Review: Waiting for a Sign
Author: Kevin Keating
Publisher: WorldServe Press
Reviewed by: Ralph Peluso, Literary Editor
Zebra Rating – 5 Stripes
Regardless of the era, there is one baseball thing which has changed very little –youngster and the young at heart fantasizing about their idols and chasing autographs. Inside and outside the ball park, the autograph hounds abound—rabid fans hanging out near the field railings or lingering around the player walkways that lead into the stadium. Their eyes wide open attentive and darting in search of their heroes. Arms stretched out and hands waving trying to catch the player’s attention. In one hand a pen and in the other is the article they’re seeking to have autographed. Like baseball players at the plate they are unsuccessful many more times than they succeed to capture the elusive name on the scorecard, hat or ball. But, the lust of the chase is never deterred.
In his new book, “Waiting for the Sign,’’ Alexandria resident Kevin Keating magnificently takes readers to that special time when some of us hung out with hundreds of other autograph seekers patiently trying to secure an inked souvenir. In his book Keating chronicles a personal journey through decades of encounters and correspondence with some of the sport’s most important and colorful personalities.
The hunt, readers discover, was not in getting the autograph but for Keating it was and remains establishing lifelong connections with the players. He did not fear asking penetrating questions. Kevin then listened to their charming and unique stories from baseball’s years by gone years.
“Players are real people. They are complex personalities, usually with a public and a private persona. Take Mickey Mantle for example. “
Now growing up in the Bronx I include myself in the unanimity of boys who idolized “the Mick”, mimicked the famously humble home run trot and suffered the failure of not getting his autograph regardless of the countless times I tried. What Kevin’s peek under the tent revealed about Mantle and other players goes to the heart of his work.
“Mantle when he walked from the bus or cab into the clubhouse was at work. He was over whelmed by the crowds. The country boy from Oklahoma came across as aloof. Privately Mantle was completely different, warm and genuine. “
I finally got my Mantle signed pieces years later at a collector’s event. Keating was right. Mick was charming, gracious and all smiles.
Kevin’s reveals the key to his successful strategy for collecting: separate from the crowd (waiting in hotel lobbies) and then connect with the players. I found Kevin’s ability to establish relationships with the greats fascinating. He has many players, including hall of famers, who consider him a friend.
Kevin graciously shares his experiences and the stories so many of them have shared with him. Hall of Famer Joe Sewell, considered by many experts the best contact hitter of all time, commented that the young Kevin knew more about early baseball than anyone he met. Sewell played with the some of the greats, providing insight to those immortals like Ruth, Cobb and Gehrig. Some of what Sewell shared with Kevin is surprising.
Keating describes many memorable meetings and some near misses with legends like Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aaron, Rod Carew, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Roger Maris. But this book is more about the friendships he made and maintained with the greats of the game. Keating smoothly communicates his passion and drive. Readers will quickly realize that no two ‘behind the scenes’ stories are the same.
Kevin Keating graduated from the United States Military Academy), and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He completed of Airborne and Ranger Schools, and attained the rank of Captain. He is a lifetime autograph collector and is now the principal autograph authenticator for Professional Sports Authenticators. He currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife and twin sons.
This is a must read for baseball fans and those who enjoy reading delightful anecdotes about the greats.
Zebra rating 5 stars