When I was a boy, my father owned a tailoring and dry-cleaning store scarcely a block away from Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics who subsequently moved to Kansas City and now reside in Oakland. Pop was the team tailor and as such he repaired torn uniforms and ripped flags, and cleaned and pressed the players' uniforms and street clothes.
Recently, a nostalgic sportscaster said that there probably were no more Babe Ruth stories left. But he was wrong. There is still one—mine.
One early July day in the mid-'20s, the New York Yankees were in Philadelphia for a Saturday doubleheader. Pop and I had picked up a lot of suits for pressing, among them two belonging to Ruth himself.
It was customary for my father to go through the pockets and to brush out the cuffs of the pants before pressing each suit. He was routinely going through Ruth's pockets when he felt a small box. It contained a diamond stickpin. Hurrying to the phone, Pop called Steve Monaghan, the club attendant, and said he would return the pin himself.
When the second game ended, Pop waited to give the players time to shower and dress, then entered the clubhouse, went directly over to the Babe and returned the stickpin. Babe offered Pop a reward, but my father refused. Ruth, seeing Pop so determined, thanked him, shook hands with him, and then Pop went back to work feeling pleased at having met Ruth in person under such pleasant circumstances.
About an hour later, my parents were in the back room when they heard a commotion out front. Pop hurried out and was stunned to find Babe Ruth autographing baseballs, cards, pieces of paper—anything. When the crowd cleared, the Babe walked over to Pop.
"Mr. Waxman, I've come to thank you again, and please forgive the interruption of your business," he said. Pop, speechless, just mumbled.
Mama had come out front and heard Babe's words. In her less-than-perfect English she asked whether Babe would care to come into the back room for some gefilte fish.
"I sure would. Ma'am," he answered.
The threesome went into the dining room. I followed, astonished. Mama brought out the fish which was garnished with sugared carrots. She set up three plates and silverware, and also served homemade challah. Putting two large portions of fish on the Babe's plate, she cut a large slice of challah and nodded to Pop to go to the closet.