Monday, July 6, 2020

Jimmie Gardner

I met him at the 2017 Tampa Bay Legends & Celebrity All-Star Softball Classic on July 8, 2017, at the University of South Florida Baseball Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

When I handed Jimmie my card, he laughed and said, "I haven't seen this card in over 25 years." I thought he was joking and making light of how old the card was. It wasn't until I got home and started working on this page that you're reading now that I realized that he was dead serious.
In 1987, while playing for the Charleston Wheelers, a Cubs A-ball affiliate, two women were sexually assaulted in the city of Charleston, West Virginia. The attacker was described as a black male. Over 100 black men in the city were questioned, including Jimmie and his black teammates. Some were even fingerprinted.
Two years later, Jimmie was arrested for that crime along with a charge of burglary. In 1990 he was sentenced to 110 years in prison.
In 2016, after serving 27 years behind bars, DNA evidence, as well as proof of a corrupt forensic serologist, proved that Jimmie was innocent of all charges.
I thought I was just getting a minor leaguer's autograph that never reached the big leagues. Turns out, it became one of my favorite autographs in my collection. I just wish I had known his story before meeting him.

Jimmie signed a 1986 ProCards Geneva Cubs Team Set card.

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