NEW YORK -- I've interviewed a lot of big-name athletes in the last 15 years and it takes a whole lot to wow a sportswriter but I have NEVER spent 40 minutes feeling as blown away as I just did.
More than 40 living Hall of Famers are about to be trotted down Sixth Avenue for a red carpet parade to kickoff today's All-Star festivities but first they were herded into a room at the Hotel Intercontinental to talk to us.
In honor of Phil Rizzuto: Holy cow, what an assignment! Each Hall of Famer was at a table in front of a replica of their Hall plaque. I had to take two minutes to walk around and check out the scene before figuring out who to approach first.
Amazing. So I thought about last night's Home Run Derby and went right to Hank Aaron's table. And this was no mob scene like yesterday's player availability. You could walk right up to them and only have maybe one or two other reporters with them (WHERE WAS THE REST OF THE MEDIA HORDE? FOOLS).
Aaron was great, as wide-eyed as we all are about Josh Hamilton's performance. I moved on and it just went from there.
Dave Winfield. Tony Gwynn, Tommy Lasorda ("Asking my best memory here is tough because you see so many things. It's like saying, "What's the best steak you've eaten? What's your best plate of pasta?" How the hell do I know? I eat every one of them."), 2008 inductee Goose Gossage ("I can't believe and I'll never comprehend not being able to walk into Yankee Stadium ever again"), Cal Ripken Jr., Wade Boggs.
But like that, 40 minutes seemed like four. I would have loved to have talked hitting with Rod Carew or baserunning with Lou Brock. Home runs with Harmon Killebrew. Knuckleballs with Phil Niekro. Spitters with Gaylord Perry. Or the end for Tiger Stadium with Al Kaline. Strategy with Earl Weaver and Dick Williams. There was only so much time.
Disappointments? No Reggie. Would have liked to have asked him about Hamilton. No George Brett -- except for a gift shop sighting. Would have liked to have heard him reminisce as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Pine Tar Game.
The Astor Ballroom at the Hotel Intercontinental. That's one for the books. Don't tell the bosses at One News Plaza but I think I should just retire right now. When am I EVER going to do that again?