Last week, I was dusting off relics from my son’s childhood, some autographed baseballs of famous and near-famous players.
I noticed that three of the balls were autographed by Ken Griffey Jr., Dave Parker, and Ron Oester, who coincidentally were inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.
It was perfect that all three went in together because of their shared past as natives of Cincinnati.
I never got to see Oester play while he attended Withrow High School, but I did see Parker play once while I was in high school and he played for the old Courter Tech.
Later, as an intrepid sports reporter for The Record, I got to witness the magic of Junior Griffey as he laced a triple for Moeller against the Harrison Wildcats in a game played at Western Hills High School.
I did not attend any of the hall of fame ceremonies over the weekend, but it was fun to watch on TV, particularly following Friday night’s game when a couple dozen former Reds were introduced and brought onto the field.
I especially was excited to see pitchers Jim Maloney, Jim O’Toole, and Gary Nolan. Nolan wasn’t much older than me when he made his debut for the Reds in 1967.
I also enjoyed seeing three great centerfielders - Cesar Geronimo, Eric Davis, and Griffey Jr. - standing side-by-side.
If only Vada Pinson could have been there, too, what a foursome that would have made.
Time to display them
Now that I’ve converted an old bedroom into an office, I felt it was time to get out my autographed baseballs and work on a proper way to display them.
I have several members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in my collection, including Reds Johnny Bench and Barry Larkin.
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on baseballs signed by hall-of- famers Wade Boggs, Mike Schmidt, and Gary Carter.
When Griffey joins them in Cooperstown, that will bring my total to six, although, without apology, my Pete Rose autographed ball sits right alongside them.
My favorite is the only autographed ball I ever purchased: one signed by the great Roger Maris.
Maris is not in the Hall of Fame and likely never will get there, but his great performance alongside Mickey Mantle in 1961, documented by the wonderful film 61, despite public opinion being against him, is one of the great baseball stories of all time.
Mementos like mine are wonderful because they trigger great memories. For me it’s baseball, but it doesn’t have to be baseball for everyone.
Today’s generation feels much stronger about football and, to a lesser extent, basketball.
For most Baby Boomers, though, it was baseball. The NFL and the NBA weren’t nearly as important in the 1950s and 1960s as they are today.
Baseball was the National Pastime. It’s a bit of a hollow title today, which is fine, but as long as I have my memories and the opportunity to preserve them, it always will be tops for me.
Bob Hyle covers sports and writes a weekly column for The Harrison Press. He lives in Bright.