(Our host for this week's Fun Monday, Jo Beaufoix , wants us to share a celebrity crush--who, what, when, where, and why? This is a great post topic because, hopefully, we're never too old to have a "thing" for someone who's out of reach of our everyday lives. Most recently I could talk about my admiration for Cesar Millan of Dog Whisperer fame. Or, I could travel back in time to the 90s when I watched "An Officer and a Gentleman" with Richard Gere enough times to know the lines. I could also go back even further to the 80s when I loved Neil Diamond enough to sleep outside on the sidewalk all night long in a line to buy concert tickets. Instead, I just happen to have a close association with a true celebrity--New York Yankees baseball pitcher Steve Hamilton--that you may enjoy.)
I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains, the daughter of a coal miner and sharecropper, in the 1950-60s. My family could have been the one whose photographs you now see in documentaries about rural poverty. I never traveled further than an adjoining county until I was a senior in high school. I was the youngest of four children and, unlike my older brothers and sisters, desperately wanted an education from an early age. I wanted an education enough to work for it throughout my high school years by babysitting and housekeeping for several good families who took an interest in me and helped me overcome many obstacles to stay in school. I firmly believe that I was born at the right time, the youngest in my family, when there were resources available to help anyone interested get an education.
When the time came to enroll in college, I chose Morehead State University which was about a 120 miles from home. It was the only college I knew about through school counselors and the families that I was working for who helped me jump the hurdles to get in. I took out student loans and moved on campus prepared to work part-time as well. Even then it was a stretch to pay my college expenses.
Before the end of my freshman year (1964) my luck turned. One family that I'd worked for in high school wrote letters to several of her friends who were associated with the university. She explained that this kid was enrolling at Morehead and needed to work--and could use a friend or two. Steve Hamilton, the university baseball coach in the off-season, lived with his wife Shirley and their three young children in Morehead. However, he was away from home for more than half the year pitching for the New York Yankees. They were looking for someone to help Shirl with the children and household while he was away playing baseball. The first time I worked for them I kept the children while Shirl visited Steve when the Yankees were playing in Detroit. From the beginning we clicked. Shirl and I were just ten year's difference in age and shared many interests. I loved the children, especially the baby Bobby.
By the end of my freshman year the Hamiltons had invited me to live with them. During the school year I went to my classes and activities, their children attended the university elementary school. That meant we all had the same schedule. For three straight years, Steve rented a summer house for us near Yankee Stadium--actually just across the George Washington Bridge in Teaneck, Hackensack, and Cloister, New Jersey. Shirl and I packed up the station wagon and kids and drove from Kentucky to New Jersey to join him for the summer.
Those summers were some of the happiest in my memory. When the Yankees were in town, Steve kept a regular schedule, eating an early dinner with us and then heading to the stadium for late afternoon and evening games. We hung out with other Yankee families, attended baseball games, swam and shopped. Steve and Shirl also made it a point to broaden my horizons. I remember especially seeing my first Broadway play, Funny Girl with Streisand, riding a NY subway, seeing the ocean for the first time.
Did I mention that Steve was a true gentleman as well as athlete? This was very fortunate for a 19 year old college girl in his care. Since Steve was considered by Yankee management to be the most steady and upright of the players, he often was assigned to room with the young rookies because he could help them keep on track and not get carried away with the glamour of being a professional athlete. If he thought they were nice and appropriate dating material, they may get an invitation to dinner with the family. A welcome home-cooked meal prepared by Shirl and me and some lively conversation--always when Steve was around--may lead to me being asked out by a grateful young rookie. Gil Blanco, a nineteen year old pitcher from Phoenix, AZ in 1965, fit this category. Perhaps he could have been my second celebrity crush, but we only had two dates that short summer. . .
Steve was a true Renaissance man interested in many things in addition to sports. He played both professional baseball for the Yankees and several other national league teams. He also played two years for the Minneapolis Lakers, one of only two professional athletes to play in both a World Series and an NBA Championship Series. He died of cancer at the age of 63 in 1998. On learning of his death, the great Yogi Berra said of him "He was a big, herky-jerky guy and a fun guy to be with. He kept you loose and everything." I know he had a great deal of influence on me. How fortunate I am to be an adopted family member of the Hamiltons for over 40 years. This photo was taken in the mid-80s---Steve and I are doing something we did often, sitting at the table talking and laughing. Wherever Steve was, there would be laughter.
Now that Jo is no longer under construction, pop over to her web page and check out other Fun Monday celebrity crushes. That's where I'm headed now.
- Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.