I pulled into Augusta late Wednesday afternoon and drove to a restaurant down the street from the house in which we stay. At first, I was worried I might be kicked out; I was the one who wasn't wearing a sweater vest. But they let me stay, although I did eat outside.
Halfway into my first draft beer, which I will not put on my expense account, a group walked out the door and one customer shouted, "Ozzie!"
Nice call. It was Ozzie Smith.
Ozzie was one of the great defensive shortstops of all time, and he could hit a little, too. He was known for his backflips, and now a fan was flipping over him. How would he respond?
Graciously, it turns out. Lean and compact, Ozzie left his group, walked to the man who called his name and spent at least five minutes talking to the customers at his table. They identified themselves as Ohioans and fans of the Cincinnati Reds. And still Ozzie, who played for St. Louis and before that for San Diego, stayed. He laughed and talked and, although his friends were waiting, was in no hurry to leave.
I had always admired Ozzie from a distance. Now that he was 10 yards away, I admired him more.