Oakland A's Moneyball: The Autograph Hunter, Part 4

The Autograph Hunter, Part 4

by Trust Billy

The last in a four part series. One fan’s story of getting autographs from everyone in the book Moneyball. Face to face with a person who lost his job; cosmic significance of autographs. You can also go back and revisit Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The complete story can be found at

13. Maybe I Am Improving

Phoenix Municipal Stadium, March 25, 2011. The book refers to Billy Owens (page 101) as Billy O. I did not have a good description of Billy O. I saw an older man in uniform signing autographs. It could have been Billy O. I took a chance, and got hitting coach Gerald Perry’s autograph.

I invested $10 in the Oakland A’s media guide, which had a picture of Billy O.

Scanning the media picnic area near the A’s office building from 20 feet away, I spotted someone that could have been Billy O. I compared the person and the picture again and again, trying to decide. I followed him to the stands behind home plate. That would be a logical place for Billy O to sit to evaluate players. But no, not Billy O.

I turned to walk back to my seat. A person who resembled Billy O walked toward me. He wore official looking A’s gear and carried a briefcase. A badge hung from his shirt, which suggested importance. Trying to be subtle, I looked at his badge as he walked by. It said, "Billy Owens"!

Billy walked past me and started down the aisle. "Billy," I said. He turned around with a surprised look. We were standing in the aisle facing each other about three feet apart with Billy O slightly lower, his back to the field.

"Could I get your autograph," I said.

"You want my autograph?" He said.

"I am trying to get the people in Moneyball to autograph it," I said, holding the book in my hand. He nodded a friendly okay. "How many games are you projecting the team to win this year?" In the book, the A’s projected their wins every year.

"Eighty-five," he said, "maybe 10 more with a little luck." (Note to Billy O: Your projection was one year early.)

"Is Scott Hatteberg around?" I asked.

"No, Scotty and Grady are at the practice fields watching a couple of scrimmage games. When they are here, they sit right down there." He pointed to their seats behind home plate near the field.

"I will try to find Scott tomorrow," I said.

"That won’t work," Billy O said. "Scotty is flying out tonight."

14. Maybe I Am Improving II

Oakland A’s Spring Training Practice Fields, Phoenix, March 25, 2011. Could I find Scott Hatteberg and Grady Fuson (page 17) at the A’s practice fields? Billy O sounded positive about their location. But there would probably be 70 people there in A’s gear. Scott Hatteberg and Grady Fuson needed to evaluate players, not stop to sign autographs.

Remembering Wayne Gretzky’s words that, "You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take," I decided to take a shot. I left the game at Municipal Stadium. The cab ride to the practice fields took 10 minutes.

Two baseball diamonds sat side by side at the far end of the practice area. Babes and babies watched from concrete bleachers with a few spectators.

I stood at one end of the bleachers and studied Grady Fuson’s picture in the media guide. I looked for an older man with gray hair in an A’s uniform. A candidate walked by me.

"Grady," I said. He turned toward me, extended his hand to shake and said "Hi." He cheerfully signed on the page that glorified him losing his job. The same page that describes Billy Beane throwing a chair through the wall.

The book and the movie imply that Grady’s resistance to data based decision-making made him an unworthy employee. Writers embellished Grady’s behavior to dramatize the "scouts vs data" theme.

Grady didn’t seem bitter about the book’s characterization. The A’s had rehired him 9 years later. He would be employed by the A’s for over 24 years. The A’s front office directory says he is "one of the game's most respected scouts and baseball executives."

The polite Grady I met did not resemble the Grady in the movie Moneyball. In the movie, Billy fires Grady after he says, "FU, Billy." That made the real Grady uncomfortable when he watched the movie with his grandson. The real Grady had no hard feelings about his portrayal in the movie. He understood that Hollywood had used his character to dramatize negative views of the Moneyball philosophy.

"How do you think the team will do this year?"

"We will be good. But we need some health. Injuries hurt us last year."

"Could you point out Scott Hatteberg. I can’t figure out who he is."

He pointed to Scott, about 50 feet away.

"Do you think it would be okay to ask for his autograph?" I asked. "I don’t want to distract him from his work." The book said Scott did not like to give autographs.

"Sure," Grady said, "I can’t wait to see his reaction."

Scott Hatteberg sat in a golf cart facing away from me between the two baseball fields. I approached him with the book in my hand, open to page 162, and asked for his autograph. He signed under his name, gave the book back and said, "I thought it was a joke that they [other coaches] put you up to."

"Are you going to be in the movie?"

"No. They want people to go to see it, so they hired a real actor." (The actor, Chris Pratt, acted just like Scott.)

