June 18, 2006


Recalling the Time of the Signs at Shea (VINCENT M. MALLOZZI, 6/18/06, NY Times)

One recent morning in Queens, Karl Ehrhardt walked over to his bedroom closet and unlocked the door to a dozen memories, every one of them in black and white.

Ehrhardt, 81, better known to fans of a certain vintage as the Sign Man of Shea, looked down at a pile of placards he once flashed in Flushing, bits of commentary designed to praise and inspire, or tease and rattle, the Mets and their opponents.

From 1964 to 1981, the Sign Man, dressed in a blue shirt and a black derby emblazoned with a Mets logo, responded on cue to much of the drama played out between the white lines. One summer day in 1979, the Sign Man followed a bouncing ball into and out of the glove of Mets shortstop Frank Taveras. The Sign Man showed no mercy:

"Look Ma, No Hands."

And whenever the journeyman Jose Cardenal struck out for the Mets, the Sign Man never failed to hoist:

"Jose, Can You See?"

"I just called them the way I saw them," Ehrhardt said.

A commercial artist from Queens who grew up in Brooklyn rooting for the Dodgers, Ehrhardt said he "adopted the Mets" in 1962, the year the franchise was born, five years after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.

When Shea Stadium opened in 1964, the Sign Man set up shop, running his business of baseball barbs from a box seat behind the third-base dugout. Long before television coverage and giant scoreboards became littered with never-ending distractions, the Sign Man was the only sideshow in town.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 18, 2006 12:00 PM

I grew up a Yankee fan and always hated the Mets. This guy was one of the reasons.

He started the trend that has seen TV directors focus as much on characters in the stands as on the action on the field. Of course he never would have started holding up the signs in the first place if it hadn't been for television. Most of all my heart went out to the poor sots who had to sit behind him.

Incidentally the story is wrong about scoreboards. Message boards began before the Sign Man. They might even have been his inspiration. The White Sox had an "exploding" scoreboard in the late 50s which launched fireworks after Sox homers and victories. Another one of Bill Veeck's contributions to the great American pastime.

Posted by: George at June 18, 2006 2:19 PM

Wasn't Veeck also responsible for the vines at Wrigley?

Posted by: jdkelly at June 18, 2006 3:13 PM

According to this link he installed the vines in 1937:


Sportswriters loved Veeck but hardcore fans didn't share the enthusiasm.

Never realized Sign Man was so tight with the Mets. The club even flew him out to Oakland for the Series in 1973. I wonder if they were selling him his ticket at a discount or even comping him.

Posted by: George at June 18, 2006 6:21 PM

No giants signs or constant distractions at Wrigley. Of course there's no baseball being played there either, but that's another story.

Posted by: Bartman at June 18, 2006 6:46 PM

His best and most effective sign was the one in '86 that read "Please God, don't start The Can in Game 7"

Posted by: Matt Cohen at June 19, 2006 3:37 PM

Nah, everyone knew that, except McNamara.

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2006 3:43 PM