May
29
2009
An Autograph For The Memory Books
By Stephanie Wei under General

I had a fun contest to give away a Sybase Classic hat autographed by various LPGA players. I asked readers to send in their best story about how they got an autograph from a celebrity or person they admired. I received quite a few great anecdotes (thank you to everyone who sent them), but the one from Larry really stood out. It’s an excellent read, not to mention inspiring. Trust me.

My wife Melissa and I met at a mixer in Houston in August 1978.  I immediately asked her out, our first date was to a Houston Astros-St. Louis Cardinals baseball game at which I had front row seats behind the dugout.  I brought my camera and took lots of photos, including a nice close-up of a young Keith Hernandez leaning on the railing a few feet away.  We got were engaged in January 1979 and married in May — we just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.  That summer, after developing the photo, I sent two 8X10 copies to Keith care of the Cardinals: one for him to keep and one for him to sign and send back to me in a return envelope I provided.  I explained the photo was from our first date and that we later married.  He autographed the photo: Best Wishes Larry and Melissa, Keith Hernandez.  It was a photo that I framed and hung, but that’s not the end of the story.

In 1995, after retiring from baseball, Keith wrote a book analyzing two baseball games, pitch by pitch, entitled “Pure Baseball.”  By that time, we had moved to San Francisco and I was working in the East Bay.  I saw that a great local bookseller, Cody’s Books in nearby Berkeley, was having a book signing with Keith for his new book.  I fished out the old negative and had a photographer friend make two very nice 16X20 prints, which I took to the book store for the signing.  Keith told a great story about doing the book, working as a broadcaster in NYC and baseball in general.  He grew up in the Bay Area (Capuchino High on the Peninsula), his father John was for many years a firefighter in SF, and had recently passed away, but Keith’s mom and sister were in the audience.

After he finished speaking, we all lined up to have our books signed.  I bought three, for me, my brother and nephew.  When my turn came, I presented him first with the two photos, one for him, one to be signed, along with the first photo he signed for me, and the books.  He looked at me, looked at the photos and actually remembered the photos being sent and signed!  The first thing he did was take the new photo back and gave it to his mom, saying, “Damn, I was good looking!”  Then he signed the books and the new photo: Best Wishes Again, Larry and Melissa!  Keith Hernandez.  Both photos hang in our bedroom, and I never tire of telling this story to visitors.  I hope you also enjoyed it and can see how much the autograph means to us.

I’m not going to lie, I get sentimental over stories like this. But really, how could you not? A tip of the cap to Keith Hernandez for being such a good sport and playing a role in Larry and Melissa’s wonderful marriage. Thanks again and Happy Belated Anniversary!