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Thread: player encounters

  1. #1
    Resident optimist OldRightHander's Avatar
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    player encounters

    Reading the thread below about Kearns got me to thinking about the few times I have met players in situations outside of the ballpark and the impressions I had of those players. I have a few stories, and no doubt some of you have some as well. In the summer of 1994, when I was a young right hander, I was working at a United Dairy Farmers store in Florence, that one on the corner of Dixie Hwy and Turfway Rd. for those familiar with that area. There were a few Reds players who lived in that area and some of them made it into the store to buy milk or ice cream on occasion. I was pretty used to seeing some of them, especially after the strike in August of that year. Joe Oliver and Tim Pugh were fairly regular in the store and Pugh used to come in about once a week with a really short girl I took to be his girlfriend at the time. They would get milkshakes or ice cream cones and sometimes stay and chat for a while if business was slow. During that summer, we hired a young high schooler about 16 years old or thereabouts and he was a huge Reds fan. School started back up that September and he came into work after school one day when Tim Pugh was standing at the counter waiting for me to make his shake. His eyes got kind of wide and he came back from the back room pretty fast with one of his school notebooks opened to a blank page and proceeded to hand the notebook and a pen over the counter for an autograph. Pugh looked pretty embarassed about the whole thing and when the kid went back to the back room all smiles, he said to me, "I didn't think we were that popular right now." We just had a good laugh about it and some of the other times he came in he would ask me if there were any more autograph seekers hiding in the back room. He also had some interesting things to say about the strike, how there were quite a few players who didn't like it and didn't support the union, but that's a whole different story. I have other stories, but for the sake of keeping this post from getting any longer, and to give some others a chance to relate any stories they may have, I will stop with that one account for now. Anyone else have any interesting encounters?

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    Re: player encounters

    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.

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: player encounters

    I met Al Kaline at his home in the early 70's, he lived in a nearby neighborhood and his youngest son was in my grade at another school, I knew him through little league.

    Bill Munson the Rams/Lions QB ws my little league coach back in the early 70's.

    I sat behind Rollie Fingers on a flight from Phoenix to Oakland in teh early 90's

  5. #4
    Will post for food BuckeyeRedleg's Avatar
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    Re: player encounters

    WOY, no wonder you'd take Kaline over Clemente.



    I met Eric Davis back in 1984, I think just after he had been called up for a few weeks.

    That night was a strange one. I was 13 and for some weird reason wore a #43 (spring training) Tom Hume jersey to the game that night. So, by the eighth or ninth inning, "Boom Boom" had pulled another Danny Graves-like defeat from the jaws of victory (that he was so accustomed to doing at the time) and I, being very upset, did the only thing I could do to send a statement of my unsatisfaction to the Reds front office and Mr. Hume. I took off my jersey, snuck down to the first row behind the right field home run fence and threw the #43 jersey over the wall. It floated down behind the home run fence for the world and hopefully Mr. Hume to see. What a horrible thing to do, but I was a rabid 13 year-old fan with a bit of an attitude. Besides, I think one of my uncles had been letting me sneak some sips of his Hudey, so I may have not been thinking too clearly. Apologies to Tom if he's reading this right now.

    Anyway, my aunt, who was and still is, a pretty attractive blonde, was absolutely in love with Mario Soto and she wanted desperately to get him a letter. Yeah, I know it sounds kind of scary.

    So, after the game, my aunt and a shirtless me go down to the garage at the bottom of Riverfront Stadium to find Mario, so she can give him this letter. Again, scary. My other family members had begun the slow walk back to the cars and they were to wait for us to get back. Back then, for some reason, it was easier to get access to these guys when they were coming out of the clubhouse to their cars. That or the security was a bit lax. I don't remember.

    Dave Parker, Cesar Cedeno, and a few others walk by and I think I've died and gone to heaven. Then, Eric Davis walks out and walks right at us to his car which is right where we were standing. It was a little sports car, but nothing extravagant. For some reason, I'm thinking it was an Audi. It was pretty nice, but nothing like the cars the other guys were driving. Obviously, he was a rookie.

    So, as Eric walks up to his car, he starts checking out my aunt and I say "Hey, you're Eric Davis. I saw you hit a triple the other day. You are a rookie and you're gonna be awesome someday." I know, I know, I'm embarrassed to admit it, but these were the exact words to come out of my mouth.

    I'll never forget it, he looked at me, smiled, shook my hand and said, "Hey, I found a new agent."

    After a few more embarrassing words by me, my aunt interrupted and asked, "Do you play for the Reds?" Eric, says "yes", and I interject something like "Gina, what are you crazy, this is Eric Davis!" Of course he probably had 35 career AB's at this point, but I knew he was special and I was a dork.

    So we stood there and talked to him for a few minutes. It must have been September, because it was a cold night and he asked me why I had no shirt on. He also got a kick out of my explanation.

