This has been true for most of my life. As a young kid subscribing to Baseball Digest, one of my favorite parts of the magazine was to test myself with the trivia questions and answers. If the trivia related to a team or player I cared about, then there was no question that I would get the question correct.
In 1982, I remember there being one weekend -- perhaps in June, because the weather was not hot outside -- when Jim Gantner was making an autograph signing appearance at a marina in Pewaukee. I think that it was competing with another appearance at a location closer to Milwaukee at which both Paul Molitor and Robin Yount were signing autographs at a shoe store, but I may be misremembering that.
I think that was the case, though, because when we got to the location where Gantner was supposed to be signing, the place was dead. Now, I also seem to recall that Gantner's appearance hours were from 1 PM to 3 PM before a 7:30 PM game, and we were arriving at around 2:45 PM. So, coupled with the fact that usually, a Brewer making an appearance would draw a line, we (my mom, my older brother [who had to come along], and me) thought that perhaps they had wrapped up the appearance a bit early.
We took a chance and went inside anyway. We found Jim Gantner standing next to a boat, checking out its dashboard and talking to a salesperson who was pretty clearly his liaison of sorts for this appearance. When we walked in, we must have looked a bit apprehensive, because the salesperson and Gantner both said, "come on over, good to see you!"
The salesperson then posed a trivia question: in 1980, what Brewer finished second in the American League batting title race with a .352 batting average? Even now, that would be an easy question for me, but for little ten-year-old Tony you might as well have asked for his name, address, and telephone number. I knew that answer immediately and without missing a beat said quickly, "Cecil Cooper."
The guy goes, "You're correct! Here's your prize!"
And he handed me a plastic covered baseball with the Brewers team name and logo on it, which Jim Gantner promptly signed.
That ball was my constant autograph companion for the next year or so.
The problem with a plastic covering, however, is the fact that ink fades pretty badly from plastic. Only a few autographs remain legible.
Anyway, here are some photos of that ball, which I still have today. It used to be my pride and joy, and in some respects it still is:
On this panel are three Hall of Famers. Yes, once again, 12-year-old me was disappointed in how much the signatures had faded already at that point and took a sharpie to darken the signatures from Rollie Fingers and Paul Molitor. Under Molitor, of course, is Don Sutton. Above Fingers in ink is reserve outfielder Mark Brouhard.
Finally, on this part of the ball, you see the badly retraced Robin Yount at the bottom. Above his signature is now-Commissioner Bud Selig. Above Selig is fifth outfielder Marshall Edwards, whose twin brother Mike played for the Oakland A's. Above Edwards is the first ever signature on the ball from Jim Gantner. Above Gantner is baseball arsonist Ned Yost, the backup to Ted Simmons at catcher in 1982.
Also on the ball but faded so badly I'm embarrassed to show them are Buck Rodgers, announcers Pat Hughes and Steve Shannon, Don Money, Sal Bando, Mike Caldwell, and a couple more that are so faded that I can't read them.
The enjoyment I got in chasing those autographs -- as I got them all in person -- was incredibly high. I just wish that they were still legible.