Since I started this blog almost four years ago, I had always intended to write this post at some point, and I'm finally getting around to it.
Below are the first autographs I believe I ever got in person, and I guess you can trace my autograph obsession all the way back to them. They were obtained at a Harrisburg Senators game in 1990, when I was only 7 years old. At the time, the Senators were the AA affiliate for the Pittsburgh Pirates and were a relatively new franchise, having started up just a few years before in 1987. I grew up in Carlisle, PA which is about 20 miles west of Harrisburg, and the Senators were by far the nearest professional baseball team to my town.
Beginning in 1991, the Senators formed a partnership with the Expos/Nationals that exists to this day. They still play in the same stadium, now Metro Bank Park, which I knew as Riverside Stadium, but it received a major upgrade in 2009-2010. The stadium is unique in that it is located on City Island, in the middle of the Susquehanna River.
I can't recall what caused me to get my cards signed that day, but I would speculate that I saw some other people getting autographs and liked the idea. I was obviously an autograph rookie at the time since I tried to get the players to sign with a dried up black pen. I'm guessing that I caught my dad off-guard by wanting to get autographs that day, because not long after this we started to carry a sharpie when we went to games.
As far as I remember, Miguel Garcia was the first autograph I ever obtained, but his time in the Majors was behind him and he didn't leave much of an impression on me. Since he's from Venezuela, it's also very possible that he didn't speak English, which clearly would have made it difficult for seven year old me to relate to him.
But John Wehner was another story. He was a Pennsylvania native and rising star in the Pirates system. (Disclaimer- I was a Pirates fan back then, partially because of the Senators and partially because Sid Bream, who was from Carlisle, played for them. My Orioles allegiance began a few years later.) I remember that he was very nice to me, and upon having trouble signing the front of my card, flipped it over and signed the back.
John never had much success in the big leagues but played in the Majors for 11 seasons, and I always supported him. My dad had him sign his Senators cap that day, and I believe the hat is still around the house somewhere. It was a great day for my dad and me, and it started a lifelong passion for autographs. 22 years later and I still enjoy getting baseball players to sign pieces of cardboard for me, but now this autograph collector is older than many of the players who sign for me.
I also had to share these small "certificates of authenticity" that I used to create for all of the autographs I got in person to differentiate them from autographs I purchased at card shows.