When I was 8 years old, my parents drove past the local Super America gas station and the sign below the gas prices read: "Meet Reds pitcher Jeff Montgomery Saturday and Sunday." (Jeff, of course, was from Wellston, Ohio, and he'd graduated from Marshall University, so finding him in these parts of the world was not unusual.)
Well, needless to say, I was at Super America bright and early Saturday morning; I'd never met a big leaguer before. And there he was -- just standing by the fountain drinks, at a makeshift table, signing 8x10s for anyone who asked for one. Funny thing was: I was the only person there at that moment to get his autograph!
I should point out, also, that the year of this encounter was 1987. He was a rookie, playing his only season with the Reds that year, and very few people knew who he was. I knew though!
So, I marched over to Jeff's makeshift table with my 1988 Topps rookie card and asked him for a signature and one of the 8x10 pictures he had in a little stack. (Actually, I think my sister did the asking. I was blown away by the fact that I was meeting a major league ballplayer, so I stood there stunned like Ralphie meeting Santa Claus in A Christmas Story
.) I remember him begin friendly and appreciative of me coming in to meet him.
Alas, Jeff wouldn't stay a Red for long. He went to the Royals the season after -- and, man, what a career did he have there! I just like to think of that rare opportunity as a kid, standing in the middle of the fountain drinks section of Super America, meeting a rookie major leaguer (and a future All-Star!!) for the first time.
I also met Todd Benzinger in a Hills Department Store in 1989. That was fun, too, but there were loads of people in front of me to meet him and he was pressed for time. A bit more like the processing line at a meat packing plant actually. Needless to say, it just didn't have the same charm as the encounter with Montgomery.