Harry Chiti was my Friend
by, 02-12-2013 at 05:59 PM (356 Views)
My Baby...My Labor of Love
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Harry Chiti was only a journeyman catcher. His statistics were unremarkable. He was big, slow and a .240 hitter. But I loved him!
He was my neighbor in Independence Mo. We both lived on North Hocker.
One day in 1959 Harry got the word out to the neighborhood kids that he was giving away autographed baseballs. I remember my 7 year old future brother in law knocking on my door and breathlessly telling me about Harry signing autographs. We quickly hopped on our bikes and road down the hill to Harry's house. A ride of about 12 houses.
Sure enough, there was Harry sitting on the front porch of his house surrounded by kids. My 5 year old future wife was right next to him anxiously awaiting her turn for a signed baseball. I quickly inserted myself at the front of the line. Harry told everyone not to worry. He had enough baseballs to go around. When it was finally my turn Harry gave me the most beautiful sight my eyes ever beheld. A signed Major League Baseball.
Unknown to anyone there was a photographer from the Independence Examiner Newspaper taking pictures. A couple of days later my 5 year old future wife, my 7 year old future brother in law, and 9 year old me - made the sports page of the Examiner.
I still have that baseball and somewhere in my house is that newspaper clipping. I just saw it a couple of years ago.But the story doesn't end here.
A few days later I put my ball glove on and walked down to Harry's house and knocked on his door. His wife opened the door and gave me the nicest smile. I asked if Harry could come out and play catch. She said she didn't know but would ask him. Much to my surprise...out came Harry with his catchers mitt and a baseball.
We started playing catch. I was in heaven. I was playing catch with a professional baseball player! Then I started showing off by trying to throw curve balls.Harry told me to quit showing off because he was tired of running after my throws.
(Card Courtesy of CheapBallCards.com and Mr. BallCard)
Harry played catch maybe 5 minutes and politely ended our catch. Harry played catch with me probably a half dozen times that summer. Some days he would let me sit with him on his front porch waiting for A's pitcher Dick Hall to pick him up for the game that night. Dick would pick him up in a light blue Ford Falcon. I would wave at both when they left.
When Harry was traded, Dick Hall bought his house. I would go down to Dick's house and ask him to play catch. But he would tell me to go home; he didn't have time to play catch with kids. I quit asking after a while.
Before Harry moved my father took me to old Municipal Stadium and we watched the A's play. Harry was the starting catcher. I used to tell Harry that he was better then Haywood Sullivan, the Athletics other catcher. I even saw Harry get a hit.
It was a shot to the outfield that should have been a double. Harry turned it into a single. I didn't care. My friend got a hit.
(Video Courtesy of:knickerbackervillage; checkoutmycards .com; baseball-almanac .com/corner; and YouTube Shared Video. CheapBallCards.com does not own the Video Rights to this Video. Singing Artist: Fats Domono)
Harry went to my church - St.Mary's Catholic Church in Independence.The first time I saw him in church I almost jumped over the balcony wall to go say hi! My dad had to hold me back. I got in trouble for that.
I lost track of Harry when he moved. I grew up and he became a fond memory. Now, as an old man 52 years later, I often think about that special man. He gave me his most precious gift...his time!
Harry in 1962. He looks so much older then his 1959 Card
He influenced me to become a catcher myself. I was a pretty good one too. I started a few games for the University of Missouri behind the plate. I played for the "old man" Coach John "Hi" Simmons. I even had a tryout with the Pittsburgh Pirates after high school.
As an old man today I can't help but think what a rare good man I had for a friend. Harry Chiti will always be my favorite ball player of all time.
Mr. BallCard with love and respect April 10, 2012