"I think it's the ball," Maury Wills tells me, and I nod.
I still have a mental image of a ball I saw Wills hit in 1962, the year he revolutionized baserunning by stealing 104 bases. A single up the middle. I was a college student, my own playing career was down to intramural softball, and, I don't know, there was something about this single. Wills took a nasty high fastball and just sort of nudged it into something he could operate behind: a not-very-hard but clean and firm line drive directly over second base. He was like a small but scientific bouncer intercepting a big, obstreperous drunk and flipping him out the door, vwoop, without any scuffle.
And now he and I are on a liner, surrounded by nothing but sea and sky, and he is telling me about the ball, the baseball, itself. "You give a child something else and he says 'Naw,' but you give a child a ball and he grabs it. It's that perfect sphere. A basketball is too big, and a golf ball is too small. It's (he size of the ball."
Yes. I feel that we are getting somewhere now.
But. Someone else claims Wills's attention, and a woman who is wearing springy, wire bee-feelers with a little ball on the end of one of them and a little glove on the end of the other comes up to me. She is carrying a video camera and a still camera and a pen and a baseball. She eyes me closely and says, "So...you're not one of the legends. No." And goes away.
My footing moves under me. The Caribbean is passing under it. Our ship, which is more like a floating mall—12 different color-coded decks—is the SS Norway. The longest passenger ship ever built, as long as two tape-measure home runs, nearly twice as big as the Titanic. So I am standing over lots of waves at once. They do to me what another of my shipmates, Ferguson Jenkins, used to do to hitters—they keep me just slightly off-balance all the time.
I wander to the Ibsen Library, on the International Deck. (We also have a casino and a couple of pools and a video room and a jogging track and a 6,000-square-foot Roman Spa and a theater featuring Broadway-type musicals and a dance club called A Club Called "Dazzles." And, you can be sure, lots and lots of shops.) None of my books is in the Ibsen Library. But none of my friends' are, either (nor any of Ibsen's), so that's some consolation.
And, anyway, I'm hanging with legends.
Dining with Ferguson Jenkins. He says it's great being in the Hall of Fame, which is "like a fraternity." There's a newsletter and everything. Of course the ring you get is kind of drab; for a stone it has a big metal baseball. He's not wearing his because he's having a diamond set in it. And when he flew into Albany, N.Y., on the way to Cooperstown to be immortalized last July, the airline lost his luggage.