Remembering Shea: An Amazin’ Icon Passes

An article by posted on April 17, 2014

For the next three days, we’re going back and picking out some of our favorite posts that celebrate the great memories of Shea Stadium. We begin with this post, originally written by me on February 10, 2008.

From the very first day that Shea Stadium opened its gates and embraced their new team, the New York Mets, Karl Ehrhardt became 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. Millions of adoring fans will always remember him for his unbridled enthusiasm and never-ending dedication to the team. Karl Ehrhardt was an icon. He was one of the first Met fans 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.

* * * * * * * * * *

Karl Ehrhardt – The Sign Man

November 26, 1924 – February 5, 2008

I cant believe it’s been six years already since Karl’s passing. What a great fan he was and I’ll always remember trying to spot his signs whenever me and my dad went to Shea.

Here are some of Sign Man’s most memorable signs:

  • AMAZIN’! – Based on the team’s nickname which was first coined by Casey Stengel, the franchise’s original manager.
  • MET POWER! – Displayed after Tommie Agee hit his leadoff home run in Game 3 of the 1969 World Series
  • BACK TO YOUR NEST, BIRD! – 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? – After many a Mets comeback win.
  • CURSES! FOILED AGAIN – We saw that one plenty!
  • AAUGHH! – Inspired by the Peanuts cartoon strip; it was used for whenever the Mets lost a game.
  • 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! – Whenever a Dodger struck out, or argued, or just for fun.
  • LEAVE IT TO SEAVER – Inspired by famous sitcom show, Leave It to Beaver; the sign was used for whenever Tom Seaver was on the mound.
  • 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”.
  • 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.

Presented By Diehards

About the Author ()

I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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