From the early days that Shea Stadium first embraced their new team, the New York Mets, Karl Ehrhardt was a fixture at almost every game from 1964 through 1981.
We all knew Karl by his more famous nickname, the “Sign Man”.
He had become famous for holding up the most perfect signs throughout key moments of each game. Sometimes the signs displayed his frustration, but mostly they shared our exuberance and excitement. Whatever the situation was, you can bet that the Sign Man always had the perfect words.
It is so sad that he will not be able to say a final goodbye to Shea Stadium as it too gets ready for an appointment with destiny.
Karl was 83 years old and died at his home in the Glen Oaks section of Queens. He had been recovering from vascular surgery. The German born immigrant came to the United States when he was only six years old and during World War II, he served our country and was a translator for U.S. forces overseas.
He helped popularize many of the motto’s and phrases now associated with the Mets including Amazin’ Mets, Ya Gotta Believe, Miracle Mets, Tom Terrific, etc. You name them, he had them, in fact, he had over 1,200 different signs in his arsenal.
Some of you may even remember that special night when the Mets won the 1969 World Series and left him speechless. The sign he raised high above his head during the celebration on the field read, “There Are No Words.”
“I just called them the way I saw them,” Ehrhardt told The New York Times in 2006.
“Before I went to the ballpark, I would try to crystal-ball what might happen that particular day,” he said. “I would read all the newspapers to learn who was hot and who was in a slump, stuff like that, and create my signs accordingly.”
I hope the Wilpon’s choose to honor the Sign Man with a fitting tribute and a lasting memorial to him at the new Citi Field. He helped define the New York Mets back in the early days while they were searching for their own identity, and millions of fans will always remember him for his unbridled enthusiasm and never-ending dedication to the team.
The Sign Man was most likely the first Mets fan to bleed orange and blue. I would love to see a life sized poster of him adorning one of the corridors at the field level at Shea Stadium this, our final season. As we say our goodbyes to Shea Stadium this season, seeing a poster of the Sign Man holding up a sign that says “Always Amazin”, would be so fitting.
Farewell Sign Man, we will never forget you.
- “AMAZIN’!” – Based on the team’s nickname which was first coined by Casey Stengel, the franchise’s original manager.
- “MET POWER!” – Which he proudly displayed after Tommie Agee hit his leadoff home run in Game 3 of the 1969 World Series
- “JUST GREAT!”
- “BACK TO YOUR NEST, BIRD!” – Which appeared during the 1969 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. This sign is seen in the highlight film during Game 5.
- “CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?”
- “CURSES! FOILED AGAIN”
- “AAUGHH” – Inspired by the Peanuts cartoon strip; it was used for whenever the Mets lost a game.
- “TOOTHLESS CUBS JUST A LOTTA LIP” – Which he displayed during Mets games against the fading Cubs in 1969, referring to Leo “The Lip” Durocher.
- “LOOK MA, NO HANDS” – Was shown when a slow grounder defied the grip of Mets’ shortstop Frank Taveras at a summer Mets game in 1979.
- “JOSE, CAN YOU SEE?” – Presented when Cleveland Indians’ outfielder José Cardenal struck out at a 1968-1969 Mets game.
- “IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE!” – For weak hitters who rarely reached base. A head shot of Frankenstein’s monster was to the left of the letters on the sign.
- “SIT DOWN, YA BUM!” – For whenever a Dodgers fan was caught poking fun at the Mets at a Mets’ game; back then, the Los Angeles Dodgers were referred to the “Los Angeles Bums”.
- “LEAVE IT TO SEAVER” – Inspired by famous 1950s-1960s sitcom show, Leave It to Beaver; the sign was used for whenever Mets’ pitcher Tom Seaver was called up to pitch.
- “A” and “G” – Which he held in each hand, raising and lowering each, to punctuate the crowd’s chanting of center fielder Tommie Agee’s name, after his second game-saving catch in Game 3 of the 1969 World Series.
- “DO YOUR THING HEYWOOD” – Flashed at Heywood Hale Broun at the end of his 1969 feature about Ehrhardt on the CBS Evening News.
- “BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?” – Flashed during the decisive Game 5 of the 1969 World Series.
- “BYE, BYE, BIRDIES” – Flashed during the same game.
- “THERE ARE NO WORDS” – The sign that Ehrhardt held up when the Mets’ left fielder Cleon Jones caught the final out to clinch the team’s first World Series Championship. This was his most famous creation, seen in the Series highlight film.
- “THEY SAID IT COULDN’T BE DONE” – Held high from a convertible, as Ehrhardt rode with the Mets’ victory parade in the Canyon of Heroes in lower Manhattan.
- “NAILED BY THE (picture of a hammer)” – Held up after a home run was hit by slugging first baseman John Milner, whose nickname was “The Hammer”.
- “YOU’RE FIRED!” – Held up during Game Three of the 1973 World Series when the Oakland Athletics committed an error. The sign referred to A’s owner Charlie Finley’s attempt to have infielder Mike Andrews removed from the team after a pair of difficult Game Two errors in the twelfth inning helped the Mets win the game.
- “KONG!” – For Dave Kingman’s first regular season home run at home as a Met, helping to tag Kingman with the nickname King Kong.
- “THE KING OF SWING” – Another tribute to Kingman, drawing on the nickname given jazz legend Benny Goodman.
- “THE SIGNMAN LIVES!” – Used on his return to Shea Stadium at a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in August, 2002 to help celebrate the Mets’ 40th anniversary.