The great former Yankee Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey died in ‘93 at age 86. I had the opportunity to meet Bill in Cooperstown in 1986. The ‘85 World Champion Royals, of which I was a member, were in Cooperstown as part of the annual HOF festivities. I met Bill in the dugout before the exhibition game that we were to play against the San Diego Padres.
The meeting was one I’ll never forget. I was a 13-year MLB veteran at the time when the friendship started that day inside the structure made of benches and blocks. We talked baseball past and present.
Ponder this! Can you imagine talking to a former catching great who played 19 years, was a 11-time All-Star, 14-time World Champion and played with the likes of Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx, and Hank Greenberg and more. I was in awe of the history. We hit it off right away while exchanging phone numbers for later discussions.
Bill was curious about the modern day players such as Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and so on, as much as I was curious about former players he had played with and against.
For the next 7 years until his death, I looked forward to the telephone calls as we discussed strategy on how to get hitters out. Can’t tell you how awesome this was. Wish I had recorded the calls! Made me a better catcher!
One day I got a call from his wife who conveyed that Bill had died! I was so disappointed in hearing he had pasted. A friend was now no longer available to share in great fellowship.
Then his wife asked me something that took me by surprise. “Jim, she said”, “Bill enjoyed those conversations with you so much and it met a great deal to him. Would you come into Little Rick and be a pall bearer for his funeral”. Without hesitation I said “yes”.
You may have heard the phrase, friends are for a reason, a season and a lifetime. Bill had been a friend for only a season but the richness of that friendship was priceless.
What caught me by surprise at the funeral was how few baseball people attended the service. One representative from the Yankees, one from Cooperstown and just two current players including mys
I was first struck by the fact of the lack of former players and teammates. Upon further reflection, I realized that Bill’s age was a factor and that some were already gone or unable to travel. But there was something else. I can’t personally recall that many former teammates of mine that I was actually close to. If fact, there are not that many people Ive worked with over the years that fit the bill. Most close relationships were from outside work and baseball, I can count close former teammates and working relationships on two hands.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve appreciated deeper friendship and fellowship on what matters most in life. It’s hard to find real friends but they are out there and the list is growing as I invest in people while directing the attention off myself.
Join me and invest in really what matters most, real friendships, friendships that can last for eternity.