Leroy Kilps R.I.P.

Saturday November 28th, 2009 – St. Cloud, MN

A piece of my childhood died today. I received a call that Leroy Kilps passed away last night and I was very sad to hear the news. Leroy was in charge of the monthly sports card shows at Gonzaga Hall in West Allis, WI and I’d dealt with him since I was about twelve.

Sports cards were one of my few fun memories of childhood and I’ve drifted in and out of the hobby frequently. I remember discovering there was a Wisconsin Sports Collectors Association as a kid and I joined it immediately. They held quarterly shows in Milwaukee at a place called Federation Hall on 13th and Lincoln and I used to attend them quite a bit.

I remember taking the city bus all the way across town from my grandparents’ house on the north side early in the morning so I could be there when the doors opened at 9 o’clock sharp. It seemed like such an adventurous journey then and I savored every second of it.

Every spare penny I had went into buying old cards back then. I remember standing and bidding at the auction with guys twenty years older than me on cards that were made well before I was born. For some reason I just knew those cards would appreciate in value and I bought up as many as I could. It turns out I was right and I wish I had hung on to them.

I used to send them off to get autographed and I remember getting responses from most if not all the players I sent requests to including Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Bob Cousy, Sandy Koufax and those are only the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I had a gigantic collection of many more.

When I was about 21 I started experiencing the rigors of adult life and having to make a living and times were lean so I sold my collection. I made money on it but not even close to what I could have made had I saved it for at least ten more years. It was a big mistake.

In a perfect world I would have cherry picked the choicest items and enjoyed them for a lifetime and sold the rest off at top dollar just as the market was peaking right around the mid ‘90s. I could have put a nice chunk of change away and still enjoyed my best items.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. It didn’t happen that way and that’s the way it goes. I still had fun collecting back then and in the end I still made a profit, even if it was way too early to get what I could have gotten later. The process was fun and Leroy Kilps was one of those older guys who I remember from the Federation Hall days. He was always friendly to me.

Leroy worked for the post office and I think he was a mailman at least part of that time. He had a card shop for a while, but not that long. He was just a collector who loved sports and everyone in the Milwaukee area who collected sports stuff crossed paths with Leroy.

I’ll admit we weren’t close friends, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the guy. I totally did, and don’t know anyone who didn’t. When I did my Craig Ferguson appearance, he’s the one who got the word out to all the people in the card hobby. I appreciated that a lot.
I was supposed to be on in March but I wasn’t, and when I saw him at the next show he came over and said “I wouldn’t stay up late for a lot of people, but I did it for you and you weren’t on. I’ll never do it again.” He was kidding, but I appreciated the fact he stayed up.

When I actually did get on the show he was almost giddy when he saw me the next time and was quoting my jokes back to me. I could tell he got a big kick out of it and I thanked him for mentioning it to everyone else. He was a regular guy and didn‘t put on any airs.

Life is finite and never guaranteed, and even though we know that it still stings when an unexpected sudden passing happens of someone we knew, even if we only knew them on a limited basis. I didn’t know Leroy all that well, but I did know him for most of my life.

How many people cross our paths each day that we may never get an opportunity to see again? All of them. I saw Leroy just last month and he told me he’d keep me in mind if an extra table popped up for the show. He asked how comedy was going and said the typical “One of these days I’m going to come out and see you” line I’ve been hearing for years.

He’s not the only one who’s said that but very few ever actually do it. I’m fine with it if someone doesn’t come to see my show, but I sure don’t want the reason to be that they’ve passed away. I wish Leroy’s family peace and comfort at this time and I also wish I could have gotten the chance to officially thank him for his support of my career before he died.

The show tonight was pretty sparse. Last night’s crowd was light but tonight’s was even worse. The weather was fantastic today and for whatever reason it kept people away. I did my time and tried to give my absolute best to those who did show up. They weren’t drunk and rowdy like last night and in fact were just the opposite. They were quiet and mousey.

The term ‘Minnesota Nice’ applied perfectly tonight. The people here are polite beyond belief, almost to a fault. Afterward there was a line of people waiting to shake my hand as they left and I bet if I’d have peed on their shoes they’d have thanked me for it. They’re as friendly as a whole in Minnesota as anywhere I’ve ever been, and I’ve been everywhere.

I did feel bad because the host told me a guy and his wife came out who saw me the last time I was here and loved the show. I guess the guy was raving about me to the host in the back of the room before the show and said he came out especially to see me. I’m flattered.

After the show the host said the guy got so flustered he wouldn’t come up and say hello because he was intimidated. That made me feel horrible, as I always try to be available to people after a show. I go out of my way to shake people’s hand and sincerely thank them for coming to see me. The last thing I want to do is intimidate anybody, especially a fan.

Speaking of intimidating, one of the waitresses this week was an absolute jaw dropper. WOW, what a scorcher. She’s the typical stunner blonde Minnesota is famous for and she supposedly has been offered a modeling contract from Playboy. She’s 21 and her ticket is punched. She won’t have to sell any sports cards to make ends meet. She won the lottery.


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