Thursday, December 09, 2004

Steve Barber's Brash

Steve Barber was the guest speaker at our brotherhood meeting at Greenspring Valley Synagogue in Northwest Baltimore. The year was 1962 and I was 13 years old. I remember how odd it was to see him don a yarmulka instead of an Orioles cap. It was a nice gesture of respect (he was clearly not Jewish) and immediately made me feel he was now much closer to us. During the Q and A session with his audience, Barber lived up to his reputation of being "brash" (Sport magazine did a big feature article back then on him, entitled : "Barber's Brash"). He said "If Milt Pappas continues the way he is going, he will soon end up with a sore arm." Ironic that Steve developed just that. I got to ask Steve a question in front of the group: "Why is it that the Orioles play so well against the mighty Yankees and end up losing to crummy teams like Kansas City? Do you try harder against the Yanks?" "Nah, the money's the same.", was his answer. Well, Barber's brash.... After his talk and the Q and A session, Barber signed some autographs, including one on the full page head shot of him I had torn out of that Sport magazine article. Then, two friends of mine came up to me and explained that we were in a predicament: It was pouring outside and we would get really drenched walking the 20 minutes home. That dreary prospect gave me the gumption to describe our plight to #13. "Sure, I'll give you a ride." said our hero. To add to the thrill, Barber had a brand new Pontiac Grand Prix, which was my favorite car on the road. I had never before been in one. Steve was very friendly during that brief ride home. He created a nice impression. After he dropped us off and drove off down the road, one of my buddies said: "Oh, my gosh! I left my tefillin (Jewish prayer phylacteries) in the back seat of his car!" My other friend and I stood there in stunned silence. Then the first buddy winked and said: "Just kidding!" But the thought that Steve Barber, the first Oriole (and one of the first pitchers ever, I think, to be clocked throwing a baseball over 100 mph) was driving down the road with Michael Hummel's tefillin, really cracked us up! RIP Steve Barber.