Oscar's unfettered existence--an endless whirl of football games and dizzy dames--made me want to be a sportswriter. To a 12-year-old, it seemed the ideal life: a cockeyed Mets cap on my head, a meatball hero in my bed.
And so Oscar became my meatball hero and the meatball hero of all my friends. "When you're doing the show, the audience doesn't have a face," says Klugman. "So it's almost a surprise now to hear people say, 'I grew up with you. I watched you with my father, and we laughed together.' That contact is so moving. It elevates me."
I thanked him for leaving those muddy footprints for me and other sportswriters to follow. "That makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck," he said.
? If you have a comment for Steve Rushin, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.