Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Larry Bird

I met him at a celebrity golf tournament at Lansbrook Golf Course in Palm Harbor, Florida in 1997.

After collecting autographs in the same spot for several years at this golf course (on a public sidewalk by the 17th hole), this particular day I was hassled by golf course employees and the police.

Larry Bird was the host of this tournament, so I went to my usual spot hoping to get some autographs. Keep in mind, I'm all by myself, there were no other autograph seekers around. After waiting for a while, employees came over to me asking me to leave. I explained that I wasn't on their property and that I was always quiet and respectful to the golfers. Shortly after they left, a police car pulled up and the officer called me over to him. He asked what I was doing, and I told him that I was trying to get some autographs and that I had been doing it for years in this same spot. He asks to see my binder and he sees a baseball card of Reggie Jackson and an 8x10 photo of Larry Bird. He then seemed surprised that they were golfing there. He hands me back my binder and tells me that the employees wanted me removed but then agrees that since I'm on public property, he can't do anything.

Minutes later, employees come back to where I'm standing as I see Reggie Jackson approaching, about to tee off at the 17th hole. Reggie and his group take their swings, then drive their carts over by me and proceed to finish the hole. I always wait for the golfers to finish the hole before approaching them. I noticed the employees stood directly in front of me when Reggie finished as if to make a wall between him and me. I didn't let that stop me, so I called out to him, "Mr. Jackson?" As I'm walking, the employees are also moving, attempting to shield me. Reggie replies back, "Yes" and I ask him for an autograph. He then tells the employees to let me through and says "Sure, come on over." I thanked him and explained all the troubles I had gone through that day. He sees my Larry Bird photo and tells me Larry had an injured back and wasn't able to play golf that day but instead, he was spending the entire day at the 9th hole, teeing off with everyone as they came through. Reggie then offered to take me to the 9th hole but I'd have to sit with him as he finished his day of golf first. Of course, I jumped at that opportunity.

I was fortunate to get pictures that day, too. Hank Webb, whom I met at the same course years earlier, had a camera and offered to take pictures for me. A few weeks later at a Clearwater Phillies game, I saw Hank in attendance. He happened to have the developed pictures on him and gave them to me.

Larry signed an 8x10 photo.


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