It was November of 2000 in New York City. We volunteered at some Keith Hernandez benefit thing. My job was to walk around with a clipboard and collect payment information from the auction winners.
So some guy wins a Dinner For Two or whatever and I walk over and get his name and credit card info and walk back in line with the other volunteers waiting with their clipboards.
The girl next to me leans over and says, “You know who that was?”
“Who?” I say.
“That guy you just helped. That’s John McEnroe. Isn’t that John McEnroe?”
She leans toward someone else and asks her if it was John McEnroe. Then she leans back toward me.
“That must be John McEnroe. How did you not know that was John McEnroe?”
“I don’t know.”
“Check your papers.”
I checked my papers.
Well, would you look at that. John McEnroe. Right there on the paper. His signature and everything. Huh.
“Yeah,” I say, “I guess that was him.”
“You idiot. How could you not know?”
“I don’t know – I wasn’t paying attention. I was just getting his information.”
“Like his name, you mean?”
I was an idiot. Although in my defense, it wasn’t like I asked him what his name was and he said John McEnroe and I just wrote it down and walked away. I handed him the clipboard and made him fill it out himself and then didn’t look at the name.
In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t recognize him because it served him right when I later asked for his autograph and he rejected me. Even though he had just finished giving someone else his autograph. Like ten someone elses. He pretended he had to leave and had no more time for people. So the only way I could get back at him was to not recognize him in the first place, of course.
Anyway when it was all over, a group of us walked to a nearby bar for a drink and somebody in the group told us that two famous baseball players were going with us. They told us their names and that they were awesome and a bunch of other sports-related statistic impressiveness.
I had no idea who they were.
But we drank and hung out with them and posed with World Series rings and I knew that I had to take pictures because … well, because they were famous and somebody would be impressed even if it wasn’t me.
I bring this story up because Hall of Famer Gary Carter died yesterday, February 16 at the age of 57.