Only when you've seen the grinding poverty of Moro Bottom, Ark. that spawned him can you fully appreciate the otherwise implausible Bryant combination of ham and humble pie, and the joy he gets in celebrity. He really dreaded "going back," and cherished any affirmation that it wouldn't be necessary. When we put together his life story for this magazine (Aug. 15, 1966 et seq.), we read the manuscript over at a friend's house in the Florida Keys. A few of his cronies were there, and Bryant was so pleased with the written evidence of his imminent apotheosis that he carted it around, one guest to another, making each read.
One year on the eve of the Hall of Fame banquet, we were to meet in New York. My flight arrived late, it was raining and cold, and when I got to the hotel he had left word to meet him at Patsy's restaurant. Thinking it was already too late, I went to bed. The phone rang.
"Where the hell are you?"
"It's raining. It's cold. I'm in bed."
"Frank Sinatra is at my table. You better get on over here."
"Yeah, sure. I wouldn't want to miss Old Blue Eyes. Is Bing with him?"
"O.K., dammit. Just hold on."
There was a short pause, then an unmistakable voice. "Hello, John? This is Francis Albert Sinatra. The Bear says for you to get your ass over here."
Bryant got back on the phone, tickled.
"What'd I tell you?"