The great Don Newcombe

So there’s a card shop nearby that I frequent, and each summer the guys down there bring in a couple big names for meet-and-greets. ... To go there and meet some of them has become one of my favorite parts of the last few summers. It’s quite a thrill, and today I got to meet Don Newcombe.

Don Newcombe, the star righty for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The 1956 MVP and Cy Young winner. A 6-foot, 4-inch, 225-pound fireballer, he is the only player in history to have won the Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards … In 1949, he became the first black pitcher to start a World Series game, and in 1951 he became the first black pitcher to win 20 games.

The guy was Jackie Robinson’s teammate. He played in Ebbets Field … He’d be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame had alcohol problems not derailed his career.

When Newcombe arrived around 10 a.m., I thought there were surprisingly few people there -- maybe 40 -- for such a player. But maybe that’s just me. After, all he was only scheduled to be there for an hour …

But there were quite a few kids, and as he entered the store, he strode down the line and eagerly shook each of our hands, looking everyone of us in the eyes. Wearing white pants, a collared striped shirt and white sun hat, he looked as though he’d come straight from L.A.

I didn’t converse with him. I didn’t know what to say. I usually don’t at these things. I just shake the men’s hands, get my autographs and repeat my thank-yous, enamored with their greatness.

One boy was particularly enjoyable to watch as we passed through the line. As he shook hands with Newcombe, the boy was so breathless and looked almost as though he was about to cry. He gripped Newcombe’s hand for what seemed like several minutes …

“How old are you?” Newcombe asked.

“Nine,” the boy said.

“You a pitcher?” Newcombe asked.

The boy nodded. “He’s one of our best,” the proud dad said, standing behind him and putting his hands on the boy’s shoulders.

“Use your legs,” Newcombe told the boy sternly. “Run. No weight-lifting. It’s all in your legs. You go running. Your legs will take you anywhere you want.”

I thought that was pretty cool.

1 comment:

Matt and Lynne said...

Holy cow! That's awesome. I should have bought my 1957 Topps for him to sign.
Cool story.