Former Chargers tackle Ron Mix learned several years ago that
many of his fellow Pro Football Hall of Famers were living on
not much more than Social Security and a modest league
pension--maybe $1,500 a month, total. Says Mix, a lawyer in San
Diego, "For most of us in the Hall, except for the Joe Namaths
and the Mike Ditkas, you go through the week's activities in
Canton, where they tell you how great you were, then you have to
wake up Monday and scratch out a living like everyone else."
Three years ago Mix asked each of the 130 living members of the
Hall of Fame to sign 2,500 trading cards that would be specially
designed for them. The cards would be sold in sets for $1,675,
with each Hall participant--the long-forgottens and the big
names alike--receiving an equal share in the profits. All but 11
Hall members agreed. "This wouldn't have worked without Namath,
Dorsett, Butkus and those guys," says Mix, "but they saw it as a
way to give back to guys who loved the game as much as they did."
Mix commissioned designs for each of the participating Hall of
Famers and shipped the 2,500-card batches to the players in the
spring and summer of 1998. Before he shipped Doak Walker's
cards, Mix learned that the Hall of Fame running back had been
paralyzed from the neck down in a skiing accident. After talking
to Walker's wife, Skeeter, who said Doak was still on board, Mix
sent the batch. Soon Walker's signed cards arrived in the mail.
With the help of Skeeter and using a hand and wrist brace,
Walker had spent time every day signing DOAK until he got about
2,000 cards done. "Signing was the highlight of his day," says
Two other Hall members--Tom Fears and Weeb Ewbank--signed their
cards shortly before they died. Fears, who suffered from
Alzheimer's, had the project explained to him every day by his
wife, Luella, before he sat down, pen in hand. He finished about
1,600 before he died earlier this month. "Imagine that," Mix
says. "He made the decision 50 different times to help his
fellow Hall members."
Mix, who markets the cards out of his house, says sales have
been brisk. If the sets sell out, each participating Hall of
Famer should get $18,000 or more. "For at least 40 guys, their
share in this project will be more than their average salary
over their NFL career," Mix says. "For some it will be more than
they've earned in years."
FOUR COLOR PHOTOS: RON & PATTI MIX/NFL PROPERTIES INC.