There he was.
Right there, smack in the middle of St. Louis's Union Station, waiting to change trains on this still, cool morning of Sept. 18, 1956, was Ted Williams: the Kid, the Splendid Splinter, the greatest hitter of his time. Williams was oblivious to all the people milling around him as he stood with his feet planted wide, intently reading The Sporting News.
And there I was.
How could any 20-year-old baseball fan not be impressed? I knew I had to say hello to him. How could I go back to Evanston, Ill., and tell my friends I had seen Williams in the station's Grand Hall and not gone up to him? There was one deterrent, however—the possibility that a friendly hello at seven in the morning would set off that terrible temper for which Williams was renowned.
I took a moment or two to contemplate several approaches. Ask him for an autograph? Forget it. Ask him where he was going? Obviously he was on his way to Kansas City, where the Red Sox had a game that night. Instead, I decided to try the simplest approach.
Next thing I knew, there I was, right in front of him. He was a big man, all right, almost a foot taller than I was. I swallowed a couple of times to work up some saliva in my dry mouth and waited for my breathing to return to normal.
"Excuse me," I said. "I just wanted to say how much I enjoy watching you play."
I braced myself for the worst, but to my surprise, he answered cordially, "Oh, thanks. Always nice to hear that."
Now I was at a loss for words. I had expected the whole thing to end immediately and I would have a story to tell my friends: Ted Williams told me to get lost. But something kick-started my mind again, and I was saying something like "I saw you on The Bob Elson Show the other night," referring to an interview program in Chicago.
"Oh," he said, "do you get that down here, too?"