OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. - Whenever my allegiance to the Orioles is called into question -- a common occurrence these days here in the Midwest -- I'm obliged to tell the tale of Curt Motton's glove and the heroic act of kindness behind it.
Jackie Golden has made a career of tending to children's needs as head of special education for Baltimore City schools. Twenty years ago, the former Mrs. Curt Motton attended to mine.
In the summer of '71, Frank Robinson was stalking his 500th home run, and I was among the hordes stalking Frank. No matter that my collection of F. Robby autographs was approaching double digits; I had saved a spot on my first baseman's mitt for a more historic signature.
One Sunday, my mother agreed to let the post-game traffic clear while my Junior Oriole buddies and I chased birds outside the stadium. When Frank showed, I scrambled into the huddle around him and was waiting with arms folded behind me when the glove vanished.
Hysterical screams from a nine-year-old are real attention grabbers and I'm sure Frank and everyone else in Baltimore County thought a child was being tortured. They were right. Someone had snatched the mitt off my left and disappeared.
That's when Jackie Motton, who now uses her maiden name Golden, appeared with a smile and a promise to a boy bordering on tear-induced dehydration. The glove would be replaced. Her husband would see to it.
My only memory of her is the smile and her glasses. I missed the introduction, and vaguely heard my mother giving her our address. I haven't seen her since that day.
Weeks passed, the incident was practically forgotten and a new, store-bought mitt was broken in when a package arrived in the mail from the Baltimore Orioles Baseball Club. The package was no surprise, given my standing with the Junior Orioles. Expecting a shipment of Oriole key chains and bumper stickers, I shredded the wrapping to find Curt Motton's glove, decorated with signatures of the 1971 Orioles.
That Wilson A2000, used by Mr. Motton as an Oriole outfielder, has spent the last 20 years dangling from a shoestring in my bedroom, removed only for special occasions like Orioles World Series appearances and discreet games of catch.
It has never seen the inside of a collectors shop, nor will it ever.
For the most part, the penmanship of three Hall of Famers, four 20-game winners and six Gold Glovers is still legible. Chico Salmon. Jerry Davanon. Tom Shopay. They're all there, almost.
I'm missing just one autograph: Jackie Golden's.
''I remember I just couldn't stand to see you hurting like you were,'' Ms. Golden told me Tuesday via telephone. ''Things like that shouldn't happen to kids at the ballpark, and I wanted so badly to make it better.
''I guess I was the nudge for Curt. I know of instances were someone paid the clubhouse boy to sign players' names, but Curt and I made sure all the signatures were legit. I had done enough of this type stuff to know the players' handwriting.''
Years passed and some of the autographs faded particularly Pat Dobson's green-ink scribbling. The tale was rehashed every summer in my Savage, Maryland, home. But there was one audience that hadn't heard the story.
After the '71 season, Curt Motton was traded to Milwaukee and then California before returning to Baltimore for the final two years of an eight-year career that ended in 1974. Mr. Motton's bat, used by Dave McNally to hit a grand slam in the 1970 World Series, is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. His glove was in my work bag this summer when I paid Mr. Motton, now the Orioles' first-base coach, an overdue visit.
The meeting started a chain reaction producing a flood of fond memories and this story. Curt remembered the glove -- handling it like a long, lost friend -- and his ex-wife's ''gentle'' prodding to get it signed.
Though divorced, Curt and Jackie remain a part of the Orioles family. Their daughter, Simone, once worked in the club's public relations office, and Jackie's cousin, Orioles goodwill ambassador Elrod Hendricks, has been working the crowd for two decades. Obviously, kindness runs in the family.
So tomorrow, when the miracles finally cease on 33rd Street and 50,000 pay homage to their Memorial Stadium memories, I'll be thinking of the lady who made mine Golden.
Mike Sherman is a sportswriter for the Daily Oklahoman.