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When Joe takes you to dinner, you pay

Column by Steve Yingling, Tribune Sports Editor

Ever fantasize what it would be like to break bread with Joe Montana?

Does the engineer of four Niners’ Super Bowl titles eat healthy or does one of the greatest quarterbacks fill up on greasy foods?

Judging from the culinary rendezvous in his honor that will benefit the National Italian Sports Hall of Fame on Friday at the Eldorado Hotel/Casino in Reno, he must prefer pasta. Lots of pasta – and heavy on the greens.



After all, a couple must pay $400 to share dinner with the retired No. 16 on Friday night. That’s a month’s worth of groceries for some families.

Wouldn’t it be thriftier to wait and see where Montana eats on Saturday and follow him into that restaurant and only pay $30 or $40, then walk up and ask him for an autograph after he’s finished dessert?




Or better yet, if you’re the patient type, why not wait until Montana makes his debut in the celebrity golf championship at Edgewood Tahoe Course. He hasn’t participated in the 10-year existence of the event, but it’s bound to happen some year.

Remember when you could spend a Sunday afternoon with this extraordinary Joe at Candlestick Park, and it would only cost you $50?

If proceeds from the Montana dinner/autograph session were earmarked for a charity like American Cancer Society, Red Cross or the AIDS Foundation, then Montana could be applauded. But Montana’s fans are being shortchanged here.

No one from the public relations department at the Eldorado had any knowledge of what the Italian Sports Hall of Fame would do with Montana’s generosity. The hotel/casino also drew a blank when asked what Montana will earn for an appearance fee?

The Montana dinner table has room is expected to sell out with 600 guests, meaning $120,000 will be raised during the time that it used to take the former Niner great to carve up an opponent. Each couple will also receive an autographed football, which is valued at $145.

Of course, if you want to skip the dinner and acquire the legendary Montana autograph on the item of your choice, there is a 9:45 p.m. signing session. However, tickets must be prepurchased and their cost is based on the object you provide. Signatures for cards and pictures will set you back $100, while jerseys, posters, footballs and hats will cost as much as $145.

Even though Montana retired several years back, his signature will carry a lasting value.

“Some guys are bigger than their sport and he’s one of them. It’s just not the Bay Area that will buy Joe Montana. Joe will draw a crowd, without a doubt,” said Michael Hendricks, owner of the Gallery of Legends at Harrah’s Tahoe. “He’s not at the Jordan-Ali level, but he’s at least at the Gretzky and Mantle level.”

One advantage to collecting a Montana autograph now is that he doesn’t sign the same way as he did during his busy playing days. His signature is neater, fuller and worth more because the market isn’t glutted with his recent signatures.

“Joe’s autograph was once crap. People were complaining, ‘Oh yeah, you got the JOMO autograph.’ But now it’s nicer than it’s been in years,” Hendricks said.

Intentional or not, the new-and-improved autograph should financially help Montana.

“Maybe the motivation is JoMo. Maybe everyone will buy everything again,” Hendricks said.

For the hardcore Montana fans who just have to acquire his signature, Hendricks believes he can save them some time.

“Having dinner and buying his autograph, that’s great. It’s not like having beers with the guy. There you’ll have more of chance to see Joe in person than if you buy from me, but it’s going to cost the same if you go there or if you buy it from me. But if you value time, I’m cheaper,” said Hendricks, who has had several signing sessions with Montana and on one occasion proudly watched as the two-time NFL MVP walked through his store with wife, Jennifer.

If your heart is set on a personal autograph or dinner with Montana and 599 other people, call ahead at the Eldorado (775) 786-5700 or stop by the Says Who store on the Eldorado mezzanine floor. They’ll set you up for one of Montana’s biggest and quickest killings ever.


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