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Autographs

September 28, 2010 1:59:33 PM PDT
I've never been much for getting autographs or ogling at celebrities. I remember doing a story on Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott when she returned from her suspension from baseball. It was at the team's spring training facility in Florida and I saw the Reds' broadcaster Joe Nuxhall.

Not sure what came over me, but I handed him a ball and asked for his autograph. He was once a great pitcher for the Reds, the youngest player ever to play in a major league game - he was 15 years old when he pitched 2/3 of an inning for the Reds back in 1944. I also remember that he pitched a no-hitter for nine innings, but then lost the game.

Maybe I became a kid again for just a moment, I don't know, but I got his autograph, and still have the ball.

But I usually disdain approaching famous people. Perhaps it reminds me of the many times that my mom would force my brother and me to approach her one-and-only heartthrob, Frank Sinatra. We saw him several times over the years when I was a kid - usually in a restaurant. And I distinctly remember my mother not-so-gently pushing us to get his autograph. She was a Sinatra bobbysoxer back in the 1940s, one of those teenagers who would get all dizzy and bothered listening to him croon.

I bring this up because two years ago last month I ran into former President Jimmy Carter at the Democratic Convention. I was covering the confab, and my son Owen was with me. We were running to an interview when Mr. Carter and his small entourage passed by. My first instinct was to keep walking and get to my interview. But that lasted only a nanosecond. Owen was with me, and I'd be danged if I wanted this opportunity for him to meet a President to pass. So I stopped, said hello Mr. President, this is my son Owen Ritter and I wanted him to meet you.

Carter - and he didn't have to - stopped, smiled that famous smile, shook Owen's hand, and asked him how he liked being in Denver and taking in the convention.

My son is hardly shy, but there was this mouth agape look to him that I've rarely seen. The 13-year-old boy understood who this man was, and how important an encounter he was drinking in.

I thought of that chance meeting today, as word spread that the former President was hospitalized today after he became sick on a flight to Cleveland to promote his new book.

The 85-year-old Georgian is reportedly resting comfortably, recovering from a case of air sickness, according to the published reports. But a former President in the hospital is always news, and always a moment to pause, and think.

There are those who will remember his Presidency, and then those who will remember his years of post-Presidency activism. Me? I'll remember the two minutes Mr. Carter stopped at a conventional hall to talk to a young teenager and make a connection.

We'll have the latest on the former President's condition, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, it might be the most despised public agency in our area. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (better known as the MTA) runs New York's bus, subway and train systems, the nation's biggest and busiest. And it's constantly running in the red. Capital improvements are lacking, fares are always getting raised, and service is typically cut.

Tonight, another reason to despise the agency. Our investigative reporter Jim Hoffer spent some time undercover and overnight, following the folks who are supposed to keep the filthy subway cars clean. "Supposed to" are the operative words here.

What Jim discovered is disturbing - subway cleaners more interested, it seemed at times, in reading the paper, or chatting with fellow workers, or texting on their phones, than in doing their jobs.

Jim has captured the less-than-motivated workforce on camera. His exclusive report - workers not working and paid with our money - airs tonight at 11.

And speaking of money, and under the heading, "just not fair," a new government report tonight says that the gender pay gap is still alive and kicking. Women, the report says, continue to make an average 79 cents on the dollar compared to men with the same jobs and duties.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast (we had another tornado watch throughout the area today), and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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