I'm not generally given to boasting, but it's a fact: Don Newcombe once told me-- me! -- to shut up. I believe that this noteworthy event occurred in 1949.
Here's the story. During the summer vacation, it was the custom for neighborhood kids to arrive at Ebbets Field early in the morning. The games didn't start until 1:30, so we'd take a half a day's supply of salami sandwiches and stand outside the players' entrance at 10:00 or so in the morning, hoping to catch sight of Robinson, or Cox, or Furillo walking up the ramp to the clubhouse. After the stakeout, we'd watch a couple of hours of batting practice, and then some fielding practice, and then there would be a long pause while the groundskeepers cleaned up the field, and then we'd listen to Gladys Gooding at the organ, and at last, anticlimactically, we'd watch the actual game. I sometimes paid the 60 cents for a seat in the bleachers, but often I was admitted with one of the free tickets that were distributed by neighborhood fraternal organization -- the P. A. L (Police Athletic League) or the Sons of Italy or the Sons of Norway. What a treat -- you could go to a Dodgers' game and at the same time be Norwegian for a day!
One morning, there I was, loitering among a crowd of kids just as Big Don arrived. He was huge. I can't remember exactly what I shouted to him, but it was probably something like "Hi Don. Are you going to pitch today? How's the arm? Do you think you'll pinch-hit. Huh. Huh?" Newk turned and looked directly at me and said, and I quote, verbatim, "Shut up, kid." What a thrill! I had been noticed by the great man himself. It was a transcendent moment -- even more exciting than the time when, sitting in the left field lower deck, I scrambled for a home-run ball off the bat of Bobby Morgan (a ball that later, to my eternal regret, I sold for five bucks. But hey, five dollars could take you -- at 60 cents a ticket, two 5 cent subway fares, and another 5 cents for "a big delicious glass of Nedick's tasty orange drink,/ It's cool refreshing flavor you'll adore"-- to five or six games, one of which might be a double-header.)
How can I emphasize this sufficiently?: Don Newcombe spoke directly to me.
Another event of titanic importance: in the last innings of a game, when the guards who policed the bleachers were too bored to pay attention, kids would sneak down into the good seats. In Ebbets Field, the Dodgers' bullpen was along the right-field foul line, so it was possible to sit just behind the relievers and try to engage them in intimate conversation. One day I was involved in an exciting unidirectional chat with Hal Gregg, then on the downside of his career (he had won 18 games in 1945) when the frustrated reliever impatiently swung himself around and said to me, and once again I quote absolutely verbatim, "What are you, kid, a magpie?"
As long as I'm in full bragging mode, I should also boast that I once possessed, on a treasured scrap of paper, the penciled autograph of Bob Ramazzotti, a Dodger infielder, who, in 1949, batted .154 with one home run and three rbi's. Let me also add that it was the utmost pinnacle of schoolyard wit to sit in the front seats of the Ebbets Field upper deck and drizzle sticky orange Nedick's upon the spectators beneath.