Erin States was a 10-year-old avid Oakland Athletics fan in 1994 with a longtime affinity for Rickey Henderson. Her parents took her to several games a week.
So when she learned Aug. 11 that the players planned a strike the next day, Erin and her mom grabbed a poster board, made two signs and headed for Oakland Coliseum. Wearing a pink Athletics cap studded with pins, she held the signs high. “Kids Love Baseball” read the one in her right hand; “Please No Strike” read the one in her left.
The image captured the desperation fans felt, along with the innocence of a child for whom negotiations over a salary cap were irrelevant. The photo ran on the front page of The Times as well as many other publications.
For Erin States Hoy, now married with four children and living in Escondido, the memories remain vivid 25 years later.
“I didn’t understand why they were striking, I just knew there wouldn’t be baseball,” she said. “Then no World Series. It was heartbreaking.
“I wasn’t the little girl with pony princesses on my bedroom wall. I had posters of Rickey and Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco.”
Holding up a sign had worked before. At age 5, Erin was enthralled at how Oakland fans engaged Henderson from the left-field bleachers after he was reacquired by the A’s from the New York Yankees in 1989. She worked up a sign that said “Hi Rickey"next to a big red heart.
“Every inning he’d wave to me, and I’d hold up my sign,” she said. “He came over and gave me a baseball. That was it for me. I had a hero.”
Erin brought more signs, ones that read “Nice Home Run,” “Nice Catch,” “Nice Stolen Base.” Henderson would unfailingly smile and wave. The strike wasn’t her first disappointment. No, that came when the A’s traded Henderson to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993.
She wrote a letter to Bay Area newspapers that read in part: “If someone out there knows Rickey, would you please tell him that the girl with the signs in the left-field corner of the Oakland Coliseum misses him very much and would you tell him I said goodbye. I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”
Henderson said he cried when he read the letter. The Blue Jays visited Oakland in late August, and Henderson brought Erin onto the field, gave her a hug and a kiss, and promised her she would always be his No. 1 fan.
Less than a year later came the strike, and Erin never felt the same about baseball. These days, her kids play soccer. Her husband, Ben, is a San Diego Padres fan, but they rarely go to games.
The family did, however, visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., last summer. Erin’s 12-year-old son, Ryan, turned a corner and was met by a display about the strike. The photo of his mom holding up the signs was front and center. He knew it was her because of the pink cap, which Erin’s parents still keep.
“He’s like, ‘Mom, isn’t that you?’ I said, ‘Oh my gosh, yes, that is me,’ ” she said. “It was so cool to share these amazing experiences with my kids. My childhood was baseball.”
Adulthood? Well, it’s a different story.
“I just kind of phased out of it, unfortunately.”