Two solitary figures approached each other on the broad sidewalk in front of the senior citizen complex, one a small red-headed boy of about ten, and the other a tall, elderly gentleman wearing a Baltimore Orioles baseball cap.
“Hi, I’m Billy Murphy. You must be Will”, he declared, as he reached out to the youngster with his outstretched hand. They grasped their right hands firmly as they checked each other out.
“Firm handshake and good eye contact, young man. Your mom is doing an OK job.”
“Thanks, Mr. Murphy. It’s nice to meet you. My mom has told me a lot about you.”
“I hope nothing too bad”, he replied as he laughed. “I think we might want to fix that Mr. Murphy thing. Folks call me “Red” or “Billy” or even “Murph”. Maybe we can do better than that, though. What do your friends call their grandfathers?”
“Some call them Grampa, Granddad, Gramps or even Pops.”
“What do you like, Will?”
“Not sure yet, sir, can I think about it a little longer?”
“Where’d you get that red hair, Will?”
“Mom says from you.”
“You play ball, Will?”
“Yup. First base like you.”
“ Wanna see my apartment?”
“OK. It’s a pretty tall building. What floor are you on?”
“Lucky number twelve. That was my number when I used to play ball. Let’s catch the elevator.”
The elevator audibly strained past each floor, but its two occupants were silent. They emerged on twelve, turned a corner and stood before the door of 1208. “This is it, Will. Not fancy, but it’s home.”
As they entered, the boy stopped suddenly and tried to absorb what covered the walls of the apartment almost from floor to ceiling. There were hundreds of framed glossy photos of baseball players, ball parks and baseball games. He stepped closer and recognized this man who stood next to him, his grandfather, his mother’s father in many of the shots. Because his mother had helped to prepare him, he knew it was his grandfather with his manager, Hank Bauer in a couple of photos, as well as many pics of both Frank and Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell and Davy Johnson. Just above a small television was a huge team photo of the Baltimore Orioles just after they had won the World Series in 1966. Next to this was a panoramic shot of Memorial Stadium.
“What do you think, Will?”
“Wow .Mom told me about your playing days. Last year for my birthday, we went to a game at Camden Yards. I met Boog Powell and I saw your name on the wall. While we were in Baltimore, she took me to a card shop and bought me all of your major league cards.”
“Those were some of the best years in my life, Will. A few months after the World Series, I was hit by a drunk driver. Guys like Hank Bauer tried to keep me in the game. I ended up as a coach in the bush leagues, in Elmira, but the game was changing too fast and I just couldn’t keep up. Finally, I got a job selling insurance here in Rochester. It wasn’t baseball, but it was a pretty good life. At least it was until your mom moved out and your grandmother died.”
“Are you hungry? There’s some chips and M&Ms on the counter in the kitchen. Thought you might like the same stuff I do. There’s a couple cokes in the fridge too. Grab anything you want. Maybe not the beer. Your mom might not approve. I’ve got a little present I’ve been saving for you in the bedroom. Let me dig it out.”
The boy grabbed a coke and a small bag of barbecue chips and returned to the living room. “Here, Will, I’ve been saving this for you for a long, long time.”
The boy snapped open a black velvet ring box. A gold ring with a diamond set into its onyx face stared back at him. A baseball glove and a baseball embellished each of its sides. The words, “Baltimore Orioles World Champions” surrounded the stone face.
“Do you know what it is, Will?”
Will was silent for a few moments and then whispered, “Oh my God, Gramps, it’s your 1966 World Series Championship ring.”
A few tears slid down his cheeks and he turned to hug the old man. “Thank you so much.”
“Well your mom might have something to say about this. I know it’s pretty valuable. Maybe worth enough to get you started in college. Enjoy it, Will.”
“Hey Will, how about it if I put the ring back in my special hiding place for now and we head out and catch the Wings game? I try to get there a few times a week when they’re in town. I usually walk. It’s only about ten blocks. Why don’t you give your mom a call to see if she and your sister want to meet us at Big Tony’s for a pizza after the game?”
“Oops, Gramps, I forgot to tell you. Mom told me to tell you that she’s got your favorite pot roast in the oven and she’s picking us up at six. What do ya think, Gramps? Could you two patch things up?”
“Water under the bridge, Will. Bitterness is a long, sad and lonely sickness. I’m done with it. I want to meet your little sister, too.”
“My dad’s gone, Gramps, new wife and new kids.”
“I heard that, Will. We’ll be OK. I’ll give your mom a call and tell her we’ll take a cab and be there with bells on.”