There's a rare quality to the permanence of the printed word that I've always loved. Words on a page can be shared.
I was reminded of that last month when I received a phone call from someone with the Columbus Clippers. It was about a story that appeared in our February issue. Titled “The Fan Who Loved Me,” the story was one of four in a package of tales of love compiled as a nod to Valentine's Day.
I knew this particular story well before it was ever written. It was about Marty Rozenman, my first editor and a man I greatly liked and admired. The story was written by his widow, Nancy Richison, a former coworker and longtime friend. She'd written with her usual wit and charm about how the Cleveland Indians were an important thread woven throughout their all-too-short time together. Marty died in 2010, just before his 57th birthday.
So I was surprised, six months after the story appeared, to receive a phone call from the Clippers. The caller said someone with the Clippers had sent Nancy's story to someone with the Indians. And now, the caller said, the Indians wanted to do something special for Nancy. I called Nancy, who was touched and thrilled. I gave her the contact info for the source at the Indians. She emailed back a week later and told me the Indians had invited her and her children, Henry and Laurel, up for an Aug. 26 game against the Kansas City Royals. The date was the eve of the seventh anniversary of Marty's death.
Within hours of the game's conclusion, Nancy emailed me. “I have to tell you, the Indians couldn't have made it a more special weekend. We were overwhelmed,” she wrote. Tribe personnel met them at their seats with gift bags full of T-shirts and foam fingers and ballpark paraphernalia in hand. A few innings later, nearly a dozen members of the Indians staff congregated around the family, and an employee named Nicolette told Nancy that the team was so touched by the story that they wanted “to go above and beyond.” She reached into a bag and pulled out a white jersey that had “Richison” on the back. “And then she pointed to the number and said, ‘We put the number 90 on it for the year you were married.' And that's when I lost it,” Nancy told me. After the game, she and the kids were invited to the dugout. Pictures were taken. And, of course, the Tribe won.
“What they did for us made it one of the greatest experiences we've ever had,” Nancy wrote. “This is always such a tough weekend for us. Interesting, isn't it, that this opportunity didn't come along months ago and that the timing worked out that this would be the most convenient weekend for us to take in a game? Now, we have such an incredibly good memory to associate with this weekend, and it's centered around something that was so very dear to Marty's heart. Yeah, I'd say it's more than just a game.”
“This is our new tradition of where we're spending that day/weekend going forward,” she added. “And we'll know that Marty's there with us.”