Today is Jose Cardenal's birthday. He might be the person who made it possible for me to check an item off my "bucket list," but, alas, he's not.
Jose played for the Cleveland Indians for only two years -- 1968 and 1969 -- and he wasn't particularly good for them, but to a young Indians fan, he might as well have been Babe Ruth. Such is the nature of hero worship.
It was September 16, 1969 and my mother took me to the ballgame at Fenway Park when the Indians came to town. Bleacher tickets back then were only $1 and we frequently watched baseball from what was widely thought to be the best deal in baseball.
At some point, possibly before the game started, an old usher stood at the bottom of the row, leaning on the giant cement wall in centerfield and motioned for me to come down to him.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a baseball -- a real Major League Baseball official baseball, which presumably had been swatted into the bleachers during batting practice.
In the third inning, with nobody on and two out, Jose Cardenal launched a Jim Lonborg pitch into the bleachers for his 10th homerun of the year, propelling the Indians to a 5-2 win, a rare occasion for the team in 1969, a season in which they lost 90 games.
At some point in the game, my mother suggested I claim that the ball in my hands was that homerun. And so I did for some years thereafter.
But it wasn't. And I've never come close to checking "catch a ball at a baseball game" off the bucket list again.