"Your story is great," I said, holding up the book.

"I am glad you enjoyed it."

I hung around and listened as the scouts discussed a young pitcher.

20 minutes later, Grady came over and asked, "Are you a fan?"

"Yes," I said. Maybe he thought I would sell the book. But I had invested too much to sell it. I had heard stories about people getting as many autographs as they could and selling them. That seemed like a hard way to make money.

15. Now I Am an Adviser?

Phoenix Municipal Stadium, March 26, 2011. I waited for two hours before the game at the visiting team entrance. No luck. No one had seen Jason Giambi (page 148), my most likely candidate for an autograph.

A disappointed kid wanted an autograph. Any autograph.

"Bring him back at the end of the sixth inning," I told his mother. "The best players leave then and sign autographs on the way to their cars. Fewer autograph seekers will be here, so he will have a better chance."

Of course, I had never left after the sixth inning and gotten an autograph. But I had read about it on the internet.

My coworkers had given me a box seat at exactly the best place to get autographs. Judging from the mob jammed into the box, that was common knowledge. Two Colorado Rockies stars, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, came to the rail in front of my seat and began to sign. I moved back, out of the way.

A man muscled his way to the front with his 10-year-old son. He wanted every member of the Giants’ World Series Championship team to sign his bat. The ushers had prevented him from bringing his bat into the stadium.

"I have taken my bat into major league stadiums but they would not let me bring it into this rinky dink spring training stadium," he said to everyone.

The seats next to me belonged to a college senior and her dad. To avoid being trampled, they waited until game time to sit down. They had traveled from Berkeley to spring training for her graduation gift. Her engineering degree will make finding her first job easy.

In the sixth inning, Giambi doubled. What a swing he had! Immediately, a pinch runner replaced him. Immediately, I rushed to the players’ exit. 10 fans waited there versus the 30 that waited before the game.

Troy Tulowitzki came out, signed, said he had to go, got into a huge vehicle and rode away. Five minutes later, Giambi came out and signed as he moved to his right along the temporary barrier, a step at a time. It took a few minutes for him to get close enough for me to ask him to sign the book. He looked puzzled but signed under his name at the beginning of the chapter about him.

Later, back at the hotel, I showed the page to Paula’s lifelong friend Cindy, pointed to Jason’s autograph, and said, "Jason Giambi’s chapter and Jason Giambi’s autograph!"

"You could sell that for a lot of money," she said.

"I would never sell this book," I said.

16. I Accept Help

Dallas, July 26, 2012. My nephew, Chad, had a meeting scheduled with Ron Washington (page 165). Chad asked if I wanted him to ask for Wash’s autograph. I had failed to get Wash’s attention twice so I counted that as satisfying my rule that I only get autographs in person. I said yes.

I met Chad in Oakland for a game. The A’s won on a walk off hit in extra innings; Tommy Milone struck out 10 Yankees; the A’s made it a 4 game sweep and started the greatest fan experience of my life, the biggest comeback in baseball history.

But I didn’t know that at the time.

I entrusted Chad with the book. As he left, I picked out a page that I hoped Ron would sign.

Ron was from my home state, Louisiana. In the movie Moneyball he makes a couple of memorable wisecracks. Ron had been a big fan favorite in Oakland before being promoted to manager of the Texas Rangers.

At 3:17 pm, Chad texted me a picture of the autograph. Ron had written: "To: Ben, That how baseball go!!" Chad said that Ron was very polite. Ron had "scoffed a bit about Moneyball, though." When Chad had handed the book to Ron, he said, "Oh. This is Moneyball?"

Thanks, Chad.

(6 years later, Chad gave me a 40 year old A’s jacket, two vintage A’s pendants and an A’s tie.)


For over 9 years, I sought autographs from people whose stories I read and loved. I sought autographs in my hometown. I traveled to Los Angeles, Oakland, Tucson and Phoenix multiple times in hopes of meeting certain people and asking them to sign a book on specific pages where they are mentioned. I spent thousands of dollars. Many times, I failed after hours of planning and waiting. Why do people seek and pay for autographs?

The best reason, for me, is great fun: setting the goal, striving without fearing the outcome, solving a puzzle, improving through experience, gaining confidence, finding unexpected opportunities and unexpected help, dramatic successes, abysmal failures -- like sports, like life. My hunt for autographs ended, but the benefits of my hunt would continue.

Shreveport, Louisiana, 2014. I finished typing, clicked the save icon, and walked out to the kitchen where Paula had been hard at work. She paused, crossed her arms, slouched back on her heels, and said, "I don’t know what you have been doing in there all this time, but I made you a salad."


May her memory be for a blessing.