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My Turn: A paperweight’s long journey

In the almost paperless society we now live in, the need for a paperweight is going the way of the inkwell. If you worked in an office, like I did for 40 years, you probably had one of these devices to hold down the mound of paperwork you accumulated during your workday from being blown off your desk. The odds of a gust of wind were low, but hell, you never know!

Any object weighing 1⁄4 pound or more would do. Many of my coworkers used some pretty ingenious objects; globes, desktop cigarette lighters (at least up until the ’80s), those cheesy eight balls that told your fortune, etc. Mine was, and still is, a baseball. But not just any baseball. This ball was caught by yours truly on the night of June 14, 1972, at the now-demolished Shea Stadium. A foul ball hit by Atlanta Braves second baseman Felix Millan against the New York Mets. How do I remember this, you ask? If you are a baseball fan and are lucky enough to catch one, you never forget who hit it and when. There are approximately 30-40 home runs or foul balls hit into the stands during a game. With thousands of fans in attendance, the odds of catching one are quite low, thus the memory.

My baseball paperweight was proudly displayed on every desk at which I sat for 41 years, through the five companies I worked for. Guests and coworkers would invariably ask “Hey, what’s with the ball?”, which would allow me to wax poetic about the great catch I made and bore most of them to death. It really wasn’t that great. As is the case, deeds grow with the passage of time.

The ball sat on top of a small marble stand, which allowed me easy access whenever I wanted to hold it or flip it in the air like an 8--year--old. Other visitors (men for the most part) would sometimes do the same – it’s a man thing, I guess. Because of all this handling, the ball went from a white thing of beauty to a black orb. The stitching started to loosen, which made the cover separate from the ball. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the odor! If something is handled repeatedly for 40 years, it will pick up oils from those same hands. I first noticed a faint smell about five years ago. It smelled like something I knew, but I couldn’t place it. One day my boss was in my office and picked up the ball, as he usually did. A strange look came over his face. “This thing smells like a wet dog!” I grabbed it and sniffed. That’s it!

Fast forward to the year 2013. I retired from the company where I worked for 17 years, and I left work for the last time with my personal belongings tucked away in a box, including my stinky talisman. As soon as my wife got a look at — and a sniff of — my trophy, she told me in no uncertain terms that there wasn’t a single spot my prized possession could occupy in our house. After much begging and pleading (again like an 8-year-old) I was allowed to keep it on my desk in the den. The one rule was that when we had company, we needed to hide it. A small price to pay.

Speaking of which, I just came into the den and noticed the ball was gone.

We must be having company!

Richard Salvatore,

Town

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