There are two kinds of people in this world: those that have a picture of Syrain President Bashar Al-Assad autographed by Trot Nixon, and those who do not. Your faithful editors here at Sweet Merciful Crap- we are willing to bet- are the only two members of the first category on earth. The idea to collect such a rare commodity was born in 2002 in Melbourne, Australia. Our West Coast Bureau Chief was then living down there and had one day stumbled across a poster of Isiah Thomas going for a lay-up over Bill Wennington at a local junk shop, which he purchased for one Australian Dollar. After ingesting a large quantity of pot brownies on the 12th floor roof of a downtown building one Sunday morning, Our Editor decided it would be a good idea to go get his new Isaiah poster autographed by the Dalai Lama, who was visiting town at the time. Our Editor never made it down to the Lama’s public event that day, as he got distracted by numerous diversions… and he has rued that failure of motivation and focus every day since, searching- hoping- for an opportunity of similar absurdity to present itself.
Fast-forward to 2008, when our East Coast Bureau Chief decided to take the 600 dollars the US Government gave him by way of a stimulus check, and use it to prop up the tourist economy of Syria, who, while not an open and avowed enemy of the United States, is certainly not on the friendliest terms with America. While visiting, he was kind enough to buy the West Coast Bureau Chief a poster of Bashar Al-Assad, the handsome, dapper president of Syria. (For the record, we have no great affection for Bashar; the world would generally be a better place if we could drive low-rent autocratic goons like him from power, but the poster itself is one of those rare commodities to be treasured, for sure.)
So we have an idea, and a poster, and next it was a matter of finding the last link of the puzzle: the autographer. Our Sweet Merciful Crap corporate retreat was to Cactus League Baseball this year, and this seemed the right time to complete a dream seven or so years in the making. On our last day there we watched the Brewers take on the Indians at Maryvale Stadium. It was to be one of Trot Nixon’s last days with the Brewers as a non-roster invitee, and he was one of the only Brewers to sign autographs after the game. We eagerly scampered down with a Sharpie in one hand and the picture of the Syrain dictator in the other. Our anticipation built as he approached, which we calmed with a hearty wad of Copenhagen courtesy of Brewers top prospect Mat Gamel, who looked around nervously muttering “I don’t know if I am supposed to do this,” before handing us his tin after we asked to bum a pinch of chaw. Then, Trot approached:
“Trot, right here man, sign my poster.”
Trot unfurled the bent, glossy roll of cardboard paper and hesitated. Clearly he was unfamiliar with the idea of autographing a picture of some mustachioed fellow in a suit presiding over a bunch of Arabic.
“Who’s this guy?” he asked in a lazy, yet oddly forceful southern drawl.
“Why, that’s the President of Syria, Bashar Al-Assad” I said.
“What are you doin’ with a picture of the President of Syria?” he persisted as he started scrawling his name on the poster.
“Ah… well, you know, gotta spend that stimulus check somehow,” I think I muttered. “Anyhow, we still love you in Boston Trot,” I said as I clapped him on the shoulder. “We’re all pullin’ for you.”
And that was it. I was disappointed with the size of the autograph, it is more fitting to a baseball and the scale is all wrong for such a large poster, but hell, we had it. We had managed to get a washed-up Major League Ball Player from the South to sign a picture of a Middle Eastern Dictator. We were now, most certainly, the only people on Earth with a picture of the President of Syria autograph by Trot Nixon. Behold:
Bonus Autograph Anecdote:
We weren’t aware that Andruw Jones was in camp with the Texas Rangers. For those of you who don’t know Jones, he was once one of the premiere players in baseball, but almost overnight dissolved into a catastrophically awful hitter. He just couldn’t hit the ball, which is a hell of a problem to have when a team is paying you about 18 million dollars expressly for that purpose. He is a hulking individual covered in tattoos who wears a determined, vaguely menacing air about him. Around 11 am one morning he was getting ready to play in a AA practice game against the Royals.
I walked up to him, remembering all the times I had booed him at the top of my lungs from the upper deck of Dodger Stadium last season, and held out one of the full, cold cans of Budweiser that I had been carrying around for him to sign. The look on his face at this moment was cold and indifferent, but for a flash there I saw in his eyes a burning desire to ask me what the hell I was doing making a 10-time Gold Glover sign a beer can at 11 in the morning… but years of experience kicked in and he realized that the quickest, easiest way to dispense of me was just to sign the damn can and let me be on my way. The disdain he wore for me as a shoeless, gangly morning beer drinker was more than apparent.
“Thanks Andruw,” I said. I then went over to the Royals’ side of the field to watch the practice game. Andruw was the first batter up and I wanted to wait for a quiet moment during the at bat where I could crack the can and he would be sure to hear it being opened. He didn’t hear it and fouled out down the right field line.
Here’s our Andruw Jones Beer Can: