The Best Ones Are All That Way- Joe Garagiola, Jr.
I’ll get back to fiction with my next post, but I thought about an old gig the other day, and wanted to share this story first.
My mandolin gets me into the best venues. You remember Al Donnelly, the Irish folk rocker? Some time back he got a call to play a sports banquet. It was for a few hundred people and he wanted a little extra sparkle, and thought it called for a mandolin. Well, have mandolin will travel, so I was in.
As it turned out, the guest speaker was Joe Garagiola, Jr. I’m sure you remember his dad- the bald headed catcher with all the great baseball stories who was a mainstay on T.V. a few years back. As you can imagine, Joe Jr. knew a bunch of tales, too. He’d been around baseball all his life.
As it turned out, though, Joe Jr. is more than just a ball player. He’d been to law school and was chief counsel for the Yankees for years. I figure if you report to George Steinbrenner, you’re a tough dude. Nowadays Garagiola is Major League Baseball’s Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, and was general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks for a decade. But in spite of all that he was a nice fellow, and had the quiet confidence of a guy who had found his way in the world. The best ones are all that way.
He started out with a lot of Yogi Berra stories, and they were very funny, but it was his take on Joe DiMaggio that caught my ear the most. Some one asked DiMaggio how he could play so hard every game and he said, (paraphrased) “Because someone is the crowd might see me for the only time, and I want to give them their money’s worth. However I play ball that day will be how they remember me.”
I was positioned right behind Mr. Garagiola for the evening. I enjoyed his talk, and I think he dug my mandolin work. After the gig, we got to chat for a moment.
“Mr. Garagiola, I enjoyed your talk, especially the part about DiMaggio.”
“Thanks Doc, I enjoyed your music too.”
“You know, I wanted to be a ball player, but I ran into a kid with a fastball I couldn’t hit, and decided I’d better be a Doctor.”
“That was probably for the best, Doc,” he said.
“Yeah, I think so too. My buddy made it to triple A. I just didn’t have the arm or the speed. Loved it though. I thought about what you said about DiMaggio, and I agree. You know, even though I wasn’t good enough to make it in baseball, I still took home some lessons from the game. I had read that about DiMaggio. Even though I am gray haired now, and don’t have to do it, I still read and study and try to give each patient my best. For all I know it might be the only time they see me.”
“Doc, the best ones are all that way.” We shook hands.
I ain’t as good as DiMaggio, but I took it as a high compliment.
Y’all, about the time I finished this post, I got a call about Indie. He’s sick with fever and cough, and I’d better go check on him. I’ll report back to you mid-week.
Dr. Bfavorite non bluegrassers, memorable gigs
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