph (can’t decide if it was pro bowling legend Earl Anthony or Met Rusty Staub), but thanks to Grammy Sigman and the WNBC TV news team, I was on my way to being an autograph collector.