The Impact of Meeting Your Idol

I remember the moment like it was yesterday…

Growing up, my favorite player was New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson. He was more than a baseball player. He was my hero!

My mother took me up to Boston for a game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

During warm-ups, I was standing behind the dugout screaming, “Thurman! Thurman!” at the top of my lungs just hoping to get a second of his attention. I proceeded to do this for one hour straight.

I wanted to talk to my idol, but despite my efforts, I failed.

As I got back to my hotel we went into the elevator to go back to up to our room. The door was about to close, but then a big hairy arm stopped the door from shutting all the way. I couldn't believe it--it was Thurman Munson!

He looked me right in the eyes and said, “What did you want?”

In awe, I looked up and responded by saying, “I just wanted your autograph.”

Luckily for me I had the program I used to keep score at the game earlier that day, and Thurman signed it for me. It was at that moment where I really started thinking, “Wow, this autograph thing is cool.”

More than that though, I realized the impact that meeting your hero can have on a person, especially if they care for their fans like Thurman did for me that day.

Of all things I am most grateful for with Steiner Sports, I am most proud of our capability to make a kid's dreams come true, and give them the chance to meet the players they look up to.

Athletes should always recognize the impact they have and the joy they could bring to a fan's life.

Take it from someone who knows, meeting your hero can change your life forever.



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  • My idol was Micky Mantle. In 1958 my family went to Kansas City to see Yankees and my father knew Bobby Shantz. He set up a meeting with Micky and Yogi at the Muhlbach Hotel for me and my brother. I still have the autograph and a ball signed by the entire team. Never forget that day.

    Doug Kyles on

  • Great story and my autograph successes have been similar ones. However, it can go in the opposite direction just as easily.
    My first wife loved Kirby Puckett and Bo Jackson. We lived in PSL, FL (where the Mets had Spring Training). at the time and my father came to visit us in 1991. We decided to go on a late Feb./early March Spring Training autograph trip.

    We hit the West Coast and drove north from Naples. Our first stop was Fort Myers where the Twins were using the beautiful new stadium they had there. You’d never know this beautiful stadium was back there as a large cow pasture covered it from the street view.
    My step-mother was the long-time Senior Secretary of the owner of Campus Sportswear (Le Tigre, Florsheim shoes, London Fog, etc.). So she knew and met all the sport stars her boss did charity work with like Dave Winfield, Wilt Chamberlain and so many others.
    The first player I saw was Dave Winfield. I was 24 at that time and felt that any player who made millions a year deserved to be called “Mr. Winfield”. I got Dave Winfield’s autograph that day, but it was not easy- I had just gotten there and he kept swearing up and down that he signed for me already that day when he DID NOT??? You have to remember players are people too, and they make mistakes.

    I carried this mentality with me throughout my in-person autograph collecting years (1989-2001) and taught children I met to do the same thing, which greatly increased all of our successes. I always brought a box of a dozen Sharpies and extra cards to give away to those who were young autograph hounds and were using ball point pens on baseball cards (yikes!).

    So I prepped my ex-wife exactly what to do if she ran into Kirby Puckett. Not 10-minutes after I got Dave Winfield a black limo pulled up right in front of my wife, myself and my father and there were less than five other people there waiting for autographs, but none so near to the limo as us. My wife was normally quite shy, she was quite petite and very cute. So when she ran up to Kirby Puckett the instant he started getting out of the limo he was driving: it startled me. I never saw her move so fast before. She was the first one in front of Kirby very politely asking for his autograph!!! He said “I have to get my physical first, but I’ll sign for you as soon as I come out”. To me, this was a promise. This was a 21-year old TRUE FAN who seemed to be by herself and Kirby made her a promise.
    So Kirby goes inside to get his physical and leaves his limo right next to my wife. Then to my shock, my wife gets in his limo and sits in the passenger seat until he came back out. I mean, he did tell her to wait for him, but her getting in his limo to wait- blew me away!!! She waited in his limo the entire 30-minutes Kirby was gone.
    I’m a nervous wreck thinking she’s going to get arrested for trespass and she’s as cool as a cucumber sitting in his limo…
    Then the door starts to open where Kirby went in for his physical. My wife was out of the limo before the door fully opened. So Kirby never had a clue she was in his limo for 30-minutes! He walks right up to her, she had card and Sharpie all ready and Kirby refused to sign for her or anyone??? He didn’t even give her a reason. She never tried to get an autograph again. She was totally heartbroken! We had planned to go to the Royals camp later that day and she cancelled saying “I can’t handle another let down like that in one day.”. I felt so horrible for her, but there was absolutely nothing I could do to provide some solace.
    We went to Port Charlotte next which turned out to be our last stop that day. I had called ahead just to confirm whether Nolan Ryan had reported yet or not. Getting his autograph in-person was MY DREAM! No one would confirm or deny ANYTHING at the Ranger’s camp regarding Nolan Ryan, even though I explained that I donated over 200,000 cards to the Leukemia Society for hospitalized children at that point in less than 3-years.
    My wife knew this and tried to put on a brave face in Port Charlotte. We all got Nolan Ryan that day as they lined everyone up at the end of the day in a very organized manner to get Nolan’s autograph. Why such secrecy; I’ll never quite understand. After the calls I made, I didn’t think I’d ever have a chance of getting Ryan that day. But as luck would have it; that was the one day Nolan Ryan signed each Spring Training for EVERYONE!

    Jose Canseco & I ran into each other HARD (we are both very tall, but he was twice as thick as me easily) so I nearly flew backwards! He extended his hand and caught me. He was coming out of the men’s room I was going into. I thought that was quite amusing, but I honestly didn’t want his autograph.
    I liked Dean Palmer back then and got to hang out with him for a long time just talking baseball.

    So I tried one last time and asked my wife after our Port Charlotte successes if we’d make the next day “her day” to get Bo Jackson. She politely refused and that was the end of her collecting forever.
    I’m honestly glad nothing like that ever happened to me, because I may have quit collecting as well and I wound up donating 99%+ of all of the Spring Training autographs I ever received (many hundreds of them). Plus I never asked for more than ONE autograph per player, per day. I did keep the Dave Winfield autograph and the Nolan Ryan which are in my safe, but very few others.

    James McCay on

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