Thursday, January 13, 2005

Where In the World Are You?

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Remembering Bob Feller

I met Bob Feller when I was a boy (possibly in 1956 when I was seven) in Baltimore at Luskin's appliance store on Park Heights Ave. It was a Saturday morning appearance-- Bob was doing promotional work for Motorola-- and there was a mob of kids (and some parents) waiting for the store's doors to open at 9AM. My dad, who was not a baseball fan, drove me down to the store. When he saw the mob of people waiting for the doors to open, he took me by the hand and led me around the back of the store. The sign on the back door entrance said "No admittance", or some such thing. I said: "Dad! The sign says we can't go in!". "Just come with me.", was his reply. We went in and walked up to the checkout counter where "Bullet Bob" was opening boxes of baseballs. We were his very first customers of the day. And Bob Feller signed his first baseball of the morning and gave it to me. (I eventually played ball with it, and eventually lost it.) I remember him having a distinct brightness about him. I remember seeing that dimple in his chin, and I remember him being kind to me. I was thrilled, as you can imagine.

Fast forward 40 years: Avon Lake, Ohio. I read in the newspapers that Bob Feller will be signing autographs at a drugstore just a few blocks from where I was then living. When I arrive at the store there is a huge line waiting to meet Bob. No, I didn't sneak in the back door (I didn't inherit my dad's chutzpah), but I did avoid the line and walked to the back of the store where Bob sat at a table signing autographs and chatting with the fans. I stood off to the side and simply observed the man. He was so kind to those kids. I remember him explaining, in very simple terms to some youngster, about his role in fighting for his country in WWII. The glow I witnessed as a kid how now matured into something even more, much more, impressive, something golden. "This is one of the great Americans.", was the thought that ran through my mind. "This is a true living legend, and you would recognize that even if you didn't know anything about his baseball career."