One of the perks about my job is that it sometimes puts me in a position to be able to get up close to the action. I've delivered to movie sets, backstage to concerts--(Guns N Roses once had a dozen cases of expensive bottled water flown in just for Axl Rose to drink on stage), seen an up close blasting of the Crazy Horse monument and have met some very famous (and important) people.
My most favorite memory though, is when I was a courier in St Louis way back in 1991. I was on a pick-up route in an area called Bridgeton. Every day I would get a call to go to a small office where a company called "Brockworld" was located. I thought it was weird that I had to be "buzzed" in and out of there every time. I mean, it didn't seem like anything special and the lady at the front desk was a very pleasant person who always had a smile on her face.It was a simple office with very few furnishings, except the essentials. Then came the one day that I was finally able to make sense of why the tight security was needed. I picked up an Overnight Letter from them and happened to look down to see the sender's name. In big, bold letters it said.. Lou Brock. For those of you who don't know, Lou Brock was a player for the St Louis Cardinals back in the 60's and 70's. He was the all-time stolen base leader for years (till Rickey Henderson broke it). His number is retired along with Stan Musial's. He's in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. In St. louis and in the sports world in general, he's a legend. I stared in disbelief at what was in front of me and wondered to myself if all this time I had been just a few feet away from the guy known around here as "Louuuuuuuuu".
Well, a few days passed and I got another call to go to Brockworld. I went to the door and was buzzed in as usual. But this day was to be anything but "usual". As soon as I walked inside, I saw him standing there. He was huge. I didn't know what to say. Instead, I heard a voice... "Do you have an international airbill?" I woke from the temporary trance I was in and realized that Louuuu was asking me a question. "Ummmm... yes, yes sir.. I'll be right back." He was there. I was going to meet him. I didn't know what to do actually. Being a fan for most of my life and being the kind of person who doesn't let an opprotunity pass by easily, I tried to think of how to act when I walked back into his office. Time was wasting however, and I still had a route to run so I went back in with no intentions except take whatever it was that he was shipping. As I handed the airbill to him, he said "Now, what exactly do I need to fill out on this?" I stood there and walked him through the vigorous process of filling out the international paperwork, not caring how long it took or how late it was going to be till I got to my next stop. I told him that in all the time I had been coming there, I didn't realize that this was "his" office and that I was a big admirer of him as a player. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Thank you. that's the nicest thing I've heard all day." Lou got a interesting look on his face and said, "Where are you from?" "Memphis, Tn.", I replied. "I KNEW you sounded alot like Tim Mccarver." , he said and gave me a grin. He told me that he was from Arkansas and could immediately tell the difference between a Memphis accent and an Arkansas accent.
We had a conversation that afternoon that lasted for about 10 minutes. It felt like 2 hours. It also felt like I had known him for 20 years. Like he was my next door neighbor.
In the months ahead, I got to talk to him several more times. Everything from the weather to baseball to hot pecan-pie found it's way into the conversation. He called me "Mike". I called him "Mr. Brock". Some days I wouldn't see him at all. I knew he was a busy man though, and understood if he wasn't able to come say "hello" or just wasn't there at all. It was okay.
The first thing most people want to know when I tell this story is, "Did you get his autograph?" or did I get a picture, or baseball tickets or something like that.
No. I didnt get anything like that from him. I didn't expect anything like that from him. What I did get was something much more valuable than anything you can hold in your hands. It was the chance to meet and get to know a person who I will always consider one of the most genuine and nicest people that there's ever been.
On my dresser, I've got a baseball bearing the autograph of Joe DiMaggio. It's worth about $500. In my mind, I've got memories of the conversations I had with Lou Brock. Those are priceless. Thanks, Lou... you're the best.