Signing Fred McGriff just took on a whole new meaning.
That's because there's a sign waiting in the bowels of Dodger Stadium for whichever team chooses to take a chance on McGriff, a free agent who is nine home runs away from 500.
When the Dodgers signed McGriff to a one-year deal last season, the team's marketing department started working on a home run countdown sign to be placed on a bullpen wall at Dodger Stadium.
McGriff began the season with 478 home runs and Dodgers officials had calculated that based on the slugger's previous home run averages, he would become the 20th player in baseball history to launch No. 500, on Aug. 22.
McGriff, who is renown among sports fans for his role as an TV endorser for Tom Emanski's Defensive Drills Video, had 10 home runs by June 5. But as the Dodgers staff was preparing the wood sign, which read "Countdown to History" with his name on it, McGriff injured his knee and groin and only played in four games from June 14 through Aug. 22. McGriff ended 2003 with a career season-low 13 home runs.
"We would have brought the sign back out if we thought he had a chance before the end of the season," said Dan Brewster, the team's manager of advertising and special events, who said the sign cost about $4,000.
Since the sign is blue, Brewster might be able to get rid of it if the 40-year-old McGriff winds up wearing a blue uniform in 2004.
"I'm waiting for the call," Brewster said. "All they'd have to do is pay for shipping."
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.