I’ve been blessed to have lived a very interesting life.
My sports career has enabled me to travel extensively over the years. It has taken me to 46 states and multiple countries. In the 1980s alone, I became a million-mile flyer on American Airlines. And while flying eventually became a chore, the destinations and people that I met made it all worthwhile.
One of the benefits of travel, plus having good friends in Hollywood and pro sports, is that I’ve had the opportunity to meet many iconic people. And while most of my encounters were brief, there were a few occasion that I was able to engage in conversation. Gratefully, a few of those people remain friends of mine to this day.
Having met so many famous people, I’m seldom in awe of anyone. However, there were two occasions in which I was indeed awe-struck. Meeting baseball legend Ted Williams and the great golfer Arnold Palmer were moments in my life that were very special and unforgettable.
I first met Ted Williams as a young boy. It was at a Little League All-Star game. I even rode with Ted side-by-side in a police car en route to the baseball field. Needless to say, as a 12 year-old boy and a huge Red Sox fan, I was thrilled. However, it was later in life when I met him for business at his Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame in Hernando, Florida that I felt honored. His presence alone was greater than anyone I’ve ever met. Ted would literally take over a room with his presence.
Considered by many to be the greatest hitter who ever lived, Ted was also a war hero, as he served in both WWII and Korea, losing 4-years of his prime playing baseball.
During WWII, from late 1942-1945, he was a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, serving as a Naval Aviator. In 1952, after being promoted to Captain, he was called back into service to fight in the Korean War. In the Marine Corps, Williams earned a number of prestigious awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, three Air Medals for Aerial Flight Operations, Navy Unit Commendation, American and Asian Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and more.
Also, at last count, Ted Williams is enshrined in at least ten (that’s 10!) Halls of Fame.
Anyone who watched the 1999 MLB All-Star Game at Fenway Park in Boston will never forget the reverence shown to Ted by the All-Star players. That epic moment alone should tell you how special Ted was…even among his peers. Needless to say, I was deeply honored to have met Mr. Williams.
Meeting Arnold Palmer had special meaning to me.
Encountering Arnie was totally unexpected. I was on a business trip to the World Golf Hall of Fame located near St. Augustine, Florida. While attending an on-site function with Hall of Fame staff members, an executive stated there was someone she wanted me to meet. As we approached the person from behind, I immediately knew who it was. When Arnold turned around and shook my hand, my jaw dropped. You see, Arnold Palmer was my father’s favorite athlete. As a young boy, my Dad and I watched golf together on our little black & white TV with the sole purpose of following Arnie. Yes, my Dad and I would have been considered part of ‘Arnie’s Army’ had we attended a pro golf tournament.
As I shook Mr. Palmer’s hand and had a brief conversation, I could feel my father’s presence, who had recently passed-away. It was a moment in my life that will live with me forever.
There have been many other iconic people in the world of sports and entertainment that I’ve been fortunate to meet, but none compare to meeting the legendary Ted Williams and Arnold Palmer.
Ted and Arnie were icons among icons.