I'm in sixth grade in Atlanta, Georgia, when my hero, Babe Ruth, comes to town. It's 1932. On their way back to New York from spring training in Florida, the New York Yankees will play an exhibition game with the Atlanta Crackers. Each school gets one free pass to the game. Lucky me - I win my school's.
When the big day arrives, my mother gives me a dime for the streetcar fare to Ponce de Leon Park and back. I run to the trolley stop.
When I finally get to the ball field, Babe Ruth is sitting a few rows up in the stands, signing autographs, with kids hanging all over him. I go through the gate, find a scrap of paper, and run over. My heart races, as I breathlessly thrust the paper in front of "The Homerun King" to get his signature.
Then Babe Ruth says, "Well, guys, I'm going to have to play a ballgame in a few minutes, so you'd better get going." Everybody scampers away so they can get front row seats, but Babe Ruth reaches out and grabs me by the back of my belt.
"Whoa, fella," he says. "Wait just a minute. Can you tell me where the concession stand is?"
I turn and look straight at the big man with the spindly legs. "Yes sir, it's right over there."
He smiles. "Well, if I give you the money, will you run over there and buy me a couple of hot dogs and a coke?"
"Yes, sir." I say. "I'd be happy to."
He turns to the reporter who travels with the team. "How about lending me a couple of bucks, pal? Thanks.
The reporter hands him two dollars, which Babe Ruth gives to me. "Two hot dogs and a coke please. Hurry if you can, kid. I've got a ballgame to play."
"Yes, sir." I run as fast as I can to the concession stand, get his food, and hurry back.
I start to give Babe Ruth his change, but he says, "You keep it, kid."
"But it's a whole dollar seventy-five! It only cost a quarter for everything."
"That's okay, kid. Keep the change."
"Thank you!" I turn to leave.
"Not so fast, kid. You're in too big of a hurry. What's your name?"
"Harry, sir. Harry Melvin."
"Well, Harry, sit down `til I finish eating, and we'll play a little ball."
Before long, I'm sitting on Babe Ruth's shoulders as he runs to first base. I get to meet and see, close-up, some of the other players from the famous "Murderer's Row" - Lou Gehrig (first baseman), "Lefty" Gomez (pitcher), and Tony Lazzari (shortstop). There's also the catcher, Bill Dickey.
As the Atlanta Crackers take the field, I decide to find a seat, so I head toward the stands. Babe Ruth stops me. "Harry, hang on a minute. Come over here."
"Harry, do you have a bat?"
"Well, go over there and get yourself one of mine." He points to a row of bats. My eyes grow as big as golf balls.
I stand there, just staring.
"Go ahead," he says. "Take any one you want."
So I look at all of them and choose one.
"Gee, thanks a lot, Mr. Ruth. Thanks!"
I grin at him and turn to leave.
Babe Ruth snatches me back by my belt. "Whoa there, Harry. You're in too big of a hurry. Let's let the whole team autograph your bat."
When I finally sit down in the bleachers, I've got Babe Ruth's autograph, his bat, signed by the whole team, and lots of money in my pocket.
After watching the first couple of innings, I leave the ballgame and head to McCrory's, where I spend all my money. When I arrive home, I have a grocery bag full of treats.
My friends and I eat candy and play ball the rest of the day. Our "ball" is gravel wrapped in black tire tape. Our "bat" has always been a broom handle, but today we're stepping into the street with a real bat.
My autographed bat was eventually destroyed, but we sure had a lot of fun with it. Somebody told me that today, it'd be worth $4 million. I told my wife that if she ever wakes up in the middle of the night and catches a grown man crying, she'll know why.