Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lennie Merullo, and me

Here's a little behind-the-scenes story from my book, Oliver's Game:

The man who posed for me as Grandpa Hall actually played for the Chicago Cubs in the 1940's. His name is Lennie Merullo, and he was the starting shortstop for the Cubs the last time they made it to the World Series, in 1945!

I originally just wanted to interview Mr. Merullo, but once he started talking, I realized he was exactly how I pictured Grandpa Hall- just the right age, and overflowing with amazing stories about his days as a big league ballplayer. So I asked if he'd pose for me, and he did.  Mostly he just kept telling stories, and I took pictures.

One of my favorite stories he told was about how he managed to accumulate an incredible collection of three game-used baseball bats that had belonged to Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Ted Williams!

Here he is, in the fake baseball card store I built in my basement:

After the book was done, I was doing a school visit in Reading, Mass. I didn't know it, but Lennie's grand-daughters were students at the school, and he decided to pay me a surprise visit. And he brought something with him- a bag with three baseball bats in it!

They weren't in any sort of protective cases, just 3 old wooden bats in a canvas bag, like he was heading to the field to hit some fungoes. He let me hold the bats, and even swing them. It was pretty surreal to know I was swinging bats that Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, and Babe Ruth actually used in games. Here are a few pictures:

Lennie Merullo, his family, and me, with Ted Williams's bat and Babe Ruth's bat
This was years ago, and looking at these pictures, I'm not completely sure which bat is which. I think this was the Ted Williams bat, since the handle is a bit thinner:

me with Ted Williams's bat
And I think this is the Babe Ruth bat. Or maybe it's the other way around. Either way, what a thrill! I bet there aren't too many bats like this out there, that you can just pick up and swing.

me with Babe Ruth's bat

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