Excerpt: 'The Best Seat in the House'

I sent cards to Aaron twice; one was his 1969 Topps card, the other the All-Time Home Run Leaders card, which came out at the beginning of the 1973 season. Babe Ruth still was first on this card with his 714 homers. Aaron was second with 673 and Willie Mays third with 654. I had this card, which Aaron signed in blue ballpoint, stashed in my bedroom desk the night in 1974 that he broke Ruth's home-run record. His historic 715th home run in Atlanta was caught on the fly in the bullpen beyond the outfield fence by a Braves relief pitcher named Tom House. I also had House's autograph on several baseballs and programs in my room. Before he went up to the major leagues, he played for the minor-league Richmond Braves and came to Toledo to play the Mud Hens on several occasions. I kept my baseball cards in a shoe box -- except for the autographed ones, which I stored in that desk drawer. Much of the rest of the sports memorabilia I was collecting -- pictures, programs, ticket stubs -- went into scrapbooks. I spent rainy summer days cutting out articles and pictures from my Sports Illustrated magazines and glueing them in. I had asked Mom and Dad for a subscription to SI for my tenth birthday; the magazine started coming that spring. Years later, several sportswriter friends and I were discussing one of our rites of passage: What was on the cover of your first SI? For me, it was Don Drysdale and his consecutive scoreless innings streak. I still remember the line of 0's across the top of the magazine, nine innings' worth, a testament to Drysdale's perfection. My first scrapbook was devoted almost entirely to those SI clippings and souvenirs, page after page of Cubs and White Sox and Tigers memorabilia. But in their midst, on one page by itself, I glued a colorful brochure for the forklift truck business Dad started, the Brennan Industrial Truck Company. The brochure featured a photo of Dad smiling at his desk and another of him and four coworkers posing at the wheel of forklift trucks, Dad in a business suit. Page after page of my sports heroes -- and then there was my Dad.

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