When you are standing at a urinal in a men’s bathroom and St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson comes in next to you, that’s not something you forget.
The same is true about walking into Jerry Jeff Walker’s dressing room with your best friend following a concert and not getting kicked out.
And with the death of both men this year, it’s taken me down a couple of different rabbit holes as I remember experiences with both of them.
It’s been a heck of a year when it comes to baseball hall of famers dying. Besides Gibson, who passed away Oct. 2, Joe Morgan, Whitey Ford, Lou Brock and Tom Seaver have all died.
And less than a week after Walker’s passing Oct. 23, comes the news that singer/songwriter Billy Joe Shaver died five days later.
My brush with Gibson came in the early 90s when he was in Dyersville for one of the Upper Deck games at the Field of Dreams. He and the other ballplayers were in the Beckman High School gymnasium waiting to go out to the Field of Dreams. I was in the auditorium with some of my high school speech students listening to some of the actors who were taking part in the festivities that weekend give a seminar on the acting craft to the students.
Nature called and I left the auditorium to use the restroom. And it was there that a uniformed Bob Gibson came in next to me.
We didn’t shake hands.
He was an imposing figure in his uniform. I thought back to when I was in elementary school at St. Joseph’s in Earlville. Some of the boys had talked Sister Stephen into letting us watch the World Series game between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals instead of having math class.
A miracle occurred as only it can in a Catholic elementary school. Sister agreed to let us watch the game.
I’m pretty sure Sister Stephen never met Bob Gibson, but I bet even she wouldn’t have told him no if he had asked to watch the Series.
Jerry Jeff Walker’s death has had me playing a back catalog of albums and answering emails and texts from old friends. While I knew his health had been deteriorating, his death still came as a surprise. It actually took me a couple of days to recall my friend Randy and me meeting him after a show our freshman year at the University of Northern Iowa.
Walking around the back of the West Gym following the concert, we spied Walker through the window of an upstairs room that had become his makeshift dressing room. We found an open door into the back of the gym, walked up the steps and found his room.
We had 15 minutes or so with him. I remember asking for an autograph and whipping a piece of paper out of my billfold for him to sign. The paper was directions on how to do laundry, written by my mother before she sent her oldest child off to college.
Maybe that was the start of it for Randy and me. Even today, if we are together at a show, we often try to make post-show contact with the performers. You’d be surprised how often we have succeeded.
I never got to see Gibson pitch in person. But I always admired the toughness he portrayed on the field. And while I never really played an instrument, I always enjoyed the music of Jerry Jeff Walker.
I’ve still got that note my mom wrote to me over 40 years ago with Walker’s autograph on it. I look at it often. As much as I hate to admit it, I still need directions when it comes to doing laundry.