(This story originally appeared on www.politico.com)
On Aug. 26 afternoon, a pool report from the President’s vacation in Martha’s Vineyard contained a line about POTUS taking an envelope from an unidentified man.
“One man, standing at the edge of the yellow police tape, handed the President something (it looked like a maroon 8.5×11 folder but pool was too far away to tell.) The President looked at it, then handed it to Nicholson [Obama’s trip director],” read the report.
So who was the man, and what was in the envelope? Turns out it was Tom Murro (a.k.a. the “Celebrity Magnet” from New Jersey) who had a gift for Obama from baseball legend Yogi Berra: a photo of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson coming in safe after stealing home during a 1955 World Series game against Berra and the Yankees. Berra wrote “Dear Mr. President, He was out!” and signed his name in blue pen.
Murro had reason to believe he’d be able to get the gift to the president. He’d met Obama before, at the Farm Neck Country Club on Martha’s Vineyard, when both were vacationing a year ago. Murro had first stopped to chat with film director Spike Lee, who was also playing golf that day, and when Obama eventually passed the two on the course, he also stopped to talk, and pose for photos.
The picture of Murro with Obama from that day became highly publicized following the encounter, given that the public is typically not allowed near the president on the golf course (it was thanks to Lee, who vouched for him). A bit later, back home in New Jersey, Murro ran into Berra (who lives near him in Montclair) who, having seen the shot of Murro with Obama, asked if he might give Murro a gift to pass on to the President. Murro accepted. But until yesterday, the photo had remained undelivered.
Murro told POLITICO about his successful pass off shortly just after leaving the waterfront restaurant Nancy’s, where the Obamas had lunch on Wednesday.
“I said to him, ‘I met you last year on the golf course with my daughter and Spike Lee,’” Murro explained. He seized on a moment when the president was stopping to shake hands after lunch. “Obama then said, ‘Oh yeah, how you doing?”
Murro said the president then began to walk away until Murro told him that he had a gift for him from Yogi Berra. This prompted Obama to “perk-up” and turn around in curiosity and ask, “What do we have?,” according to Murro.
Murro opened the envelope. Upon seeing what was inside, Murro said Obama smiled and said, “That’s fantastic,” just before handing off the gift (as the pool report states) to Obama’s trip director Marvin Nicholson.
“I can’t believe it finally happened, I am in shock to have gotten into the inner sanctum twice now,” Murro said. He should feel a little lighter today: Murro’s been carrying the envelope with him everywhere while vacationing this week in the slim chance he may have run into Obama again.