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One Photo; One Story: A four seam fastball to the heart.

July 31, 1972, at a small savings bank in my hometown of Belleville, New Jersey I met Duffy Dyer. I got an autographed baseball. I never met a real live baseball player before.

I was a Yankee fan. Like all of us kids in 1969 in North Jersey, the New York Mets captured our imagination by winning the World Series.

To a kid in the late 20th century, a signed baseball was gold. It was better than all the candy in the world.

Duffy Dyer batted one time in the ’69 series, saw one pitch and grounded to short.

He was still a champion and he signed a ball for me. I was so happy. I had the ball for a few years and can’t remember what happened to it.

Perhaps we played catch with it or used it in a sandlot game and wore the signature off.

The photo brings more joy and memories than the ball actually would.

I have two autographed baseballs that mean the world to me.

One by my dad, Bill Radziewicz, the other, my senior league baseball coach Otto Wolf.

Dad worked in Washington, DC in the 80’s and 90’s. He lobbied for the railroad unions on Capitol Hill. His office would make political action donations to rail friendly senate and congress members.

Political action lobbying, the world’s oldest profession, wait…second oldest. The first will always be prostitution than political action.

He was always going to lunch and fancy dinners. In the nineties the sports bar craze swept the country.

In the hotel across from his office on Capitol Street, a place called a generic sports bar name like “Legends, The Bullpen or Jocks Straps” opened. Dad went all the time. He was friendly with the staff.

On the table they had these napkin and condiment trays that held mustard, ketchup and salt and pepper shakers. On the top was a brand new shiny white baseball.

One day dad decided to sign the baseball. He thought it was the greatest thing ever until the manger scolded him for defacing their property.

No one ever signed a ball there again. It became bar policy and was printed on the wall “Do Not Sign Baseballs”.

When dad was ready to retire a few months later, I told the manager and offered to buy the ball. He took the money from my hand and said, “Good, wish him luck from us. Good health to him and I’m glad I don’t have to see that ball anymore”.

The other ball is inked by Mr. Wolf. He was my senior league baseball coach and lifelong friend. We wrote letters over the years, exchanged Christmas cards and phone calls. He was one the first adults I trusted outside of my parents. His influence on me was profound.

We would watch Yankee Games in his TV room in the basement and analyze every pitch.

I played for him for two years, it was a lifetime of education and friendship. When he turned 80 years old, I paid a visit.

I gave him a Duke Snider autographed ball. He played centerfield for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

He looked at it and said, “The old silver fox would have made a great Yankee”.

We talked for a while and looked at old scorebooks and photos. We talked about the championship we “should” have won in 1978.

He asked if I remembered his slogan from the pre-game pep talks on the field. “Be an ACE”, I blurted. He would always use that line while he sat in the dirt just in front of our bench.

“Anticipation, Concentration, and Execution”. I could recite it forever.

He had a poster that hung on the fence near our bench.

“People who don’t grow Shrink! Stretch your talents. Try to improve”!

He jumped up from his chair and pulled an old baseball duffle bag from the closet. He grabbed two worn out baseballs. He handed me one and signed the other like this:

A: Anticipation

C: Concentration

E: Execution

All the Best Mr. Wolf.

As I left his home, he grabbed me and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. “I LOVE YA KID”.

When he passed on in 2017, I tucked the other ball in his casket. He may meet a few Yankees along the way.

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