Thursday, June 28, 2007


We had a lot of Major League baseballs around growing up. My grandfather, Dino Bartoli would take me to Memorial Stadium for batting practice and he would hustle down balls in the left field bleachers. Sometimes, he'd get as many as three of them. During one game against the Yankees, he dove three rows down to get a Paul Blair home run ball, and he came back with splinters. I kept those batting practice balls on my dresser and occasionally I would take one of them down and pound it into my glove. I caught a foul ball in 1974 during a game against the Tigers. We were sitting along the third base line and a high foul pop headed towards us. The ball carried over our heads and appeared to be headed to the upper deck. I turned to follow its path and watched it slam against the facade. The ricochet angled toward me and landed in my glove. Most people had turned back around to watch the game. That almost made up for the fact that my brother and his friend played catch one day with my 1970 ball autographed by the World Champion team. Most of the names had been scuffed away.

Once my grandfather explained the names on the baseballs to me. He pointed to the machine-generated signature of Lee MacPhail. "Mr. MacPhail was the general manager of the Orioles years ago," he explained. It was a name I always remembered. Now, his son Andy MacPhail is the new general manager. My grandfather isn't doing very well these days. He is in a nursing home in Florida, unable to walk, without his family and wasting away. The worst part about it: he can't watch the Orioles.


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