Unlikely Brooklyn Dodger taught our Joe about grace

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Joe Doherty, a star salesman for Advertising Age for 30 years, was as upbeat a guy as they come. Whenever I saw him, I'd ask him how it was going, and he would always say, "Terrific." Maybe that was because his customers bought a lot of ad pages from him. Maybe it was because of his unbridled optimism, or his faith.

Whatever it was, Joe sure had a way of making everyone around him feel pretty terrific, too.

Now I know where all that exuberance came from. The other day Joe sent me an article he wrote, "The Turnstile Boys," about his love for baseball growing up in Queens.

Joe and his best friend, then and now, George Hugel, started collecting baseball pictures and autographs in 1940 when they were 14.

When Joe and his pal started going to ball games, it was a 5¢ subway ride from their homes in College Point, Queens, to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. And once there, if they were lucky, they got in free and got paid for the effort. Yankee Stadium in those days had an interesting entrance procedure. "First you gave your game ticket to the ticket taker. Then a young fellow (no girls) turned the turnstile to let the fan enter the ballpark. This civilized way of doing things saved the fan from bumping his belly on the metal bar when entering the park."

The turnstile boys were picked by a guy named Walter about an hour or so before the game. The boys would jump up and down outside the main entrance, yelling for Walter to pick them , and he would make his selections based on his "fantastic memory" as to what boys abandoned their posts once they got in the ballpark. Walter paid them 50¢ and they got into the bleachers for free after the second or third inning.

But getting autographs was their chief pursuit, and in 1946, George and Joe devised a "bold plan." They would tell their parents they were staying at each other's house overnight, then skip a late class, board the New York Central Hudson line train to Bear Mountain State Park in New York, where the Dodgers were winding up spring training. At the last minute George thought the plan was too risky, but Joe went without him.

All went smoothly, and Joe was in autographing heaven when he arrived at the Bear Mountain Inn, where the Dodger players were milling about the lobby after dinner. He got everyone's but the signature of Joe "Muscles" Medwick, the most famous Dodger of them all. "Stop bothering me, kid," Medwick told him.

The next day he again encountered Medwick, and this time Medwick grabbed his pictures, tore them into little pieces and threw them into the blazing fireplace. "How could you do that, Joe? Why? Why?" Joe Doherty cried.

Just then he felt an arm around his shoulder, and first baseman Augie Galan said, "It's OK, kid. Maybe Joe had a bad night. How would you like to ride the Dodger train to New York?" Augie told the conductor, "He's with the team."

Joe Medwick was sold to the Giants for cash in 1943. "Was he still trying to avoid me?" Joe wonders. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1968. Augie Galan never made the Hall of Fame, but to Joe ,"he's tops in my hall of fame for being a caring, thoughtful, good man," who bought him a soda and a candy bar and made Joe's train ride a "dream trip" home.

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