I recently visited Charlotte, North Carolina, to celebrate the 100th birthday of Bill Werber. Bill is the oldest living ex-Major League Baseball player and the last remaining ex-teammate of Babe Ruth.
Boy, what a guy he is. When I was 13 and 14 years old, he took me hunting here in Washington, D.C., around the Eastern Shore of Maryland and out in Virginia. We shot quail and we went duck hunting on the Chesapeake Bay. He was a real friend and mentor and a hero of mine for many, many years.
I enjoyed the celebration a great deal. We told stories and talked a lot about all the things he'd done in the past. He's still as quick and sharp as ever.
There was a great article about him in The Washington Post recently, which was written by Dave Sheinin, who's a staff writer for the sports section. One of Bill's best stories was told by Dave in this article. Let me quote from that story. It's a story I've never heard before and a story I think is very, very unique.
Bill was playing for the Boston Red Sox back in the 1930s and he turned a base on balls into a triple. How do you get a triple out of a base on balls?
"Schoolboy Rowe," he said, "was pitching for Detroit, and he was after his 16th consecutive win." Bill said, "I walked. And Ray Hayworth is catching, and Bill Rogell is playing shortstop and Charlie Gehringer is playing second. And I'm going to first base, and I look over and Rogell has his back to the infield, tapping clods of dirt with his spikes. And Gehringer is doing the same thing.
"So when I hit first base, I had a full head of steam, and when I started going for second, you could hear the roar of the crowd all the way at Back Bay Station. Gehringer turns around, startled. Rogell turns around. They see me. So Hayworth throws the ball, and I slide into second base, and the ball goes out to Jo-Jo White in center field. So I slide into third base -- a triple out of a base on balls."
If that isn't a great story about baseball, I don't know what is. What a hero he is, what a great American. It was a thrill to be at his 100th birthday party and celebrate with an old friend and a boyhood hero.
I'm Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.