"All right, son," the stranger said, handing the bat to Jeff. "Now you try it."
"Just a minute," I said.
The man in the blue sweater turned. He must have sensed what was going through my mind, because all at once his pleasant smile took on a note of unmistakable embarrassment.
"Sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to hog the show." He held the bat out. "Maybe you'd better show them."
AS DAVID LOOKED AT SAUL
I looked down at the six small boys. They were all staring up at the stranger in the blue sweater. Thus, it came to me with a funny little feeling in my heart, the way young David must have looked up at Saul when the boy was first admitted to the great king's presence. Something had just happened on this stretch of windy beach that I knew instinctively would happen to me again and again as my sons grew older. It was part of the process of growing up, of setting them free to find their own models and fashion their own yardsticks. Whether I liked it or not I could see, from the expression on the faces of Jeff and John as they stared at the man in the blue sweater, that at least so far as baseball was concerned, my day was done.
"No, you go ahead," I said, thrusting the bat back at the stranger. "It's perfectly all right."
If it wasn't at that moment, it became all right the next morning, when the sun finally broke through and I came out on the beach for a sun bath to find Jeff and John, along with at least a dozen other small boys, clustered around the stranger in the blue sweater. Except that he was no longer wearing a blue sweater. He was wearing swimming trunks and that engaging smile as, unhurriedly, patiently, with great care, he wrote a few words in one autograph book after another. When Jeff got his, he came belting across the sand toward me.
"Look!" he cried happily. "Look!"
I looked, and that's when it became all right. On the mauve-colored page, in jet black ink that was still slightly wet, the handful of words read: "To Jeff—with the best wishes of—Stan Musial."