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Beloved Mets’ ‘Sign Man’ dead at 83

The precursor to the famous signs appeared during the Mets inaugural season in 1962 Ð a year when they went 40-120 and were dubbed "The Lovable Losers" Ð when Erhardt, sitting in the bleachers, unfurled a sign saying "Welcome To Grant's Tomb."Authorities tore the sign down and Erhardt went up to the press box to complain, according to his daughter, Bonnie Troester.Erhardt, known as the "Sign Man" among Mets fans, had box seats on the third base side of Shea that were given to him by a client of American Home Foods, where he worked in advertising creating sales brochures. Born in Germany, Erhardt moved to Brooklyn before settling in Glen Oaks Village more than 50 years ago, his daughter said.He would bring more than 120 double-sided homemade signs to a game, some of which were team-specific depending on who the Mets were playing that day. "He was always on the lookout for a new sign," his daughter said. "He had Bartlett's Book of Quotes. He'd look through there for things."Whenever Met outfielder Jose Cardenal struck out, Erhardt would hoist a "Jose, Can You See?" sign.During the Mets World Series run against the Oakland Athletics in 1973, Erhardt pulled out a "You're Fired" sign after one of the Athletics players made an error."He became a semi-celebrity," his daughter said. "People would ask for his autograph." Erhardt rode on a float during the Mets ticker-tape parade following their World Series championship in 1969, his daughter said, and was flown with his wife to Oakland in 1973 to watch the Mets play in the World Series against the Oakland Athletics.In 2002, he was invited to be a part of the Mets' 40th Anniversary festivities, where he was named one of the 25 greatest Mets fans in a write-in vote.Erhardt's signs were a fixture at Mets games until 1981, when Erhardt and the Mets, who were under new ownership, had a "falling out," his daughter said."They wanted to censor what he was bringing to the game," she said.Other than his daughter, Bonnie Troester, Erhardt is survived by his son Richard and two grandchildren.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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