Monday, August 04, 2008

Different kind of baseball contact today...

Tonight, Rick and I had dinner with Bob Feller.

You know how yesterday I was a little peeved about the irritability factor during our national passtime? Well all is well with the world today. We were at a season tix holder event at the Rock Hall with 4 former Indians players who were gentlemanly and charming.

And YES, Rick and I sort of imposed ourselves on Mr. Feller...

We were early (didja hear that, World? Filippino time took a holiday today!!) to the event, picked up our food, and observed (in addition to the abundance of empty tables) that two of the featured guests were seated having their dinner. No one was anywhere near them. No one was shoe-ing people away, either! So we approached Hall-of-Famers Bob Feller and Gaylord Perry and asked politely if we could join them.

Feller said sure, as long as we didn't "talk ball". No problem. We were delighted to talk about all sorts of other things. In fact, he was absolutely fascinating when he remenisced about his experiences during WWII.

He graciously and generously and gladly signed my Sports Illustrated. I had a spread with all of the Hall of Famers from this year's All Star Game, which pictured both of these fine gentlemen. Mr. Feller signed it without batting an eye. Mr. Perry? He took a moment to remember the day fondly. I could tell it meant a lot to him, and I was extra glad I took the time to look for the issue.

But this wasn't it!! Not by a long shot!!

When we first moved to Cleveland, there were few familiar names for us National League people to latch onto. We had a lot of catching up to do, to become Cleveland Indians fans after being life-long Chicago Cubs fans.

So some of my earliest memories of Indians players date back to the early 80's. It was a special treat to meet (once again -- we met them last year, too!) Len Barker and Joe Charbonneau.

Lenny Barker pitched a breath-taking perfect game one spectacular May evening when I was in 7th grade. I was NOT at Municipal Stadium. I did NOT watch the game on TV. but I DID listen to it in entirety on the radio (1100 AM 3WE) while doing my homework at the diningroom table.

The significance of all of that was that the next day at school, my teacher loudly predicted that that evening's game would be a sell-out (it was), because people would suddenly be interested in seeing a miracle perfect game happen again, contrary to the negligible statistical probability. He also predicted that many more people than would actually fit in the stadium would tell Barker over the course of his lifetime that they were there on the night he pitched his perfect game (probably true, but hard to quantify).

Joe Charbonneau was the Rookie of the Year in 1980. That was the first full year we lived here. It was such an exciting time. In Chicago, things like that never happened for the Cubs, so we felt like we had just moved to a charmed city -- I mean, it was already so much cleaner with zero traffic, and now THIS???? How could you beat that?? What an amazing ride that season was. Joe was Grady Sizemore before Grady was Grady Sizemore. He had that kind of star power, that kind of charm, and that kind of talent. Then he got injured, and we all mourned.

Both of these gentlemen are still marvelous faces of the Cleveland Indians organization, and awfully nice guys.

Mr. Charbonneau's wife Cindy had MS. I asked him to sign my BikeMS captain's cap, and I have pledged to ride for her when I ride for Pedal to the Point.

All four gentlemen were there for the love of the game and because they know that we fans were there to pay them tribute. I had a very good time. I had my faith restored. I shared a hotdog with a Hall of Famer. I shared a moment of hardship with another who is great.

It was neat to be human with these exceptional humans.


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