Here is a quick "human interest" story that I hope you enjoy.
When I was growing up in New York, rooting for the Yankees, it was standard fare for Yankees fans to argue with Dodgers fans about the relative merits of Phil Rizzuto and PeeWee Reese. I of course was on the side of "Scooter" in every discussion. I eventually got to dislike Reese, primarily because I was always diminishing his skills in order to elevate Rizzuto.
Plus, I could never tolerate the media always boosting Reese's decency, kindness, humanity, etc.
It really bothered me because they always made him "the most fan accessible player in baseball", "the best teammate", "the most charitable player", etc., etc.
When I was 27-28 I couldn't stand the guy.
Fast forward 15 years and I am living in Mr. Reese's hometown of Louisville, KY.
What a slice of fate!
There is a great charity here called "The Crusade For Children" run by the ABC television station, and i decided since I had some knowledge of how to reach different sports personalities that I would volunteer to run a charity auction at a baseball card show that I ran on an annual basis. The Crusade was thrilled to have me do it.
Well, one of the personalities I contacted was, yeah you guessed it, PeeWee Reese!
No more than 2 or 3 days later I got a phone call and on the line I hear, "This is PeeWee Reese can I speak with Richard?". We talked and he said that he would do anything I wanted to help the Crusade.
For several years PeeWee would come into my store and sign anything I wanted, and we got to be pretty good friends. He would come in and shake hands with me and I would say, "I'm Richard and I'm a great Yankee fan" and he would say "I'm PeeWee and I'm a Dodger fan".
He always invited me to his Cystic Fibrosis Dinner (he headed the Louisville chapter) and I realized over the years that PeeWee wasn't as nice or as good a person as the New York press made him out to be, he was 10 times better! I never heard him refuse to help anyone or any organization.
Because I have always believed that Jackie Robinson's entrance into the big leagues was made easier by PeeWee's public acceptance of him, and because I also believe that Jackie was the beginning of the civil rights movement in this country, even before Rosa Parks refusal to move to the back of the bus, I believe that PeeWee had an effect not only on baseball but on the entire United States of America.
Remember how we usually greeted each other? PeeWee gifted me with a PeeWee Reese bat and he inscribed it with our usual greeting. This has become one of my most cherished pieces of memorabilia. After all those years of arguing against him, I finally realized he was one of the nicest human beings I have ever known! Kind of ironic I guess.
See the bat below: