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Thanks? I hardly know where to begin. Perhaps I should confine myself to work-related blessings.
On a summer Saturday a little over twenty years ago, I drove to the campus of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts to meet with a baseball scout named Lennie Merullo, who was holding a Major League Baseball tryout camp. I'd gotten about halfway to Worcester when it started to rain hard enough to jeopardize the event. I thought about turning around, but I didn't.
When I got to the ball field, Lennie had told the hopefuls to go home. It was too wet for them to show the scouts their stuff. But Lennie himself was still there. Maybe he just liked being at the ball field, even in the rain. We sat in a shed watched the puddles around home plate grow. He told me baseball stories. At some point between stories it occurred to me that a baseball scout would be a terrific narrator for a novel, because whenever I couldn't figure out what to do next, I could have that narrator tell a baseball story.
A few years later, the novel came out. I'm glad I didn't turn around that day.
About ten years ago, a book of writing about boxing came in the mail. I'm no boxing fan, but the editor was W.C. Heinz. I called the publisher and learned that Mr. Heinz, the man credited by many with legitimizing the act of writing about sports, the man whose first novel, The Professional, Ernest Hemmingway had praised effusively, the man who wrote MASH, was living in Vermont. I called him. I visited him. For years we exchanged letters. I visited him some more. He is not only a gentleman and a scholar, but a great and generous soul. And, boy, did he have some stories.
I'm thankful I didn't toss that book into the reject pile because it was about boxing.
Just about fifteen years ago, I sat with several other people in an office at the radio station where I'd been writing and recording commentaries since 1984...a gratifying part-time job. The subject of our conversation was the possibility of developing a sports program suitable for National Public Radio. We decided it might be fun to try it.
I'm thankful nobody interrupted the fragile optimism of that meeting by pointing out that we might fall on our faces. Once expressed, that sentiment might have carried the day.
Thanks, then, for all that. And thank you for listening.
This program aired on November 24, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.
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