A Christmas Story: An Intimidating autograph

nascarautosIn all honesty, I meant to write this for Christmas morning seeing as how this is a holiday sports memorabilia related story. But I forgot and got caught up in the moment in another topic. So here it is, my “Intimidator” story … three days late.

Back in 1997, I was a big Starting Lineup collector. It’s not that I had a bunch of rare ones worth hundreds of dollars, it’s just that I found them a worthy collectible that not only looked good (there were no McFarlane Sports Picks back then), but they displayed great on my walls and I felt they’d hold their value. I mean I spent $6.99 on a single Starting Lineup and a price guide (Tuff Stuff) showed me that they were “worth” at least two or three times that. In my young mind I felt that was a good investment. Well, time has shown us that Starting Lineups really have no place in our hobby. They’re too bulky to ship easily or cheaply, and they are inferior to the McFarlane line, which in many respects actually looks like the players. For the most part, they’ve nothing more than an afterthought.

Well, during my SLU craze, I came upon two Startling Lineup figures for the new NASCAR series, ones of Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt. Again, this was 1997, so NASCAR was starting to gain NATIONAL momentum through increased exposure on the weekends. I figured these two guys — whose names I obviously knew — would be good purchases. Well, as fate would have it, had I not purchased the SLUs, I would not have ended up with the signed products you see above.

See, I have this aunt that sometime in the mid 1990s moved to North Carolina with her husband. I really didn’t know much about the guy, or really my aunt for that matter. I mean we saw her every year during the holidays, but that was it. My mother, sister and I lived about an hour and  half away from the rest of the family, so in a sense we were isolated during the majority of the year

Well, as it turned out the reason my aunt and uncle moved from sunny California to North Carolina was because my uncle was a mechanic, and he got a job working for Mark Martin, the race car driver better known these days for driving the Viagara car.

In subsequent years, my uncle ended up working for at least one of the Bodine brothers, and Jeff Gordon, with whom he is still working. And while my uncle was working the pits, my aunt found a job with a little company called Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (aka DEI).

Well, in 1997, they came to California to visit, and during this trip, I leaned all about their association with NASCAR. At some point I inquired about getting my SLUs signed. Although neither could promise anything, they told me they’d try if I’d leave the toys with them.

Well, once I left the SLUs with them, I’d pretty much forgotten all about the whole thing. Then came Christmas 1998. Among the stack of boxes for me to open were two of identical size. Inside each: A signed SLU, one of Jeff Gordon, the other of Earnhardt.

To this day I am still amazed that my aunt and uncle were able to get them both. Needless to say the Earnhardt became an extremely valuable piece when The Intimidator passed away in 2001. Since Earnhardt’s death, this has become a staple in my collection, a piece I would not part with for any price. The “E” at the beginning of the last name appears to be a bit off (probably because there was something obstructing the signature path) but I have ZERO doubt about the authenticity.

My aunt stayed with DEI for some time, and is now employed by Dale’s son, Dale Jr. Perhaps I need to hit her up for a Dale Jr. autograph to add to the collection … just one though.

One Response to “A Christmas Story: An Intimidating autograph”

  1. Nice autos… 1997… those were the good old days. I still have every single SLU I’ve ever purchased. Most are tucked away in boxes, but some of them are hanging up on my classroom walls (including a Rusty Wallace).

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