The following story appeared on www.beckett.com on August 1st.
CHICAGO - Iconic Chicago sports legend Mike Ditka, sporting a sparkling Chicago Rush ArenaBowl XX championship ring, injected a spark into a mild Friday morning at the 29th annual National Sports Collectors Convention when he dropped by the Donruss booth for a brief signing session.
The Super Bowl-winning coach, Hall of Fame tight end and all-around Windy City superhero was on hand to sign 200 autographs and otherwise regale a lengthy queue of enchanted fans.
"This is the ultimate experience," said one collector who admitted to coming from three generations of Bears fans. "What an unbelievable person."
Ditka was personable throughout and took his time to interact with each person in line and even took a few minutes to talk collecting with Beckett.
Beckett: Did you collect anything growing up?
Ditka: I grew up a Stan Musial fan, he was my childhood hero. I grew up in Pittsburgh and he was from the Pittsburgh area. I have his autograph. I played golf with Jackie Robinson, I have his autograph. I used to play golf all the time with Mickey Mantle in Texas, Dan Reeves and I. Those guys, besides being American icons, they were friends of mine.
You go downtown and look at my restaurant and you will see the autographs, the pictures. Whether it be Ted Williams-signed, DiMaggio-signed. They're all big pictures that I've bought over the years. I keep them, I collect them and I put them in my restaurant. I've got Mantle, all sorts of football players, Ernie Banks, Ripken, guys like that.
As a kid I had all the bubble-gum cards and then my brother threw them away.
Beckett: Is that where you keep most of your stuff, in your restaurant?
Ditka: Yeah. I have some stuff at home; I have some stuff in my personal collection. I've got some pretty nice stuff. I bought a picture autographed by Nicklaus, Palmer, Nelson and Hogan standing on the tee.
Beckett: Did you keep any memorabilia from your playing days?
Ditka: No. What I'm doing now, you know they make the footballs that go back to when I played. I got some of those, I signed them and put them in a trunk for my grandkids. I sign Hall of Fame cards and I put them in a trunk for my grandkids. I sign old football jerseys and I put them in. Some day, they'll come down and open the chest and say, "You know what, the old SOB wasn't so bad after all."
Not bad at all.