By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
July 11, 2009
By John Klima
For a few dollars on eBay, you can buy his autograph on an index card, but the seller is mistaken. Paul Pettit, the first $100,000 bonus baby, is not a “deceased ballplayer.”
Now he knows where some of those autograph requests end up.
The letters always arrive in April, and the price tag follows him into his old age. There is nothing he can do about that, but like his playing days, he lets it go. He’s just a former ballplayer now, he said, and the grandkids don’t know too much about his career, and that’s fine by him.
Pettit gazed at a photograph of himself steaming down the first base line. His leg is outstretched as he makes a final lunge for first base, but the ball is already in the first baseman’s mitt.
“This is me, playing at Richmond, Va., being thrown out by half a step,” Pettit said. He chuckles and says without a trace of bitterness, “Story of my life.”
Shirley came to remind him that it was getting late. “She was the best part of the whole thing,” he said. When Pettit signed, someone had the idea to throw in $750 for a honeymoon. Shirley laughed. She said she’s still waiting.
There is the value of Pettit. No matter what didn’t happen, the people who know him the best say he has remained the same kind of person. This is the fine line of being a professional athlete. Pettit never lost what his father gave him. He worked hard, had a hell of a laugh, and enjoyed the memories. Who knew? The greatest gift wasn’t the salary. It was in the satisfaction.