My first sports hero was Bobby Thomson of the old New York Giants, who hit what was probably the most famous home run in history: the dramatic “shot heard ‘round the world,” which deeply traumatized the Brooklyn Dodgers and their fans and propelled the Giants into the 1951 World Series against the Yankees.
I was 6 years old, and what I remember most whenever I think of Thomson and that home run was something my father told me. There was a player on that Giants’ team named Hank Thompson. Bobby Thomson was white and Hank Thompson was black. I asked my dad if they were brothers. He laughed and said, “No. You know how you can tell they’re not brothers?”
I said I didn’t. He said, “Hank Thompson spells his last name t-h-o-m-p-s-o-n. Bobby Thomson doesn’t have a ‘p’ in his last name. If they were brothers, they would spell their names the same.”
It was years before I realized what a terrific thing that was to say to a kid.