Roundtable: What's your best autograph story?

Big League Stew


Seeking out autographs at a baseball game can be an emotional experience. The baseball-loving public was reminded of that Sunday, when a young fan broke down in tears of joy after Los Angeles Angels superstar outfielder Mike Trout signed his baseball.

If you loved baseball as a kid, there’s a good chance you also went out seeking your favorite player’s autograph at some point in your life. And while we hope your experience rivaled that of the young Angels fan in the above video, it doesn’t always turn out that way.

With that in mind, we asked the Big League Stew crew to share their favorite autograph stories. Some of them end in triumph, some of them end in disappointment and one of them ends with someone’s mom yelling at a player.

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Ruben Amaro Jr. was at the height of his power in 2011. (Getty Images/Mychal Watts)
Ruben Amaro Jr. was at the height of his power in 2011. (Getty Images/Mychal Watts)

Ruben Amaro Jr. entertains fans during a crummy moment
In August 2011, I was at the Phillies’ Baseball 101, a terribly named clinic for female baseball fans. Me and a bunch of my friends went to have fun doing baseball things and hang out with each other at the ballpark. This was during the Phillies’ 102 win season, so the vibe was great. But in the middle of the day, just after lunch, the ballpark began to shake. Like actually shake under our feet. I thought it was one of my friends kicking the table, but it wasn’t. It was that freak East Coast earthquake. The Phillies staff herded all of us ladies out from the Hall of Fame Club into the ballpark stands, and then changed their mind and led us out in front of the ballpark, where we stood with Phillies staff who had also evacuated.

We stood there for almost an hour, and about 30 minutes into it, a big, black SUV rolled up and stopped on the sidewalk next to us. Who else should get out but then-current (now former) Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. I’m not sure what would possess a man to stop for this huge gaggle of lady baseball fans, but he did. He stood with us until we could go back inside, telling us stories and making us laugh. At some point, I snuck up to where he was standing and handed him this Phillies throwback jersey I’d brought with me. He grabbed it and signed it, and made some earthquake joke. I’ll never forget how good natured he was during the whole thing. Those were the salad days for the Phillies and Amaro. After that season, it was all downhill. But that’s a memory I won’t forget: post-earthquake Ruben Amaro, holding court on the Broad Street sidewalk, surrounded by many, many women. (Liz Roscher)

Rickey Henderson loves big crowds, right? (Getty Images/Jim McIsaac)
Rickey Henderson loves big crowds, right? (Getty Images/Jim McIsaac)

Since when does Rickey Henderson hate big crowds?
The date was Aug. 14, 1997. We were in Milwaukee for a convention involving by dad’s job and we were supposed to head home first thing that morning. That was, until we heard Rickey Henderson had been traded to the then Anaheim Angels the night before and those same Angels were coming to Milwaukee for a makeup day-night doubleheader.

Off to County Stadium we went, not necessarily thinking about getting an autograph, but just to hopefully see Henderson in action. Anyway, there we were behind the Angels dugout the first time Henderson emerged wearing his new uniform. Henderson immediately jogged to the outfield to do some stretching and other pre-game work, but promised he’d back to sign. By the time he returned, the crowd of autograph seekers was probably 50 times larger. He’d also changed his mind and headed right back to the clubhouse.

16-year-old me was definitely disappointed, but I never held a grudge. Perhaps that’s because guys like Tim Salmon, whose family sat right by us that afternoon, and Terry Collins, then the Angels manager and now the Mets skipper, made up for it. I only got Collins’ autograph that day, but I did get the answer to one pressing question:

“Will Rickey be in the lineup today?”

“Why do you think we got him,” Collins responded.

Hey, at least he didn’t call me a puppy dog and storm off.

By the way, Henderson went 0-for-5 that afternoon, but did steal a base after reaching on a fielder’s choice. We went home happy. (Mark Townsend)

Want to get autographs? Try the minor leagues. (Getty Images/Peter Aiken)
Want to get autographs? Try the minor leagues. (Getty Images/Peter Aiken)

A good minor-league team will send you home happy
Growing up in Vancouver, the stakes were high for a young baseball fan watching the Vancouver Canadians – at the time a short-season affiliate for the Oakland A’s.

