In my younger days I was a baseball aficionado, and one of my heroes was Hammerin’ Harmon Killebrew, a great hitter and a truly nice guy. I won’t recount his exploits here; you can read about them in the New York Times obituary: he died yesterday, at age 74, from esophageal cancer. In his memory, I ransacked my shelves and dug out the only piece of baseball memorabilia I have: a science journal autographed by Killebrew:
In 1972 I lived in New York City, working at a hospital as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. I used to take long walks through Manhattan, and would carry some journals with me to read during breaks. On this occasion I was strolling in front of the Plaza Hotel and noticed a huge bus disgorging sportsmen, who were surrounded by a pack of kids. It was the Minnesota Twins, in town to play the Yankees. I recognized Killebrew (he was a big guy) and joined the throng around him for autographs. When my turn came, I proffered the only thing I had to autograph: a copy of the March, 1972 issue of Genetics. (It must have been April then: the 1972 Twins schedule shows them in New York from April 28-April 30).
When Killebrew took the journal to sign his name, he turned it over and saw the title. He looked quizzical. I told him, “It’s a science journal, Mr. Killebrew. I’m a geneticist.” He looked at me as if I were nuts, but signed it anyway. This has to be the only copy of a scientific journal signed by a Hall of Famer!
I’m putting this today into my folder of “Letters from famous people.” (Perhaps I’ll post some of the more interesting ones anon.)