I saw Hank Aaron play baseball way back when in Atlanta. They announced his name, he walked up to the plate and hit a home run.
It was Nurses Day at Atlanta Stadium, and no, I'm not nor never have I been a nurse, but I've been fond of a few of them. I was sitting with a few of them on this particular day, about halfway up in the left field bleachers where they put nurses when they want to show them how much they are appreciated. We were in a group of about 20 people who I assumed were nurses or friends of nurses and we had, of course smuggled in several beverages to help make the day more pleasant. Outside of our group of twenty, there was nobody else around us, except for a group of what I would call bleacher rats down below us next to the fence.
So here was this baseball flying way above us and headed our way, and we were cheering, mostly because everybody else was and we wanted to have the spirit too. The bleacher rats were running all over the place, pushing each other around, trying to get where they could catch the ball. The kid with the best chance reached out as a genuine Hank Aaron home run screamed down upon us, and the kid royally busted his ass and disappeared down between the rows of seats, as did the baseball.
The kid stayed down but the ball didn't. It flew back up into the air right toward us, bounced again, and for some reason I decided to catch it. I leaned down over the row of seats just below me and the ball bounced nicely into range and I had it.
I looked at my still outstretched arm and there at the end of my very own arm was my very own hand with a baseball in it. Then I learned something about baseballs and their rightful owners and the cheap seats of a major league baseball stadium...Catching a baseball is merely the first step in determining the chain of possession and ultimate ownership of said baseball.
My arm disappeared into a seething mass of snarling yelling kids, some of whom had military tattoos, as I held on the ball momentarily. I remember that as I caught the ball there were several other hands reaching for it, even though I had been victorious. It was a momentary victory as several hands closed about mine, clawing away, and the ball popped out of the mass, bounced around for a split second until it was grabbed by a kid with a few minor scars on his face. He held the ball curled up against this chest, like a football of all things, and held his other arm back, fist balled up ready to punch anyone who got close.
"Hey!" said the nurse sitting next to me, "That's his ball," she said pointing to me.
"Come get it," said the scar faced kid with his fist still balled up, and several of the other kids, who had scars of their own, turned and looked at us like they, too, were saying, "Yeah...Come get it."
Well I figure that one was about number 600 and something and Hank Aaron had hit lots of them and would hit lots more so I decided not to "Come get it," and watched the pack move off back to where they had been before Hank had stepped up to the plate. I guess they took a bit of my self esteem with them, and they danged sure took my baseball. It would have been special, even though Hank Aaron never actually touched it except with a three foot pole.
Hank Aaron was very active in the Atlanta community then and he still is today. I saw him in person a couple of times and he looked like a very strong normal man, speaking and smiling to everyone. Yesterday, Barry Bonds tied Aaron's home run record in numbers only. Bonds doesn't look like a very strong normal man...he looks like a muscled up freak, and for all I know, it's because he works out really hard and takes good care of himself. But I do know one thing for sure...Barry Bonds has a long way to go to tie Hank Aaron.