“In 1986, Willie Mays returned to the San Francisco Giants organization, where he would serve as special assistant to the president of the club.”
San Francisco Giants Training Camp
Scottsdale, AZ 1986
About ready to pop with my second baby, this one also promising to be well over 8 pounds at birth, I was running around as if oblivious to that fact.
Born and raised a San Francisco Giants fan I wasn’t going to let a little thing like the possibility of going into labor stop me from attending my first SF Giants Spring Training Camp.
This year’s team included some of the most notable players of all time.
http://wp.me/p1ljRh-8R See the 1986 Roster
It was a glorious day and I was in heaven. I was being led around by one of my all time favorite Giants, Vida Blue. Vida appeared to be just as excited to be there as I was as he dragged me by the hand until he finally jimmied me into a position behind the plate where I could photograph him while he was throwing. It had been years since I had seen Vida but he always remembered me and never failed to make me feel special.
I remember feeling frustrated as another player kept blocking my view of Vida and it seemed no matter how I positioned myself all I could see was this other pitcher.
This offending pitcher turned out to be non other than Atlee Hammaker. Whether the fact that Atlee just could not stay out of the way that day is the cause or not I simply never liked Atlee.
When Vida could no longer keep my attention I began wandering around looking for other wonderful sights. I was in the middle of a pathway trying to decide where to head next when I found myself looking into the face of Willie Mays who was standing inches away from me. Willie was in full SF Giants uniform and I stared dumbfounded at him not sure if he was real or some dream image.
I don’t remember speaking but I must have said something, at least I hope I did because Willie spoke to me “Hi” I believe his exact words were.
Next Mr. Mays gave me his autograph and eventually pried himself loose from me. Just kidding I am certain that I didn’t actually have a grip on him and I do remember somehow resisting the urge to hug him. Either way eventually I had to let him go about his business.
I was marveling over this once in a lifetime event and congratulating myself on my uncanny luck when I sighted another familiar face. Walking in my direction was non other than Gary Radnich. I was thrilled for I watched his late night sports show religiously.
Certain that I looked the fool but not really concerned about it I waved and shouted “hey, I know you!!”. I hope I wasn’t actually hopping up and down but for some reason I can picture myself doing exactly that. “You’re Gary Radnich, I watch your sports show.”
I will never forget Gary Radnich turning to where his companion stood and shouting “hey, come here, this girl KNOWS ME! She watches my show!” as he held my arm like as it I was going to run away. His excitement over meeting me was real and his enthusiasm endearing.
To this day I am still amazed to think that Uncle Gary was virtually unknown and was most likely for the first time meeting one of his fans. Gary’s show was one of my favorites and I was overjoyed at the opportunity to meet him however realizing that he was pretty overjoyed to meet me me too was pretty cool.
Even though I hold the utmost respect for this man I have a difficult time calling him “Mr. Radnich” but “Uncle Gary” this I can do. So, Uncle Gary and I were chatting it up, I was babbling and bubbling over my meeting with Willie Mays when Gary told me that he was going to be doing a “private” interview with Willie later on that day. He asked me if I would like to attend the interview and proceeded to hand write me an invitation. This moment still seems like an out of body experience to me especially now with all the fame Gary has earned. I am still blown away by him and the fact that he saw my joy over meeting Willie and wished to add to that for me. Unfortunately my husband at the time who I so fondly refer to as “the devil” told me attending the interview was “out of the question”. I guess I must have been more obedient back then because a few years later that wouldn’t have stopped me.
I wasn’t aware until later on that the reason I met Willie Mays in full uniform was because that day was being celebrated as “WILLIE MAYS DAY”. I clipped the article about it and gave it to my oldest son along with the autograph. I hope he still has it, but I really don’t know.
Also news to me at the time was that this was first spring training for Gary Radnich. I just learned tonight that Willie Mays failed to wake up from his pre-interview nap that spring day and himself missed the interview he had scheduled with Gary.
SAY HEY: MAYS, RADNICH AND THE LINOLEUM SALESMAN
I have had a huge warm place in my heart for Gary Radnich from that day forward and have longed for the opportunity to laugh with Uncle Gary himself about that day. Always wanting to tell him “I knew you when”.
I have often defended Gary from comments that he is no longer a “true sports reporter” standing up to those who would say that he is “nothing more than a glorified gossip columnist”. Well, those people can say what they want, I will never forget how gracious Uncle Gary was to me that day in 1986 and I refuse to believe that he has changed. I don’t think even now that Gary views himself as a celebrity even though it is obvious that he is and I don’t believe he feels he is any better than anyone else. But I could be wrong.