Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A legendary ball-player and a memorable song

I had worked late and decided to stop for a drink on my way home. I went to my usual hang-out. I sat on the last stool on the short end of the L-shaped bar. I was facing the door from there.

I knew most of the people coming and going. Some stopped and chatted for a few minutes. Others waved as they made their way to a table where they were meeting friends. I was tired. I didn't feel like talking and was happy to keep the encounters short and simple.

One of the people who came in that night was Billy Daley. He was a star baseball player in our baseball-mad town, an outfielder and slugger with our beloved Chatham Ironmen.

(This photo was taken by my friend, Edward O'Reilly.)

I had been watching Billy play ball since we were both young kids — back as far as bantam, through midget and then — skipping juvenile and junior — straight to the Ironmen of the senior league. His throwing arm was legendary but it was at the plate where he excelled. He hit for both power and average and is still remembered for his 58-game hitting streak — two games longer than Joe DiMaggio's streak. He was dependable; when he came to bat, you could almost feel the fans breathe a sigh of relief.

Billy and I knew each other the way you do when you grow up in the same town. We didn't go to the same school, we didn't hang around with the same people — he was a little younger than I — but we were Chatham-ites and we knew each other.

When he came into the bar that night, he smiled and waved as he passed me by. Of course, he knew — and was known by — pretty much everyone there and he made the rounds of the tables, stopping and chatting, occasionally sitting down and joining various conversations.

It got late and I was just about to gather my things and leave when Billy came over and sat on the stool next to me. We chatted easily about nothing; we flirted a bit and enjoyed a few laughs. He ordered another beer and ordered a glass of wine for me.

At a certain point, he swivelled our two bar stools so we were facing each other. He held my two hands, looked into my eyes, and began to sing quietly. He sang Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys. He sang the whole song, from beginning to end, every word. When he had finished, he laughed a little, leaned over and kissed my cheek, and then left.

It was a sweet moment — quite an intimate moment although we were neither friends nor lovers. We were just two people who knew each other because we grew up in the same town.

But it's a sweet memory also and when you have a sweet memory, you should just hold on to it, enjoy it, and not try to explain it. That's what I'm going to do.

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