Last week I attended a conference, and one of the "draws" to an expo event that was part of the festivities included a meet-and-greet with baseball Hall of Famers. They had some big names there: Paul Molitor, Orlando Cepeda, Phil Niekro, Wade Boggs, Carlton Fisk and Dennis Eckersley. I met the last four on the list.
Phil Niekro was a true gentleman -- older than most of the others, he had a genteelness that seemed from a bygone era. He was the only one, for example, that asked me my name, and when my picture was done being taken, shook my hand warmly and said it was very nice to meet me. I didn't know what to say!
I look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame in this picture since Wade didn't get up out of his chair, and I had to lean down for the photo, but it's still proof that I met Wade Boggs, my favorite player when I was a kid. I told him so, even though he was wearing his Yankees World Series Ring.
In the above picture, you can barely make out a beer glass on the table behind us -- Wade was very personable and pleasant to everyone, but every so often as I waited in line I saw him very subtly reach for the beer and take a glug or two like a man in the desert getting his first sip of water.
Still, he at least made a great show of being touched / impressed by my revelation about being a fan of his as a kid, even though both of us knew full well that at least 1 in every 4 people, or thereabouts, was going to be telling him something similar. I appreciate that in a public figure -- someone who can be gracious even if it's the millionth time they've heard some random stranger tell the same "highly personal" story.
Dennis Eckersley was kind of the opposite -- I also gave him the I'm-a-Sox-fan-it's-nice-to-meet-you spiel, and his answer was, essentially, a grunt, an assent to have a photo taken, and body language that then immediately said, "Next." Still, of all the people there, he's the only one still on TV in a regular basis, and the only one who probably still gets harassed on the street by passerby given that and his, er, distinctive look. Which is just as distinctive in person as on NESN -- if not even more so. While the glorious mane and mustache are usually what get noticed on TV, in person I have to say his very orange skin tone and pimpin' leather boots were what got my attention.
This was the piece de resistance. The pinch-yourself moment.
Pudge Fisk was also a gentleman, though maybe it's because I approached him as if I was meeting the Pope. I looked him in the eye, and said, as my entire hand disappeared into one of his over-sized mitts, "It's an honor." Like Boggs, Fisk seemed practiced in at least feigning great interest in my comment. And he cheerfully obliged when I asked for a picture.
The thing that struck me the most about Fisk was his size -- for some reason, seeing him in pictures or on TV, I'd never gotten the impression he was especially big. I'm not an especially short person (about 5' 9"), but he towered over me.
Of course, I immediately called my Dad to tell him "GUESS WHAT?" as soon as I'd shaken my last Hall of Famer hand, and I also made the comment to him about Fisk being surprisingly tall.
"Oh, yeah," said my dad, the guy who raised me, the guy who introduced me to the Red Sox, the guy I've been to and watched dozens of games with, and who had never, apparently, thought to tell me this -- "I used to share a locker with him up at the Nashua YMCA when me and Uncle Donny were playing racquetball back in the 70's."
I mean...you think you know a person.
One of the reasons I missed last night's game (I mean, other than the fact that after watching the first inning over supper, I decided maybe I just needed a break from the searing pain in my eyeballs for the rest of the evening) is that after moving, and my husband commandeering our desktop computer where I edit photos for the end of his semester, I just last night got to work on a tremendous backlog of photos that goes all the way back to March and includes two Sox games. So stay tuned for a massive Red Sox photo post in the near future.