    So my aunt explained that she wants to get this letter to Mario. Eric takes it and then asks us where we are going. My aunt says we are going to walk back to our car on the other side of the freeway. Here's the cool part. He gets out, pulls back his seat and tells us he'll give us a ride. I'm thinking, "man, this is sooo cool". Eric's thinking something else, I'm sure. My aunt says something like, "No, that's okay". To this day, I should have put up a fight. I don't think she realized that this was Eric freaking Davis!

    So he signed my ticket stub and shook my hand and told my aunt he would get the letter to Mario. Two years later he's on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I have it framed on my rec room wall. Smash Hit -Cincinnati's Eric Davis.

    He was then and still is my favorite Red of all time. He played the game with such grace and we may never again see anyone come along and display such incredible skills. His combination of speed, power, and defense were unbelievable. It seemed like every night he was on Sportcenter robbing Jack Clark of a HR. He was the greatest baseball player I have ever seen. And the way he handled himself on the field as well as off of it, was always class personified. Later in his career, he battled cancer with the same class he demonstrated his whole career. He was then, and is still, my idol.

    I'm so blessed to be there that night he took Dave Stewart WAY deep in the first game of the 1990 series. I was about 20 feet above where the ball landed. It set the tone for the rest of the series, right there. I feel so lucky to have been able to watch such a special talent (even though his greatness was brief) and have a few special, although dorky words with him at such an impressionable age. That 13 year-old was never the same. To the dismay of my HS coach, my batting stance was pure E.D. It got so bad, my teammates called me "E-D". He was the man.


    Anyway, my aunt never heard from Mario. Maybe she should have included a picture.
    Last edited by BuckeyeRedleg; 06-14-2005 at 10:53 PM.

  6. #5
    Member Topcat's Avatar
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    Re: player encounters

    MY most memorable encounter was with Dave Winfield after they lost to seattle, He stopped autograph signing to walk over to Seattle's young starter Bryan Clark and gave the kid a compliment that i am sure he would never forget. Not exact words but he said your going to be good alas it didnt happen but for a young SP im sure that was something he wont forget.

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    Member 919191's Avatar
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    Re: player encounters

    Ross Grimsley married a girl from my hometown (Rushville, IN). In the winter after the '72 0r 73 season, he worked there in a furniture store. It was kind of a gimmick to have a Reds player there, I guess- 90 miles from Cincinnati. Anyway, we were there. I was 12 or 13. Grimsley walked out of the men's room and I about lost it. I told my mom, and she said "He goes just like the rest of us.". My dad went home and got the World Series yearbook from '72 and had Grimsley sign it, and I still have it (along with the stubs from the first and sixth series game). So went my brush with greatness.

  8. #7
    Pitching is the thing WVRedsFan's Avatar
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    Re: player encounters

    Mickey Mantle. It was luck. My buddy John and I decided we'd go watch a minor league game, so we ended up in Charleston (WV) at the Charleston Charlie's game. At the time, Charleston was an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. By luck they had Mantle there, which we didn't know until we got there. Mantle was stationed under the stands by first base signing little cards. You couldn't get near him for the line.

    About the third inning, a kid came by and asked if I wanted his ball. It was an autographed baseball with supposedly Mantle's signature on it. I said, "you're giving this to me," and he said, "yeah, my Dad has two more and he said to give it to you guys." I asked him where his dad was and he pointed to the left. It was a friend of mine who had gone to some sporting goods store that day where Mantle was signing baseballs.

    We waited until about the fourth inning and went down. Mantle's line was almost gone, so we got in line. When it came my turn, I showed Mantle the ball and asked if it really was his signature. Mantle either had a headache or something, but he always had a scowl on his face. Anyway, he said, "Maybe, I don't know. Let's make sure of it." He reached in a little bag, pulled out another baseball and signed it right there. What makes it strange is that he wasn't signing anything but those little cards that night, even if someone brought a ball or cap or whatever. For some reason, he signed the ball for me. I gave my buddy the one the kid had given me and kept the one I saw Mantle sign.

    It was funny. Mantle was decked out in Yankee pinstripes including real baseball shoes that night. He wasn't chatty at all. It seemed like he was really pained to be there.

    I still have the ball, but my buddy's was lost when he was burglarized a few years ago.
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    Member Jpup's Avatar
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    Re: player encounters

    very good stories guys. they are very enjoyable to read.
    "My mission is to be the ray of hope, the guy who stands out there on that beautiful field and owns up to his mistakes and lets people know it's never completely hopeless, no matter how bad it seems at the time. I have a platform and a message, and now I go to bed at night, sober and happy, praying I can be a good messenger." -Josh Hamilton

  10. #9
    First Time Caller SunDeck's Avatar
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    Re: player encounters

    I met Pete Rose when I was eight. I had a "Charlie Hustle" trophy, which was probably awarded to the worst player on the team each year. He signed the bottom of it; let me sit on his lap. I stood stock still the entire time, afraid to speak. He seemed enormous.

    Jack Billingham was a neighbor of ours; hanging out with him and his son was not nearly as scary as my Pete encounter.
    Next Reds manager, second shooter. --Confirmed on Redszone.

