Saturday, February 07, 2009
When I was a kid, my aunt had a friend who was nicknamed "Lefty." Lefty was a former professional baseball player, hence his nickname, who played briefly for the St. Louis Cardinals in the early 50s.
I nine-years-old when I first met Lefty, and at that age I was already a certified baseball nut. He knew that, and he gave me a small stack of baseball cards that he'd collected over the years. Included in that stack were about 15 cards of Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew, who was the most feared right handed slugger at the time of his 1975 retirement. From that day forward I endeavored to add every available Harmon Killebrew card to my collection. I didn't get 'em all, but I got darn close.
Last night, I attended the Nashville Oldtimers Baseball Association's 71st annunal banquet. The featured guest was none other than Harmon Killebrew. After dinner, I got to spend a few minutes chatting with Mr. Killebrew. He told me a couple of stories about Nashville's famed Sulphur Dell baseball park (Killebrew played there several times when he was with the Chattanooga Lookouts) and he signed a baseball for me. He then chatted up another baseball fan, and another, and another, until I think he'd personally spoken to every person in the room.
I've had the opportunity to meet several former professional athletes over the years, and some of 'em were not only surly, they had chips on their shoulders the size of car batteries. What a treat it was to meet Harmon Killebrew. With the exception of Walter Payton, whom I met on a hunting trip in the early 90s, he is the nicest former ballplayer with whom I've had the pleasure of interacting.