Expressway: Forgiveness from a baseball great

Circa 1945 headshot portrait of Cleveland Indians pitcher

Circa 1945 headshot portrait of Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller smiling in his uniform and cap. Photo Credit: Getty Images / New York Times Co.

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Monday's home opener for the Yankees brings back a memory.

It was about 1950 and I was 7. Baseball meant getting "sick," skipping school at St. Pius elementary school in the South Bronx, and going to Yankee Stadium.

My father, like most men, always wore his hat and I always brought my catcher's mitt.

The field was full of stunning colors I never saw at home on Willis Avenue or on our small black and white TV.

Deep into the game against the Cleveland Indians, my father heard the bullpen pop of pitchers warming up or going through their off-day routine.

We took the long walk to the concrete pits so my father could watch the battery boys up close.

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It was there I saw Bob Feller.

He was high kicking and his pitches sizzled past us, creating a puff of dust from the catcher's mitt.

Then it happened.

My father asked me to say things.

I didn't want to, but he urged me with a look of disappointment if I didn't.

Sign up for The Point and go inside New York politics.

I was disappointed in him, but I did as told.

My father would put the words into my ear and I was to yell them.

I didn't know what I was shouting, but I knew the things were not good by the look on Bob Feller's face.

"Hey, what happened with the White Sox?" I yelled.

A few of the players were smirking, but not Bob Feller.

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He seemed to start throwing the ball harder.

My father fed me more lines.

"Hey Bob, what about those two World Series games you lost!"

He took off his glove, tucked it under his arm, looked at me as he walked my way.

I was scared.

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He stopped right below me and asked, "Hey kid, did you come to see the game?"

Nervously, I said, "Yes."

He growled, "Then go watch it!"

Frightened, I leaned back, and the mitt slipped from my hand. It fell into the pit where I'd never see it again!

Bob Feller looked down at my mitt, stepped over it, and walked back to the mound.

The catcher walked over and picked it up. I was sure he was going to present it to Bob Feller like a trophy.

Instead, he looked up and tossed the mitt to me.

Jolted, but relieved, we went back to the game.

The day always bothered me.

A newspaper article in the late 1990s said that Bob Feller was still healthy at 91 and spent much of his time at his baseball museum in Van Meter, Iowa.

He was still alive, and I had an address. My father was long gone, but my discomfort resurfaced.

I told no one of the apology letter I wrote and mailed to the museum, hoping that it would get into his hands.

Even if it didn't, I felt better sending it.

Months later, while I was watching a Yankees game at home one night, the phone rang.

"Hello. Can I speak to Bruce Stasiuk?"

"I'm Bruce."

"This is Bob Feller. I'm glad you got your catcher's mitt back.

"I received your letter and I accept your apology."

Reader Bruce Stasiuk lives in Setauket.

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