Rediscovering an autograph from a Super Bowl champion

Jim Peltomaa called out to me as I was getting into my car outside the Town Pump on Excelsior Street.

“Foles, Foles,” he said as he approached. “I’m going to get you another autograph from Pat Ogrin.”

That was about a year ago when I stopped for a Mountain Dew on a hot summer day.

I was immediately brought back to a cold Sunday afternoon in January of 1983 when I watched television as the Washington Redskins beat the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII in the Rose Bowl.

Most people remember that game for the performance of “The Diesel.” John Riggins who ran the ball 38 times for 166 yards and a touchdown on his way to winning the Most Valuable Player Award.

In Butte, we remember the game because a backup defensive lineman named Pat Ogrin played for the Redskins that Super Sunday. At least that’s why the game is so memorable to me.

I watched the game with my dad and my great-uncle Bill Leeming. I was planning on cheering for the Dolphins until my dad told me that a Butte guy was playing for the Redskins.

Never before did I pay so much attention to the defensive line, watching attentively for a glimpse of No. 75 for the Redskins.

I couldn’t tell you for sure if he actually played a down on defense or if he even got into the game, but I could have sworn Ogrin made seven or eight tackles that day. I was spotting No. 75 left and right.

I was 8 at the time, and I had never heard of Ogrin before that game. For one afternoon, though, you would think he was in my immediate family.

That’s why my head almost exploded a few months later while watching my older brother’s Little League game at what is now called Scown Field in Butte. A boy came running by and told me there’s a guy from the Super Bowl champion Redskins watching the game.

“Pat Ogrin?!” I said as my head snapped around.

“Yeah,” he said, pointing up to Caledonia Street where cars parked and looked down on the field. “I think that’s it. He’s right up there.”

I couldn’t believe it. Pat Ogrin was watching my brother’s game, too. Pat Ogrin, the Super Bowl champion.

After scrambling to find a piece of paper from one of the moms, I followed the parade of boys up the hill to where Ogrin was sitting in a lawn chair outside a car. I asked for his autograph and he asked me my name.

He handed back the paper, and my eyes filled with tears of joy as I read what he wrote:

“Billy, Best wishes from Pat Ogrin, Redskins #75.”

My memory tells me I saw his Super Bowl ring, but I’m not sure if he had it yet. I nervously told Ogrin that I watched him in the Super Bowl and I thanked him a few times for the autograph. I remember him laughing, probably at how nervous and excited I was to see a real-life NFL player.

Then I sprinted down toward the field, holding the autograph up high to show it off to anyone and everyone.

That piece of paper sat on top of my dresser for years, and it has always been the basis for how I practice signing autographs in preparation for the day I am finally asked. Over the years I’ve written thousands of practice autographs, each including the words “best wishes.”

Ogrin never played in another regular-season game in the NFL. He played in five in 1981 and three in 1982.

I watched him on TV as he played a couple of games for the Denver Gold in the USFL in 1983 and with the Pittsburgh Gladiators of the Arena League in 1988.

Ogrin, who played at Wyoming after graduating from Butte High in 1976, was inducted into the Butte Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.

I never forgot the time I met Pat Ogrin, and I never will. But somewhere along the line I lost the piece of paper he signed to me.

I was bummed out by that because, even though I have William “The Refrigerator” Perry’s autograph years later, that Pat Ogrin autograph was easily the most meaningful “celebrity” signature I ever received.

Last summer I mentioned how I lost that autograph in a column, and Peltomaa, who was a good buddy with Ogrin, read it.

“I’m going to see Pat today,” Pelts said, “and I will get you another autograph.”

Ogrin was getting married that day at the Lady of the Rockies. I briefly thought about crashing the wedding to get another signature, but Pelts assured me he would do it for me.

Pelts and I stood there at the gas station talking for a while that day. We talked about that autograph and he told me a couple of stories about Ogrin.

“I can’t wait to tell Pat I saw you,” he said with a laugh as he walked away. “He will get a kick out of your story.”

Unfortunately, that was the last time I talked with Pelts before his untimely death in November. He never gave me the autograph, and I never got to hear about him getting it.

The conversation about that memory with Pelts, though, made the memory of the autograph even more special. It gave the story another dimension.

A few weeks ago I was cleaning out my basement and aggressively throwing things out like I was on an episode of Hoarders.

As I was lifting a box headed for the dump, a small, folded piece of paper fell to the dirty floor. I picked it up and nearly crumbled it on the way to the garbage pile.

For some reason, though, I decided to put the box down and open the yellowing piece of paper to see what it was.

Tears of joy filled my eyes as I read the faded words: “Billy, Best wishes from Pat Ogrin, Redskins #75.”

I’ll never lose that autograph again.

— Bill Foley, who couldn’t find any Pat Ogrin autographs on eBay, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Foles74. 1 comment



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1 Comment

  • Dawn Ann
    July 29, 2015, 4:44 am

    fun reading Foles!! I will send the link to Pat!! Looks like Pelts got you that autograph after all. Haha!!!

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