I grew up in La Jolla atop Mt Soledad. Jerry lived a few blocks away. We knew where and we always made a point to go by his house on Halloween though we never asked for autographs or anything. It’s widely known that Jerry walked his German Shepherds every single day. His route took him right by my house where he would turn right from one street to another. The intersection was a “T” and my house was at the top of the “T.”
From probably age 5 till age 14 I used to pitch against my garage door, sometimes for 1-2 hours after school, almost every day. I used the handle as the center of my strike zone. In the summer before it got dark I would be out there with the Padres on the radio in the evening or during the day on the weekend. I would see Jerry walk by a lot, mostly in the off season obviously. He walked as you would imagine a former Marine would walk. Steady, quick pace and always looking at the ground about 25 feet in front of him. He never stopped nor did I expect him to. Until one day when I was about 10 or 11 he stopped and said, “You know I see you out here all the time. You’ve got a nice lefty delivery. You’re not throwing curve balls are you?” “Umm, yes sir, I am.” “STOP! You’re gonna mess up your arm. All you need is a good fastball at your age. Just work on getting it to go where you want it to go. You have plenty of time to learn a curve ball later.” “Ok, thanks.” And with that Jerry walked away, never stopped by again. Ok, thanks was all I could muster. I doubt 20 years later I’d have been able to say anything else.
Flash forward 25 years later, my father passed away last summer. My mother just sold the house last month. It’s not an exaggeration to say that for the first 18 years of my life my father’s and Jerry’s voices were the two men I heard most. That moment will always be an enduring memory of a brief encounter with one of my childhood idols.
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