I was reading a Brewers weblog today, and someone had posted an article asking who was the greatest shortstop of all time. All the greats were noted -- Honus Wagner, Ernie Banks, etc. This was my response.
When I was a young pup, growing up in Appleton, I didn't get a chance to go to many Brewer games. When we did make the trek down to Milwaukee, it was a big deal and we made a big day of it. Since my parents didn't make a lot of money, the days when we could take a big trip to a Brewer game were few and far between.
One year, I want to say it was after the World Series year (1983, probably), my mom got incredible tickets from someone she worked with. First row behind the Brewers dugout. If I hadn't been 10 years old, with short legs, I could have put my feet up on the roof of the dugout. I was wearing my Robin Yount MVP t-shirt, and brought my glove for some dribbling foul balls. I had never been that close to a professional sporting event in my life. We took our seats as the players came out to warm up.
After the warmups, as the players were returning to the dugout, I stood against the back of the dugout and hollered to every player to toss me a ball. Some waved, some didn't notice me, and some probably ignored me. Robin Yount saw me, though, and tossed a soft lob up over the dugout. I couldn't believe my luck, and dove forward to catch it in my glove. The ball bounced on the roof of the dugout, and just before it rolled into my glove, an older kid who was sitting a couple seats over reached over me and grabbed it. He and his brother (or friend) cheered themselves, and I sat back in my seat. I gave my mom a look of resignation, since you can't really hold it against a kid for scrambling after a ball, but I was really disappointed.
I became aware of something going on. I looked back toward the field, and Robin was standing in front of the dugout again, pointing at the kid who got the ball.
"Give him the ball," he told the kid, and pointed to me.
It's hard to say who was more dumbfounded by this turn of events, me or the kid. Once again, Robin said, "Give him the ball." The kid handed it to me, as stunned as I that Robin Yount was talking to us.
I still have that ball today. It's not signed, and it's not under glass or anything. It's one of the baseballs I throw around when I play catch, and I never fail to remember the moment when Robin Yount stood up for a disappointed little boy, and made that little boy a lifelong Brewer fan.
Robin Yount is the best shortstop in the history of the game. I won't hear otherwise.