As I write, the Yankees just left San Francisco and Ken just landed in Boston on a red eye, leaving behind the home of the Giants, where his all-time favorite baseball player – Willie Mays – played most of his career.
“He was a great all around player,” said Ken of the center fielder. “He was exciting, he made the right plays at the right time, was a great home run hitter, a tremendous fielder, and a great base stealer and base runner.”
In Cooperstown in 2007, when we attended Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn’s inductions into the Hall of Fame, Ken and I bumped into Mr. Mays several times during the infamous weekend, once in the gift shop where we snapped this photo that caught Ken in an excited mode to meet and greet his favorite player.
The two had played against each other when Ken first arrived in the big leagues as a New York Met in 1970. In the first expansion of baseball to the west coast, the Giants moved to San Francisco in the late ’50s, as did the Dodgers. That broke the heart of Ken’s dad Joe – he never got over it.
Years later, the face-to-face interaction with Mr. Mays clearly thrilled Ken.
“If I had a ball, I would have asked him to sign it,” he said, admittedly apprehensive and a bit nervous at the time. “I asked to take a picture together but I didn’t want to be all over the guy, knowing how that feels.”
Mr. Mays said he remembered Ken as a player, and asked if he was still doing TV. “Which I thought was nice,” said Ken. “When I was a youngster, he was the man. He couldn’t do anything wrong. I remember when the Giants moved.”
Yet as a fan back then it was hard to follow the Dodgers and Giants. Communication wasn’t nearly as effective as today.
“There was no Direct TV to watch every game,” said Ken. “People back east wouldn’t find out game results until the late edition of the newspaper.”
The wonderful hubby-wife team Anthony and Adriana Taffuri who own A&A Car Service, which the YES Network uses in New York City, told me they sometimes drive Richard Gere.
Isn’t he a grand actor, that Richard Gere? Officer and a Gentleman … Pretty Woman … Nights in Rodanthe … Unfaithful … The Hoax (excellent true story book by the way – an unbelievable plot). Just a few of my favorite Richard Gere movies, but he thrives in all of them if you ask me.
In Cooperstown 2007, when Ken and I and the kids drove up for Cal Ripken Jr’s Hall of Fame induction, I tried not to get too tickled knowing Mr. Gere was “in the building” during a VIP reception we attended in the museum. Yet my Hollywood antenna rose up as I poked it around the room, bypassing the many famous ballplayers’ faces (most of whom I’ve met numerous times over the years so my enthusiasm meter has fallen) in hopes of zeroing in on one good actor.
Now where oh where is that Richard Gere? I couldn’t find him anywhere. Maybe it was a rumor. Rats.
Then Ken and I strolled into the museum’s art gallery. We stopped in front of a colorful Willie Mays oil painting – the “Say Hey Kid” is Ken’s all-time favorite player – to snap a smile of Ken next to it. No one else was in the room. A few minutes later, in walked Mr. Gere and his young son. He spotted Ken and extended a handshake, introduced himself, and relayed how he has enjoyed Ken’s work on the YES Network.
Wasn’t that friendly? Here’s a famous Hollywood movie star who probably constantly hears the same compliment himself, turning the table to compliment someone else and to indicate he’s a fan. I was so proud of hubby.
If my tongue wasn’t so twisted, I may have said something clever. I don’t actually remember what I uttered. The three of us posed together for a few photos; he introduced his son, a friend, and the friend’s son, and we merrily moved along. We never spotted Mr. Gere again over the weekend, although he had to have been at the induction ceremony I’m sure.
John Travolta and Kelly Preston were in the front row, although I didn’t spot them either, happened to see only their photo in the newspaper.
I really need to get my antenna fixed.