FORT WORTH, Texas -- The first time he raised a big wad of cash for Special Olympics, Jim Albright flew 70,000 miles with a football to get the autographs of every living Heisman Trophy winner, including O.J. Simpson.
Then it hit him: If he got $200,000 from a Dallas man for the football, what could he get for baseballs signed by every Cy Young Award winner since they started handing it out in 1956?
"The motivation on getting the baseballs was that it'd put my fundraising over a million dollars," said Albright, a retired Dallas businessman who volunteered because of his special-needs daughter, Kate, "and then I wouldn't have to do this anymore."
First on Albright's hit list was Gaylord Perry (1972, '78), snagged at a Plano, Texas, appearance. He got Orel Hershiser ('88) while the former Dodger watched his son play baseball.
Location proved to be key. Albright "bumped into" Whitey Ford ('61), Ron Guidry ('78), Rick Sutcliffe ('84) and Dwight Gooden ('85) in Cooperstown.
But by the time he'd collected maybe half of the winners, he was out of steam and connections. And that's when he met Bobby Bragan, the Fort Worth icon and former big league manager.
Bragan told Albright he'd be glad to help as long as the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation got a cut.
Bragan's first call was to Maury Wills, the stolen base king. He asked Wills if he knew how to get in touch with Don Newcombe ('56).
Wills told him he played golf with Newk every week.
Bragan worked former players and teammates, clubhouse managers, broadcasters, agents, anyone who could help. He needed it. Four winners -- Warren Spahn ('57), Early Wynn ('59), Don Drysdale ('62) and Catfish Hunter ('74) -- had died.
Bragan used his Dodger connections to get a ball signed by Drysdale. A collector sold them balls signed by Wynn and Hunter. And Spahn's came in the mail from a lady in Florida who'd heard about the cause.
Nearly all of the winners were glad to give. Only a couple had to be convinced.
"Pete Vuckovich ('82) said he doesn't sign baseballs anymore," Bragan growled. "We had to go through his agent."
John Denny ('83) was the final piece in the four-year odyssey.
"We got it from his ex-wife," Albright said.
Experts have told them the collection might be worth $30,000. But no one thought Albright would get $200,000 for the football, either. He's not putting it up for auction. He works one-on-one, which is especially effective when one of your backers is T. Boone Pickens, a high school classmate who sponsors Albright's annual black-tie gala.
And as a bonus for your purchase of a half-million or more, Albright promises that, as long as he's able, the collection will always be complete.
"Pray that C.C. Sabathia ('07) or Cliff Lee ('08) win this year," Albright practically whispered.
"We've already got theirs."