Billy Martin, Mickey Mantle, and Me

It's the day Mickey Mantle meets me. I'm in a famous New York hamburger place. It's lunchtime, and I'm there with my friend George.

As we wait for a table, George starts to vibrate. His words come out in gasps. "It's him! It's him!"

"Him, who?" I ask.

"There! See?"

"Uh, no."

"My all-time hero. There he is, right in front of me!"

"Does your hero have a name? That would help me with this."

"Mick - Mick - Mickey Mantle!"

"OK, Mickey Mantle. Where?"

"There, right between Billy Martin and that boxer, what's-his-name."

"Oh, yes, I see Billy."

"This is incredible. What I'd give to say hello and get an autograph."

"So, ask him," I say.

"Oh, I couldn't do that."

"Why not? Either he'll do it or he won't."

"I don't know how to approach celebrities," George says with a sigh.

The man with the menus comes to say he has a table for us across the room. I see we'll pass Mickey, Billy, and the famous boxer: Rocky Graziano? Marciano?

As we go by, I call out, "Hey, Billy, we miss you in Detroit!" Martin had played infield for my hometown Tigers years before, and then had been the manager.

Billy jumps to his feet, grabs my hand, and works it up and down, telling me it's wonderful to hear that he's missed. While I stand there, George walks on to our table, unaware of the stop I've made.

"Say," Billy says, asking me what might be the most unlikely question I will ever face, "do you know Mickey and Rocky?"

They both stand up to shake my hand.

"Mickey," I say, "maybe you could do me a favor."

"Sure thing."

"See my friend over there?" I point to George, seated at the table and looking toward me. "He's the guy with his mouth hanging open because he sees us talking. Well, George is your biggest fan. Just too shy to ask you for an autograph.

"Well, now, let me have a piece of paper. 'To my good friend George, from your pal Mickey Mantle.' "

"Thanks, Mickey," I say. "So long, guys. Thanks for your time."

Mickey and Rocky sat down. Billy, still standing, grabs my hand again. "Hey, you look us up the next time you're in town."

I walk to our table and hand the napkin to George. "For you."

"How did you get this?" he asks incredulously as he reads the inscription.

"Just asked. He was pleased to do it."

"How do you know Mickey Mantle?"

"Never met him before."

"So you just walk up and start talking to him?"

"Oh, no, I wouldn't think of invading Mickey's privacy or interrupting his lunch. That would be bad manners."

I let George dangle a bit while I sorted through the breadstick basket. "I just waited politely until Billy introduced him to me."

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