Re: player encounters
Mickey Mantle. It was luck. My buddy John and I decided we'd go watch a minor league game, so we ended up in Charleston (WV) at the Charleston Charlie's game. At the time, Charleston was an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. By luck they had Mantle there, which we didn't know until we got there. Mantle was stationed under the stands by first base signing little cards. You couldn't get near him for the line.
About the third inning, a kid came by and asked if I wanted his ball. It was an autographed baseball with supposedly Mantle's signature on it. I said, "you're giving this to me," and he said, "yeah, my Dad has two more and he said to give it to you guys." I asked him where his dad was and he pointed to the left. It was a friend of mine who had gone to some sporting goods store that day where Mantle was signing baseballs.
We waited until about the fourth inning and went down. Mantle's line was almost gone, so we got in line. When it came my turn, I showed Mantle the ball and asked if it really was his signature. Mantle either had a headache or something, but he always had a scowl on his face. Anyway, he said, "Maybe, I don't know. Let's make sure of it." He reached in a little bag, pulled out another baseball and signed it right there. What makes it strange is that he wasn't signing anything but those little cards that night, even if someone brought a ball or cap or whatever. For some reason, he signed the ball for me. I gave my buddy the one the kid had given me and kept the one I saw Mantle sign.
It was funny. Mantle was decked out in Yankee pinstripes including real baseball shoes that night. He wasn't chatty at all. It seemed like he was really pained to be there.
I still have the ball, but my buddy's was lost when he was burglarized a few years ago.
"You only have to bat a thousand in two things; flying and heart transplants. Everything else you can go 4-for-5."