Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Tale of Two Fans

Two guys with different points of view. Both have the same goal, success and prosperity for those they care about. They believe you make your own luck through hard work and perseverance, and try your best to succeed. They have different approaches, but believe in the end that you are judged by your performance. But we're not talking about Obama and Romney; we're talking about Howie and Jim.

Howie was born and raised on Long Island. When he was a kid he would visit his grandmother in Queens. From her window you could see the rockets at the Hall of Science in Flushing, and even the skyline of New York City before the neighborhood got too built up. Jim, on the other hand, lives in Sheepshead Bay. He grew up there, and still lives within six blocks of where he was born. Save the four years when he went away to school or when he is on out of town on a job, most nights the pillow where he rests his head is in Brooklyn.

On the surface, we have two New York guys, through and through. But there's a fundamental difference: Howie is a Mets fan, and Jim is a Yankees fan. And that's where our story begins.

They first met in 1988. Howie remembers because, "it was the year the Mets lost to the Dodgers in the playoffs, and it still hurts." (A Met fan remembers things like that.) They worked in the same area, had some of the same clients, and talked about the game constantly. As Jim says, "It's always Howie with baseball." But unlike some tormentors, Jim never lorded his team over Howie. "He's an honest Yankee fan," says Howie. "There were guys that I had to unplug my phone over. Jim said when they did right, but he said when they did wrong."

Fast forward this running discussion 24 years. Jim is home cleaning out a drawer with some memorabilia in it. He finds some old tickets and photos. Then on the bottom, as he moves a pile of stuff, he spies something that is practically sacrilege among his Bomber totems: a Mets 1967 yearbook. ("Seaver's rookie year," Howie told me). Jim couldn't remember where it came from; maybe he went to a game with some buddies and picked it up. But he does know someone who would appreciate it. And so he brings it to work one day and gives it to Howie.

Howie is touched that Jim thought of him. As they examine the book (Howie: "It was like looking at the latest Playboy... Ed Kranepool, Gil Hodges"), they noted a scribble on the front. Howie calls Jim's attention to it, but he has no idea how it got there: "Have fun, from Uncle Ted," it reads. Jim shrugs his shoulders; he doesn't have an Uncle Ted. Howie looks closely; it looks familiar. A lightbulb pops up and he does a quick search. Could the signature be that of the great Ted Wiliams?

(If you're not into baseball, think of it this way: Bill Clinton opens a drawer one day and finds a Mars Colonization plan. It's not his speed, but he knows someone who would appreciate it. So he gives it to Newt Gingrich, who loves it and notes that it is signed by Werner Von Braun. Something like that. Other than the fact that Howie and Jim bear no resemblance to Clinton and Gingrich, it's the same thing. Anyways, back to our story.)

Howie has some contacts in the baseball world, so he takes a photo and sends it around. Alas, early indications aren't good. While the signature looks a little like that of the Splendid Splinter, it's not really a match, and there is no record of Williams ever having signed things "Uncle Ted." Still, it's the gesture of giving the book to Howie that counts. And if Jim and Howie can make peace and be nice to each other, even with their diametrically opposed world views, can't we all just get along?

As of this writing, the signature remains a mystery. Maybe it will suddenly dawn on Jim where he got it, and who Uncle Ted was. As for Howie, he remains touched by Jim's kindness. And he still thinks there's a chance it is from Williams. He's working on it. After all, when all is said and done, Howie is a Mets fan. And for him and his kind, hope springs eternal.


Marc Wollin of Bedford is not a fan of any team. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at

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