After 60 years of attending Major League baseball games, I finally caught my first foul ball. On a cold, rainy April night at PNC Park San Francisco Giants’ second baseman Freddy Sanchez sent a lazy fly into the deserted stands. I only had to elbow one guy out of the way.
Like most fans, I’ve been close before. Friends have regaled me with their good fortune. In 1960, a buddy snagged a foul of the Chicago White Sox Nelson Fox. The ball had been in play during the previous out. As my friend recreated the inning, with Whitey Ford on the mound and Yogi Berra behind the plate, Luis Aparicio flied out to Roger Maris who tossed the ball into Bobby Richardson. Then, Richardson whipped it around the infield to Bill Skowron, Gil McDougald and Clete Boyer.
By the time the ball landed in my lucky friend’s hands, it had been touched by four Hall of Famers and four other outstanding Golden Era Yankees.
I took my ball home and placed it prominently on my desk. After a week, I thought that the ball would be even cooler if Freddy autographed it. As a Pittsburgh Pirates employee I knew from Freddie’s years with the team that he’s a solid guy who I could count on to sign. By mid-May, the ball along with a return postage pre-paid envelope was on its way to San Francisco. But not long afterward, Freddy returned to his Arizona home to rehab after going on the disabled list.
June, July, and August passed—no baseball. As the months went by, I factored in that it would have to be time-consumingly forwarded from San Francisco to Arizona. I also made allowances for a bummed, injured Freddy following his flailing Giants’ being unenthusiastic about signing. Reluctantly, I downgraded the percentage of probability that I’d get the ball back from 100 percent to 75 percent and then to 50 percent.
When 2012 arrived, I dropped the probability to 10 percent. I had mailed it eight months ago! By then, I second guessed my wisdom in parting with the ball. Still, knowing Freddy’s reputation, I refused to set the likelihood at zero.
Eventually, Freddy rewarded my faith. In late February, the ball arrived inscribed as I had requested: “To Joe, Happy Birthday, Freddy Sanchez”
The blame didn’t rest with Freddy, as I knew it wouldn’t, but with—no surprise—the post office! When I purchased the return postage, the clerk warned me that not so much as a feather could be included with the ball since it would throw the weight off. The scales must work differently in Phoenix than they do in Pittsburgh. The envelope had multiple “insufficient postage” stamps emblazoned on it. Lesson learned—add a few bucks in extra frank to ensure you get your items back promptly.
My treasure is back where it was last April and where it will remain, safely atop my desk.