I'm working with the TV on in the background and the show is Everybody Loves Raymond. Ray's wife Deborah is trying to get rid of an old baseball that Mickey Mantle supposedly signed when Raymond was 10. It reminded me of when I was 5. We lived across the street from Courtland Park on Courtland Avenue in Stamford. I went across the street one day by myself to play. Back in those days you could do that. I was pushing myself on the merry-go-round, sitting on the end with one leg on and the one leg off doing the pushing when two teenage boys came by and asked if I wanted them to push. I said sure.
I don't remember how the conversation started, but one of the boys tried to tell me he was Mickey Mantle. I didn't believe him but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Plus, at that time, I was just learning the old adage, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."
I was too young to do math and had no idea that Mickey Mantle was born in 1931 and that would have made that teenage boy about 33 years old. Of course, today, if that happened, I would pull out my iPhone, go to Wikipedia, and in about 30 seconds be able to tell the boy, "you sure don't look 33!"
After a while, I was getting ready to go home and he said, "okay, well if you don't want my autograph." I really didn't believe him -- even at 5 I could see the BS meter going off the chart -- but I thought, what's the harm in taking it just in case? So I picked up a gum wrapper off the ground and turned it over to the white back side, which he signed. I don't think I could even read his handwriting but there was a part of me that was excited. There was a small possibility, right?
I kept it for awhile, then my mother probably threw it out and I forgot all about it until I saw this episode. Meanwhile, back at the show, Ray's father breaks the news that the baseball he cherished for the last 15 years was not signed by Mickey Mantle. That he signed it himself for the fun of it. Ray was crushed and I felt a slight affinity to Raymond at that moment as I remembered my somewhat prized gum wrapper.
Well, I look at it this way. I don't have an expensive piece of Mickey Mantle memorabilia, but I do have a childhood memory. And that's good enough for me.
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