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The team tradition was simple: A win meant an opportunity for autographs, as players would stay on the field after the game and sign every piece of paper tossed their way; a loss and the players would duck into the dugout and not be seen until the next game. So over to the ballpark we’d go with our scrapbooks in hand eager to add to our autograph collection, desperately hoping for the C’s to come away with a win to make it happen.

When they did win we’d gather by the third base line once the game was over and when the signal came we’d run out onto the field, trying to collect as many autographs as possible. By the end of the summer the scrapbook would be full of signatures, many of them duplicates, but it was full from front-to-back and that’s all the mattered. The vast majority of the players on those teams never reached the major leagues, but that didn’t matter to us either. The Canadians had won and we’d gotten our autographs and all was right with our world on those nights. (Israel Fehr)

Mike Porzio didn’t have a long major-league career. (Getty Images/Brian Bahr)
Mike Porzio didn’t have a long major-league career. (Getty Images/Brian Bahr)

Who the heck is Mike Porzio?
As a kid, I only went autograph hunting at games a few times. While it would have been cool to snag a Frank Thomas signature, I didn’t really care which player I got to sign my ball. A big leaguer was a big leaguer, as far as I was concerned. That was good enough for me.

At one particular game, I saw my opening and struck. One Chicago White Sox player was down near the stands signing autographs, and I was one of the few kids there to get one. I got back to my seat, looked at the signature and wondered, “who is Mike Porzio?”

You can’t blame me for not knowing the name. Porzio spent three seasons as a reliever in the majors, and retired with a 5.90 ERA. He wasn’t anything special. Still, I was pretty excited to have an autograph from a major-league player.

That excitement carried over to later in the contest. With the White Sox down, Porzio was called upon to make an appearance. For a few moments, I was pretty pumped. Here was the guy who signed my baseball. He was actually pitching in the game I was at. That was pretty neat.

Porzio then promptly gave up a home run to the first batter he faced. Even though I was young, I couldn’t help but chuckle as the scene unfolded. Of course that guy whose autograph I got earlier in the night would come in and immediately fail. It was too perfect.

In the years since, I’m pretty sure I misplaced my Mike Porzio ball. While the physical evidence of the encounter no longer exists, I’m glad I still remember the moment. (Chris Cwik)

Jose Canseco needed some prompting to sign autographs. (Getty Images/Michael Zagaris)
Jose Canseco needed some prompting to sign autographs. (Getty Images/Michael Zagaris)

Jose Canseco will sign autographs if your mom yells at him
I grew up in the era when getting autographs from baseball players was much easier. In my day at the Oakland Coliseum, the players still had to walk through a public area to get to their cars after a game. Imagine that nowadays!

That area was autograph central for me and my cousin Vince. We’d hang out after games, hoping to get an autograph from Jose Canseco or Mark McGwire, both of whom were just starting out in those years. There were a lot of moments I’ll never forget, like Terry Steinbach being the nicest dude ever or McGwire trying to shoo us away by saying he wasn’t Mark McGwire but his brother Dan McGwire (we didn’t fall for that).

But my best autograph story involves my mom and Jose Canseco. It was 1987 or 1988 and I was 8 or 9 years old. I know because Canseco was acting like a star in those days and wasn’t one to sign autographs very often. Still, he was one of my favorite players, so we tried every time we went to a game. On this particular day, it started to rain, so we took cover near the stadium so we weren’t soaking wet. Players came and went, but no Canseco. A group of a dozen or so kids were still waiting by the time he came out.

Of course, Canseco waltzed right past us, refusing to sign. We were all bummed, but that’s part of the autograph hustle, right? Well, it wouldn’t be on this day. My mom, in one of her finest moments, chased him down and chewed him out. She told Canseco how all these kids had been waiting 45 minutes in the rain for him and how the least he could do was sign a few autographs.

And he signed every last one. (Mike Oz)

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

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