He stood beside me. I picked at the tape. He spoke loudly enough for my teammates in the locker room to hear. "I couldn't believe you held on to the ball. I gave you my best shot. You had me cold. I was out. No question. The ump blew the call." He paused for a moment. "You're a tough kid."
I looked up at him. He grinned and held out his hand. We shook solemnly.
"Accept my apology?" he asked.
"No sweat," I replied.
My teammates seemed to look at me a little differently after that, though perhaps it was only my way of looking at myself. I do know that my attitude toward legends—or at least to that particular legend—changed. I watched Joe Bellino win the Heisman Trophy, a first for the Naval Academy, and later run back punts for the Patriots. I saw him hit people who were considerably better padded than a bony freshman third baseman whose foot he had broken.
Now, when a low-pressure front moves in and that foot begins to throb, it still pleases me to remember one tough kid who hung on to the ball.