“Come into my store. I have a free gift for you,” said 85-year-old Jerry Glenn of Reminisce at the Promenade in Hilton Head, GA. He was shorter than I was, broadly built and slightly bent over. He had a kind face and a friendliness in his voice impossible to resist.
“A free gift? There is no such thing as free,” I said.
“Today there is. Today is opening day of baseball season. How exciting is that!” he exclaimed.
Topps Baseball Card Success!
So Kathy and I followed the fellow into his shop as he shuffled ahead of us. He told me he knows more about the game of baseball than just about anyone alive. Big claim, I thought. But over the next hour or so, he proved it.
“Here is your gift,” he said. He reached up to a low shelf and handed me a pack of Opening Day Topps baseball cards. He turned and talked to Kathy, and I quickly opened the pack of cards. At that moment I became a kid again. I was excited to see who I got. As I sorted through each one, I was really excited I got a Troy Tulowitzki of the Blue Jays. Success!
He then asked me, “Do you love baseball?”
“Yes! But not nearly as much as my son, Nick. He is crazy about it.”
He said, “I give lectures at the nearby college on baseball. This coming week I’ll be speaking about pre-WWII and post-WWII baseball in America. I’m even paying a company $450 to tape it. I’m hoping the talk will be shown as a documentary on TV sometime.”
“I want an audio copy of your talk,” I said.
“I’m not sure how to get it to you. I’m sure I’ll have it on a CD,” he said.
“What about uploading it to the cloud so I can download it?” I asked.
“I don’t know anything about that. Come over here. I have something on this shelf you’ll be really interested in. Did you ever hear of the artist Perez?”
“No,” I said.
“Do You Like Photos?”
“He captured every Hall of Famer on canvas. He is a master at capturing the soul of a player. A hardcover book was created of all his portraits. Come here. I’ll show you.”
I dutifully followed him. He told me he knows the artist personally and had him do a soft cover version of the $150 hard-bound book. The artist did it just for him. “Look at this book. It is over twelve pounds!”
He opened the book in front of us and started paging through. As he did so, he read off the names of the players and made comments on each portrait.
He came to Harmon Killebrew and said emotionally, “I knew Harmon. He was one of the nicest men I ever met in my life.”
“This is an incredible picture book of the history of the greatest in baseball,” I said.
“Do you like photos?” he asks.
The Best Baseball Team Ever
He immediately took me over to an oversized leather case which contained and protected large photo prints. As he was paging through it, I stopped him at a photo of Mickey Mantle just after he completed his home run swing. He had his eye closed and a grimace which captured the intensity of the swing.
“Look at this photo. This is the 1927 Yankees. The best team ever in the history of the game of baseball. Here is Babe Ruth. There is Lou Gehrig, Mark Koenig, Bob Meusel, George Pipgras, and Dutch Ruether. Amazing, isn’t it?” he exclaimed.
While I was looking at the photograph, he pulled out two framed photos. One had the team photo with engraved plaques naming all the players, and the other was Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig standing at the top of the Yankee’s dugout. “Isn’t this amazing!” he said.
I didn’t say a word, and he told me, “These two framed photos are close to $400. I’ll give him to you for $300 and throw in the Mickey Mantle photo for free.”
How Could I Say No?
I couldn’t say no. I finally had to shut him down. I knew it was just a matter of time before I owned one of everything in the store.
He said, “You know what I did in my first life? I was the national sales manager for Nabisco.”
“I bet in that role you visited every baseball park in America multiple times,” I replied.
Lifelong Passion Began in a Wink
He said, “When I was a kid, my dad took me to see the Chicago White Sox versus the Boston Red Sox game. We sat in the first row behind home plate just up the first base line.
“Ted Williams was in the on-deck circle. He was taking some practice swings while watching the pitcher. Then he turned and saw my baseball cap. He looked me in the eye and winked at me. That was the day I fell in love with baseball.”
When I meet a man or woman who is passionate about what they do, time stands still, and I want to share in what they have in abundance—passion.
Also published on Medium.