  11. #10
    Member cumberlandreds's Avatar
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    Re: player encounters

    I met Lee May in Johnson City, Tn of all places back in the 80's. His son,Lee May,Jr,was playing for the Kingsport Mets of the Appalachian rookie League. I took my two nephews to the game and they had brought along a couple of baseballs so they could get some of Johnson City's players sign them. We had taken our seats before the game whenI looked up and saw Lee May and I presume his wife walking up the aisle and taking their seats across from where we were setting. I was thrilled. My nephews were too young to even know who May was. I told them who he was and told them to ask him to autograph their baseball. He signed it was very gracious and seemed genuinely happy to do it. I thanked him and I felt like I should leave him alone since I knew he was there to watch his son. I wish now I would have said more but I have never been much of a conversationalist.That's my story and I've enjoyed reading everyone elses.

  12. #11
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    Re: player encounters

    very good stories, love reading them.

  13. #12
    I thought you'd be bigger OldXOhio's Avatar
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    Re: player encounters

    Johnny Bench. Neighbor/good friend down the street was a local TV celebrity hosting a benefit w/ JB. When my father heard he was coming to our neighbor's house, he made plans to take me out school at lunch so that he may surprise me with the chance to meet my boyhood idol....didn't give me a reason, just said "I'll come get you around 12 and we'll go somewhere...I've go a surprise for you." So as promised, my dad picked me up that day at lunch and away we went.....walked into our friend's house and there sitting on the couch was JB. He was bigger than life sitting there in his 70s style red and white plaid pants and cousin Eddie white shoes. Got to meet him, took pictures with him, shook his massive hand, etc. My dad brought along my glove so that I could not only get it autographed, but also to pitch a few to him. Upon asking Bench if he'd like to play catch, he replied with "sorry kid, I gotta tee time in an hour I have to get to." And away he went.

    I still consider JB to be my fav member of the BRM, although some of his comments/actions over time make me think that perhaps I wasn't the only kid out there to have his "play catch" request rejected. Then again, I guess these guys have to say no some of the time. Regardless, it was a great experience and one that I'll never forget.

    As a quick follow up, I saw JB at a charity event here a few years ago....knowing that he was going to be there, I figured I would take my old picture of he and I together and have him sign it. Upon seeing the pic, he quickly scribbled his Hancock, commented "nice pants" and walked off. Typical JB.
    Originally Posted by nate
    Chapman can be downright pornographic at times.

  14. #13
    First Time Caller SunDeck's Avatar
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    Re: player encounters

    Forgot this one- met Johnny Bench at St. Rita's. I was driving a truck for Edelmann's in the summers when I was in college, setting up for church festivals. Bench was there for some reason, and he was hanging around while I got the truck parked and set up. I think he was looking for a free brat.

    He was cordial; I told him that my uncle had season tickets back in the day and that the guy who sat next to him used to call Bench "Hollywood". He thought that was a riot. I shook his hand, his hugely massive, seemingly endless expanse of hand. No wonder he designed catcher's mits- there is no way a regular one could fit that paw.
    Next Reds manager, second shooter. --Confirmed on Redszone.

  15. #14
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: player encounters

    St. Rita's.
    Now those folks could have a festival.... I once was introduced to Dave Rose by my GF dad, he was impressed by it I wasn't... I wanted to meet Pete.

    BTW My friend had a bad autograph experience with Pete at the Gardens, Pete was rude and my friend was about 8 years old, he told me after that day Bench was his favorite player.

  16. #15
    Resident optimist OldRightHander's Avatar
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    Re: player encounters

    I'll throw another one of mine in here, although this wasn't really a player. I went up to Wrigley with a friend a few years ago and we got into the park early and decided to go up to the upper deck to watch BP. When we got up there we were the only ones in that area and there was Harry Caray sitting there in one of the seats drinking a Coke (can you believe that?) and watching BP with a big grin on his face. The Cubs were playing the Dodgers that day, but my friend and I were wearing Reds caps. Harry seemed to be really enjoying himself just sitting there watching BP and I didn't know if I should disburb him, but my friend just walked right up and shook his hand. He saw our caps and started talking about the Reds, everything about the team. He was like a walking encyclopedia of baseball. We then sat down next to him and watched BP with him and just talked baseball, until some more people came up the ramp and wanted autographs. He signed a few autographs and then sat back down to watch BP, made some comment about the pop not tasting good after the ice melts, and then mentioned that he loved watching BP on nice days before he had to go in the booth. He looked incredibly old in person and his conversation was rambling and somewhat disjointed, flitting from one topic to another without any warning, but he really knew baseball and knew darn near everything about every team. Then someone stuck his head out of a door and said, "Harry, come on now, time to get ready for the broadcast." Harry got up slowly, shook our hands, and said, "It's been nice talking to you, but I have to go to work now." That was the last season he was in the booth. He died that offseason. I'll never forget those few minutes. He was the epitome of the kind old grandfather that day, frail but with a strength still there under the surface. As we were walking back down to the lower deck, I remarked to my friend, "I don't know if he can last much longer." My perception wasn't far off. That was six months before his death.


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