Brady, autographs & Chili Davis

The Chili Davis autographed ball sits on a shelf in Tom Brady's locker (pictured, in far right on lower shelf). AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The locker occupied by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium features the usual type of equipment, clothing and energy drinks. But on one of the shelves there’s an autographed baseball (see photos above).

The signature on the pearly white ball belongs to Pawtucket Red Sox hitting coach and former big leaguer Chili Davis.

Why Davis?

After the Patriots won their first Super Bowl in 2001, one of Davis’ friends read an article in Sports Illustrated in which Brady talked about signing autographs for kids. When Brady was 8 years old and growing up in California, he was a big San Francisco Giants fan; Davis was his favorite player.

Supposedly, one day Brady was actually in the Giants clubhouse and asked Davis for an autograph and was turned down.

Brady has never forgotten that. Here’s an excerpt from the SI piece:

When every trip to the post office, dry cleaner or grocery store becomes, in his words, a "Sharpie party," his ability to concentrate on his job is diminished. It's a delicate issue, because Brady understands the fans' perspective. He still recoils at the memory of having his autograph request ignored by Chili Davis, then a Giants outfielder, during a spring training visit when he was eight. "I remember thinking that if I ever got famous, I'd never be like that," Brady says. "But now that I'm in that position, I can sort of understand how something like that could happen. I'm very aware that how I behave can make someone's day or crush him, and I don't want people to look at me and think I've changed."

When Davis read the story, it crushed him.

“Apparently he tried to get an autograph from me as a young kid growing up in the Bay area,” explained Davis. “I was playing for the Giants and didn’t give him an autograph and in the article it says that’s one of the reasons he signs autographs for kids all the time.”

Former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan recently attended a PawSox game at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I., and was sitting in the owner’s box, so Davis went over to say hello and told Grogan the story about Brady and the autograph.

During their conversation, Davis grabbed a baseball, signed it and gave it to Grogan to pass along to Brady.

The ball read: “Sorry it took so long to get this to you. Hope you don’t hold it against me. - Chili Davis.”

Grogan delivered the ball to the Patriots, who got it to Brady. The ball still rests in Brady’s locker.

"I was always a huge baseball fan growing up, so I always used to go to a bunch Giants games, and obviously, he was one of my favorite players,” Brady said recently. "To get an autograph from him many, many, many years later; I was probably 10 years old, so 22 years later. It was pretty cool."

Davis admitted he originally wanted to sign a San Francisco Giants jersey and somehow get it to Brady, but the opportunity never presented itself until Grogan attended a PawSox game.

“I’ve never met him and would love to meet him,” Davis said. “He seems like a really good guy. I’ve always favored kids as a player. If I walked out of the locker room and there were 100 people there and 50 of them were kids, I’d sign the 50 kids before anything else. So it’s really unusual for me to have seen that article. I always planned on doing that if I ever got the chance. I gave it to Grogan and I’m glad he got it.”

Patriots reporter Mike Reiss contributed to this report.