Remembering Karl Ehrhardt, better known as Mets Sign Guy

Sometime this season, Mets fans can hope that a sign which reads “Oppo Taco” appears during a home game.  That is Travis d’Arnaud’s personal phrase. In the 80s, we witnessed the “Ks” go up in the K Corner as Dwight Gooden struck out the competition.

Prior to any of this was Karl Ehrhardt, aka: the “Mets Sign Guy”.  He first emerged during the 1964 season and became an icon at Shea Stadium up until the 1981 season.  He’d sit in the same seat along the third base line and he’d wear the same hat.  In 2006, Ehrhardt estimated he had 1,200 signs.  Before he went to a game, he’d go through them and choose about 60 to take with him.

After the Mets won the 1969 season, his sign said it all: “There Are No Words”.  He was right.  He rode with the ‘69 Mets in their victory parade and held up a sign which read, “They Said it Couldn’t Be Done”.

The fact is, he was always right.  His signs said what the Met fans felt.  After the Mets traded Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman, his sign read, “Grant’s Tomb”.

It was like waiting for the punch line of a joke you had heard your dad tell already…You knew what was coming but until it was delivered there was a gradually building tension.  When Ehrhardt opened the carefully constructed (and immaculately lettered) sign, you would know in a word or two how to save the memory.

Some classics:

“Back to your Nest, Bird!” –  (used during the ‘69 World Series).
“Bye, Bye, Birdies” – (see above).
“Can you Believe It?”.
“Look Ma, No Hands”.
“Leave it to Seaver”.
“A” and “G” (for Tommie Agee)
“Ya Gotta Believe” (McGraw said it, but the Sign Guy kept it going).
“Nailed by the (picture of a hammer)”- (used after John Milner “The Hammer” hit a HR).
“You’re Fired!” – (used during the ‘73 World Series after Charlie Finley tried to get Mike Andrews removed from the Oakland roster for poor defense”).
“Kong!” – (used after a Dave Kingman HR).

Sadly, in the early 80’s, his presence began to be discouraged by Mets management because of the team’s on-field performances but he made a triumphant return to Shea Stadium in 2002 to help the Mets celebrate their fortieth birthday.  He held up a sign that said, “The Signman Lives!”.  Mr. Ehrhardt passed away in February of 2008 but his signs and spirit live on.

He would have been right on top of “Oppo Taco”.

13 comments for “Remembering Karl Ehrhardt, better known as Mets Sign Guy

  1. February 23, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    From the doubleheader days:

    What the Heck Happened to Schnek? (spelling) This was one of my favorites.

  2. February 23, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Zach Wheeler!

  3. AJ
    February 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks, Jim, for this post. Anyone who was a Met fan back in the 60’s and 70’s remembers the sign guy. He was a Met institution and seemingly a fixture at Shea. I didn’t know he was eventually squeezed out by management but it figures; it was a bleak time for the team back in the late 70’s and very early 80’s.

  4. February 23, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    He would have had fun with RA and the knuckler, too.

    RA is All Right!
    How about a knuckle sandwich
    Philly knuckles under

  5. Chris F
    February 23, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Gotta Have More Cowgill!

  6. Chris F
    February 23, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    The fish is Hooked

  7. Jim OMalley
    February 23, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Schnek was great. Loved the guy.

  8. Metsense
    February 23, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Jim, thanks for the memories. Very nice piece. We miss you Karl.

  9. Steve Rogers
    February 24, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Not to come off sounding like too big of a troll in this obvious pro Sign Guy article, but he did seem to be too big of a mark for himself. Kind of like what Fireman Ed eventually became, though Ed probably worse due to Ed actively being involved in pro-Jet propaganda advertizements for the West Side Stadium project and such.

    The thing about management and him was more to do with Wilpon/Doubleday no longer making his seats comps, and therefore he thought somehow he was bigger than them or something, and that’s how the rift happened. It was more on him than it was on management at the time.

    • February 25, 2013 at 8:10 am

      Not knowing all of the details, it still sounds like a bad decision by management.

      Was a box seat more than $15 in the early 80s? That works out to $1,215 at $15 – it’s not like today when it might be 20 times that amount.

      If it was strictly money, then I think it was a bad decision. If it was a combo of money and perceived bad publicity – then they should have been able to come to an understanding. Hey, if we’re giving you this seat for free, you can’t be ripping us *all* of the time. However, those pre-1984 clubs certainly deserved some criticism…

  10. Brill
    March 11, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Great article Jim. Interestingly, I heard the Sign Guy’s son call into WFAN one day. It was a great discussion with Mike F. He said that he still possesed many of the signs in the basement of his home. Keep up the great writing

  11. Peter Matturro
    October 21, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    One of my favorites that is never mentioned. As McNally was pulled in game 5 by Earl Weaver Karl flashed the sign “Ask yourself did you give 100%” Loved the guy!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: