Hey, Look! A Real-Life Cardboard Hero!

Well, I'm back to talk about my weekend and the details of the race I hoped to run followed by the more blog-related fodder of a chance encounter with a real life baseball hero of mine - back when baseball players were heroes to me.

I know you've been hitting refresh on your browser for the past 24 hours.

Let's recap Part 1.

Allow me, you rambled on and on and on - in a highly annoying voice, I'm sure - about your poor little heel and a bunch of loonies planning to run a bunch of miles without being chased. You pretended you had something about the hobby to reveal and then you went to bed without sharing. I'm guessing at least 27 followers and counting have dropped you in the past five hours.

OK, pardon the extended lead up to the blog relevant fodder but, well, there are some other things I wanted to get down on record. So, I'll continue just a bit more, if you'll indulge me.

Despite the pain in my heel, we decided to go ahead with our weekend plans. We had reservations at a nice hotel at the starting line and we planned some things with our daughter for Sunday. It was intended all along to be a little getaway.

But my wife knows me and knew I'd be moping around if I couldn't run the race or had to drop out with the heel issue.

She bought some heel padding for me and I decided to try running with it. It felt good but I was still convince the constant pounding of a half marathon would do me in.

Restless, I woke up at 4 a.m. and waited. From our hotel room, we had a straight show view of the seven to 10 city blocks where runners would be lining up. For the next 2.5 hours I peaked out every so often. The numbers went from zero to many, many thousands over that time.

My wife wished me the best and I headed downstairs to make my way to my designated corral. Me and 35,000 jammed together and I said a few words for my heel.
Do you see me? I'm right there
I told my wife there was a 90% chance I'd be back very soon. I figured I'd have severe pain 1/2 mile in and call it quits so as not to risk a bigger problem. It would be OK. Our hotel was immediately to the right in this picture, just a few feet from the shot here, so perhaps I wouldn't have far to hobble.

But, amazingly, a few steps into the run, I was OK. I still felt good at 1/2 mile and soon - slowly per my usual - began ticking off the miles. Just a dull pain but I was soon more concerned with the 90% humidity and blazing sun. The pain in my heel actually seemed to go away as the race went on. I didn't get cocky about it as I figured the next step easily could be my last.

When I hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at mile 6.5, I began to - if you will - tire. Runners get to lap the full track during this race. It was cool the first year. The heat from the sun on the track was brutal this year, and sapping my energy. Runners everywhere were already taking extended walking breaks.

I began seeing regular emergency vehicles and passed a half dozen (former) runners on stretchers or being attended to by medical personnel. I kept going. Conscious of the fact that I was doing this to stay healthy and not to end up on a stretcher, I slowed my pace and took water and/or gatorade at every station.

As I exited the 2.5 mile oval and hit the streets again, I realized my wife very well may have saved the day with the padding she purchased. But I tried not to think about that lest I jinx myself. I still had nearly five miles to go and so I focused on my own thoughts and the bands playing throughout the course.

At mile 11, I slowed to grab a water and my legs felt like noodles. I pounded two cups, walked through the water station and, eventually, kept going.

And, well, long story short ...

Uh, too late pal!

I made it!

My wife and daughter were there at the finish. My wife had received automated text messages as I crossed certain checkpoints and was equally stunned and excited that I could run on the heel. We all celebrated together at the post-race party (by resting in the grass, mostly). My daughter gave me a ribbon to pin on that she had my wife get for me.

Then, we headed back to the room and treated ourselves with room service to avoid the masses. I enjoyed a delicious big post-race cheat meal of a bacon cheeseburger and fries.

Afterwards, tired and full, I was ready for a rare mid-day nap and soon fell asleep. The ladies snuck out to go shopping. When they returned, I took my daughter swimming - the highlight of her weekend.

Finally, that night, we decided to go to the Indianapolis Indians vs. Louisville Bats AAA game. Victory Field is right across the street from our hotel. It took 90 seconds to walk from the hotel doors to the front gate - and that included waiting for the light to change and walking with a four-year-old.

Baseball, you say? Do I finally sense a blog-relevant point to this two-part blog entry?

Oh, yes. Indeed.

Third inning, the ladies get up to walk the concourse. Sixty seconds later my wife phones. "You might want to get up here. Right behind our section there's a guy wearing a Cincinnati Reds shirt signing autographs at a table. He might be somebody." I bounded out of my seat. Did I ever mention I'm a lifelong Reds fan?

Who could this be? But wait! I have nothing for this person to sign. ARGH! I have no cards! We had decided on a whim to go to the game because the runners' packet had a buy-one get-one free coupon?

I hit the concourse and see about six people in line. This signing was winding down. I get a closer look to see, sitting at the table - Big Red Machine alum ...

George Foster.

George "Friggin'" Foster, easily one of my favorite players ever, I tell my wife and daughter.

I fear he is about to leave so I buy a ball at a stand next to the table stamped with the Indianapolis Indians logo and we're quickly in front of him. Two minutes had passed from the time my wife called me at the seats.

My daughter hands him the ball.

He smiles, says hello and signs. And we move on.

I've mentioned before that I'm actually not an autograph kind of guy. I feel rather goofy as a grown man asking another grown man for his signature. That's just me. I'm particularly averse to the idea of paying for this. It's such a personal and impersonal experience all at once. It's a bit awkward.

But this was a no-brainer. Here was one of my heroes as a kid. Foster - known for the menacing stare, the black bat, the long sideburns - hit 52 home runs for the Big Red Machine in 1977, when I was nine. This was a very, very big deal. Leaders of the era routinely hit, I believe, in the 30s.
I first posted a picture of me holding this ball, immediately post autograph. I removed it. You're welcome.
Foster was a slugger I once thought would go down in history as the greatest home run hitter ever. To me, he is one of the greatest.

His baseball cards are legendary, to me. Next on my list will be to create my official Foster want list.

While I would have loved to have one of these signed, I now kind of like the fact he signed an Indianapolis Indians' ball. It's so random - but also preserves the memory of the evening and the weekend. That said, if anyone has an on-card Foster autograph for trade, please let me know.

So that was my big weekend - a personal milestone reached for the second time, great family time and a chance encounter with a cardboard hero come to life.


  1. Loved the whole story!! Congrats on both milestones!

  2. Great post! Foster was the man back in the day. There's a 2004 Finest Moments on card autograph for $10 (free shipping) on eBay. If you don't mind a sticker autograph, you can pick up his autograph for under $7 on COMC.

  3. Great story. Just odd about Foster being there. But very cool. I'm mentioned before my wife is originally from Indiana and we've actually talked about her going to Indians games in Indy. I was even surprised she knew that the Indians are the second oldest still operating minor league team. Very cool indeed. And congrats of finishing the race!

  4. Thanks Derek!

    Thanks, Fuji - and for the tip. I do want to look for a good on-card so I might get over there soon.

    CB: Thanks, yep good trivia there about the Indians. Victory Field is a really nice park tucked right there in the downtown. A lot of fun.

    Foster apparently is hosting some camp in a week or so and I guess that was the reason for the tie-in. Probably looking to get attendees. It was bizarre to run into him like that though.

  5. That's an awesome story! Foster does have particularly good cards. He always struck me as kind of a character.

    I got all of the Big Red Machine members to autograph a 1975 pennant for me a few years back. He was really nice, my wife was with me and he kind of joked around that he was gonna knock me out or something. Was really cool - got my wife more interested in the auto show than she would have otherwise been.

  6. Charlie:

    Thanks for sharing that story. Great to hear he was cool to you and your wife. Have yet to hear a bad George Foster story and hopefully I won't. He's always seemed like a good sort.


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