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Xs, Os and Autographs

Recent through-the-mail success stories include coaches Jim Boeheim and Phil Jackson, along with football great Frank Gifford and Pat Summerall. Plus, a former Olympic great is sending signed material back to collectors.

The mailbox was overflowing with items this past March, starting with head coach Jim Boeheim of the Syracuse Orange.

It wouldn’t be around the time of March Madness without a few NCAA Basketball items joining the collection. It started with my new favorite player, Jimmer Fredette, last month (see the April 8 issue of SCD). After shooting the lights out in the first two games, Jimmer took his show to the Sweet 16.

Boeheim, on the other hand, was sent packing thanks to a boneheaded move with 30 seconds left in the game vs. Marquette. We should be used to these lapses in judgment in western New York after all the ones that have come before (think “wide right” with the Bills and “in the crease” with the Sabres). The Orange had their destiny in their hands: Possession and 52 ticks on the clock. Then the inevitable – a botched inbounds pass resulting in the dreaded “over and back” call. Marquette capitalized with a dagger three-pointer followed up by four straight foul shots to seal the deal.

Boeheim is the king of the zone defense, which I am a huge fan of. I love the zone, love the trap and love the chaos it creates for teams who despise the zone. I found a great picture online featuring Boeheim in his playing days at Syracuse (when they could still call them the Orangemen without everyone getting their multi-cultural undies in a wad). Boeheim is playing ferocious “D” and willingly signed the old school, black-and-white photo with his Hall of Fame inscription. You’ll get ’em next year, Jimmy!

The Zenmaster

Most NBA pundits consider Phil Jackson to be one of the best NBA coaches of all time. And why not? He coached Jordan to six championships using the famed “triangle offense” and has won another five titles with Kobe and the Lakers. To make his resume even more impressive, he played in the NBA for the Knicks and Nets and was part of two championship teams.

As with Boeheim, Jackson signed a classic picture I found online.

Gifford and Summerall

Frank Gifford and Pat Summerall were teammates for the New York Giants in the “Greatest Game Ever Played,” but these two football icons would go on to even more success as announcers.

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The NFL Championship game took place at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 28, 1958, with the Colts beating the Giants in overtime. They didn’t know it then, but this game would be looked at as the springboard to today’s NFL. And both these guys would become sportscaster icons, broadcasting more than two dozen Super Bowls between them.

Gifford was the more gifted of the two athletically and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977 as a player. The eight-time Pro Bowl selection was also selected as the NFL Most Valuable Player in 1956, the year he led the Giants to the title against the Bears. Gifford not only was part of the famous Monday Night Football trio with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith, but he also announced Evel Knievel’s daredevil jumps on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

Summerall was mainly a field goal kicker in his playing days, a straight-ahead kicker who impacted many games. He is best known for his pairing with the colorful John Madden, a sportscasting tandem that lasted 22 years. He also announced golf, tennis and basketball.

Both of these legends signed the pictures I mailed them. It’s nice to see a couple of stylish, legible autographs in the collection to go with the initials and unreadable scrolls in which many of today’s players consider an autograph.

Super Bowl legend signs
I can’t imagine former Giants quarterback legend Phil Simms receives too many pigskins in his mailbox along with his bills and junk mail. Maybe his mailman even had to hoof it up to his front door and ring the bell.

I mailed out a football along with a silver paint pen when other collectors on my website reported several through-the-mail successes with the long-time New York Giants signal caller. It didn’t take long to return, signed beautifully across the panel, along with his “Super Bowl XXI M.V.P.” inscription. Not bad for the price of postage both ways.

Simms earned MVP honors in the 1987 Super Bowl after completing 22-of-25 passes against the Denver Broncos. He could have gone a near-perfect 24 of 25 if his receivers didn’t drop two easy throws. He threw three touchdowns in the 39-20 victory, cementing his legend in NFL and Giants lore.

Today, Simms keeps busy as a broadcaster. He also spends a lot of time watching his two sons play. Both quarterbacks, Chris plays for the Tennessee Titans and Matt plays for the Tennessee Volunteers.

Starting Lineups
I know they have been gone forever, and most aren’t worth the plastic that molded them, but there’s still something special about Kenner’s Starting Lineup figurines – especially if they are signed.

Sure the McFarlane Sports Picks figures today are life-like and highly collectible, but I still miss the old days of the Lineup figures. I recently mailed out one of the figures from the Timeless Legends series Kenner released in 1996. The Bruce Jenner running figure has a wide base and is perfect for an autograph.

Jenner won the gold medal in the 1986 decathlon at the Montreal Olympics. He also won the AP Male Athlete of the Year award that same year. Jenner has always been a great signer through the mail and in person.

He not only signed the figure but also the unique SLU card that was always packaged with the figure.

Athlete Addresses
Jim Boeheim
c/o Syracuse University
Manley Field House
1301 E. Colvin St.
Syracuse, NY 13244

Frank Gifford
300 Main St., Ste. 802
Stamford, CT 06901

Phil Jackson
c/o Los Angeles Lakers
Staples Center
1111 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Bruce Jenner
4774 Park Granada, Ste. 2
Calabasas, CA 91302

Pat Summerall
710 S. White Chapel Blvd.
Southlake, TX 76092

This address, as well as thousands more, can be found at