We posted a reader’s memories of meeting Joe DiMaggio as a teenager, and asked you for some of your favorite memories of meeting your heroes. Several of you responded with some very personal stories. Here are two of the more interesting ones:
By Jay E. Hynds
It started in a place long ago and far away: Mason City, Iowa.
In the early 1800s a small boy of six attempted to get off the city trolley before it had come to a complete stop. He slipped, and the wheels ran over his left leg, neatly severing it just above the knee. For a while it was nip and tuck. The little boy almost died.
Fortunately for the boy, and eventually yours truly, the little boy lived. But he spent the rest of his life with but one leg. The other was made of wood. And the accident not only affected the boy’s life in a myriad of ways, but the lives of others as well.
The little boy was named William Ransom Hynds. He was the son of a well-to-do dentist. He had two brothers and a sister. Despite the loss of his leg, he adapted successfully, did well in school, and because he was a handsome rascal with a gift of gab, did rather well with the ladies. In time he was accepted into the University of Iowa. He intended to become a doctor.
But one drunken escapade changed his whole life. And, I guess, mine too. In his junior year he found himself without sufficient funds to get home for Christmas. He left a fraternity party, more than a little under the influence, spotted a taxi cab sans driver, but with the keys in the ignition, jumped in and drove off, intending to use the cab as a ticket home. He was arrested shortly thereafter. Charges were never filed, but he was unceremoniously booted out of school, his medical career over before it began.
William returned to Mason City in disgrace. He found a job in the local cement factory. He hated the job. He found a pretty young woman from Colorado named Mary Ellen Newcom. He loved her. In time they married and had a son. They named him Jay Edson Hynds III. Not long after, Bill, hoping to find a better life for his family took his wife and small son to California. But that is a story for another time.
Jump ahead to 1944. The war was raging on all fronts. Bombs were falling on Germany, the Japanese were being pushed back in the Pacific, and the Russians were our allies. Everyone wanted to do their part. My Dad, however, was 4F because of his childhood injury. He couldn’t get into the service. So, he became a volunteer with the USO. And the USO decided that, with his way with words and engaging personality, he could be an excellent Master of Ceremonies for the many bond drives and shows being put on to support our valiant troops.
And that’s the way he met Joe DiMaggio. For Joe, the legendary center fielder for the New York Yankees, had joined the Army Air Corps. He was stationed at the Santa Ana Army Air Corps Base in my hometown. And the Army, in their infinite wisdom, had decided that the best way to use Joe DiMaggio was as a speaker at bond rallies. This despite the fact that the man was inherently shy and not particularly eloquent. So who do you suppose introduced Joe at all these shows? Right! The little boy who fell off the trolley car so many years ago. And they became friendly, if not actually friends.
One evening my father was telling my mother that he felt sorry for DiMaggio — if you can imagine that. He thought he was lonely, and that he despised the way the Army was using him. So my Mom said, “Bill, why don’t you invite the man over for a home cooked meal? He’d probably enjoy it.” My dad asked DiMaggio, and he accepted.
Thus, on a Sunday afternoon in late October, a car pulled up in front of the Hynds household and Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio got out, much to the delight of the neighborhood kids, all of whom I had dutifully alerted. Joe joined Mr. and Mrs. Hynds, Jay and sister Sue for a turkey dinner with all the goodies. He gave my mother a box of candy. He gave me an autographed baseball. I’m sure he had something for dad and Sue, but I can’t remember what.
My recollection is that Joe really did enjoy the meal. He lingered a long time, despite my unabashed staring and obvious hero worship. He told us lots of stories about the Yankees, and about his plans for the future. He must have hated leaving the comfort of our house to return to the barracks and dusty streets of the new base.
As you might guess, it was a day to remember, and it made me a neighborhood hero as I basked in the reflected glory of the storied centerfielder. I never tire of telling the tale, or for that matter of displaying the ball.
DiMaggio was transferred not long after that momentous afternoon, and I never saw him in person again. He did write to my dad a couple of times. I faithfully followed his career until the day he died. I imagine he had long forgotten that Sunday afternoon meal in Santa Ana, Calif., but I never will.
Jay E. Hynds, 84, is a retired Probation Officer who now lives in Bellingham with his wife Hazel. He has the baseball autographed by Joe DiMaggio displayed in his home office.
By Kevin Penrod
I had the great pleasure of meeting Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio and never quite realized it at the time until many years later.
My parents took us on vacation from our home in Colfax to San Francisco in the Summer of 1968. After a trip to visit the San Francisco Mint and to Haight Ashbury we went to Joe DiMaggio’s restaurant.
While waiting for a table a gentleman came out to greet people. I remember my parents, especially my mother, being quite excited that this silver-haired, extraordinarily well-dressed gentleman was greeting us. He shook hands with my Mom and Dad and my father introduced me to him. The tall man shook my hand but I didn’t quite put two and two together.
This old guy simply couldn’t be the younger man I had seen in film, hitting for the Yankees. I was at a pre-Internet age when I still regarded film as the record of the day. I simply couldn’t bend my brain around the fact that this was the same man.
Some years later and a family move from Colfax to Lewiston, Idaho, the Lewiston Country Club was hosting a special pairing of baseball great Mickey Mantle playing a round of golf with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback John Brodie.
Brodie was a very good golfer who played competitively. My father bought a ticket for me, and along with 40 or so others, I followed Mantle and Brodie around for 18 holes of golf. The Mick was a personal hero of mine and I stayed with him. As the day wore on, Mickey got drunker and drunker and began to spray his shots all over the course, hooking on one shot, pushing it far to the right on another.
On No. 16 he pushed his approach shot so far right it sailed into the adjacent fairway. Mickey Mantle uttered a profanity, dropped another ball and hit again.
So I’ve met both DiMaggio and Mantle and have my own personal memories of each. And though they didn’t turn out to be exactly what I expected, neither in any way diminished how I felt about these greats of the game.
Kevin Penrod grew up in the Pacific Northwest and now lives in Omaha, Neb.
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