We recently re-discovered an almost-forgotten document telling the story of Eugene Kramer’s fifteen minutes of fame.
As seen in the document, in the summer of 1945, Eugene, then 15 and living on Riverside Drive in Manhattan, was attending summer school. Though perhaps he should have been paying more attention to the class, as he gazed out the window, he spotted Babe Ruth, then 50 and retired for 10 years.
Within bothering to explain to the class or the teacher, Eugene bounded out of his seat and rushed outside the school in hopes of getting the Babe’s autograph. He reached the Babe in time and got the autograph, returning to the class with trophy in hand. After his explanation, the teacher said leaving the class without permission was justified. Andy Warhol claimed everyone gets 15 minutes of fame. From start to finish, Eugene’s brush with the Bambino lasted maybe 10 minutes. But that’s close enough.
Years later, in 1991, Eugene mentioned the autograph to our friend Dr. Bob Bryant, Brighton dentist, sports memorabilia collector and at that time a top flight badminton player. Bob offered Eugene 500 dollars for the autograph, a very fair price that Eugene accepted. To authenticate the signature, Eugene notarized his account of the encounter. There is no reason to doubt its veracity. I recall Bob also bought some of my 1970’s baseball cards that he gave to children patients to sooth their anxiety.
Wondering what became of the autograph, I recently contacted Bob who said the autograph was one of the most cherished in his collection. About six months ago, Bob sold the autograph for $3500. He anticipated that his kids would fight over who would get it. To avoid controversy, he decided to sell the signature. Bob used the money to travel recently to Russia and Finland where he ate raindeer but did not splurge on bear meat.
Bob also recalled that Eugene had used the money to purchase rare chess books. Bob also recalled that Eugene said I didn’t want the autograph. This surprised me but then I realized it wasn’t until maybe ten years later that I became interested in autographs. The collection includes Cal Ripken Jr, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Bryce Harper from his final minor game when he played for Syracuse and a Gale Sayers autograph that Eugene got when Sayers spoke at a health expo in Rochester.The summer of 1945 had more drama for Eugene. On August 14th he turned 16, the same day as the great VJ celebrations in New York. The joke is that when Eugene heard the din, he thought New York was celebrating his birthday.