I went to see Phil the Barber today.
When I walked up, he was sitting outside with a friend watching the traffic on Main Street. Friendly greetings all around.
Phil’s friend stood up. He was a big guy. Full white hair. He was at least as tall as me and at least as old as Phil.
After he left, Phil said, “That’s my friend Herb. We played ball together. He was our first baseman. He could hit the ball a mile.”
That would have been the dead ball era when Herb was hitting the ball a mile, and I can believe it.
Phil was in a chatty mood today. He wanted to reminisce a bit. With no other customers waiting, I was in his red leather chair for more than an hour. Phil would cut a bit of hair, stop and animate one of his stories with his hands.
Sample story: One time Phil’s team played a negro league team from Los Angeles. Phil was playing center field. He was fast back then, he said. The gloves back then, of course, where nothing more than blocks of leather you stuck your hand in. They served to help you stop a hard-hit ball without breaking your fingers off, but did little to aid in actually catching the ball. In the ninth inning of the game, with the game on the line, a ball was hit to deep center. Phil had to run a long way, but he ran it down — with his arm stretched out as far as it could go, and his fingers stretched out, he put glove on ball, but the ball just thudded off the brown leather and fell to the ground. There was no way to flex those old gloves quickly enough to catch a ball with just one hand.
“I think about that play almost every day,” Phil said. “I wish I could have caught that ball.”
Phil’s team lost that game.