When I was a little kid, I went to a game and was trying — mostly without success — to get some player autographs. When I say “mostly without success” I mean “entirely without success.” There were probably no more than 10 kids trying for autographs — this was at a Cleveland Indians game with, perhaps, 3,000 people — but I did not then, nor have I since, developed the skill of working in a crowd.
The last player available was Jim Kern, a tall, hard-throwing right-handed pitcher who pitched in three All-Star Games — though this was before he’d had success. I was the last kid there. This was my last chance for anything. Kern said: “I’m sorry, I have to go to the clubhouse now. I’ll sign for you after the game.” And, if memory serves, I promptly started bawling. I’m not proud of it. I believe I was 8.
Well, Kern — being a gentleman — came back and signed my paper which made me very happy. That was: Until I got back to my seat. I’d had Kern autograph my paper IN PENCIL. And when I got back to show my Dad the autograph, well, I couldn’t even find it. It had faded, or he’d written it too light, or something. I’d like to tell you I did not start crying again. I’d like to tell you that.
Many years later, I wrote that story in a column about autographs. A friend of Jim Kern’s saw the story and asked him for a favor. And this remains the one autograph I keep on my desk.