NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 4, 2013

Famous people this local yokel has met

As I See It
Ralph Ayers

---- — It’s February, if you haven’t noticed, and by now you have forgotten that horrible display of football the Pats gave their fans on that horrible day in Foxboro. In spite of the loss, Wes Welker was the only one who showed up to play, and deserves an MVP. My opinion, take it or leave it.

Been a tough winter health-wise, with two bouts of bronchitis, but, fortunately, on the road to recovery.

Let’s see, what’s the subject this month? OK, now I remember. Let me tell you whom this local yokel has met along the pathways of life that you may have heard of in the celebrity category.

Back when I was a kid, I met a man on Pleasant Street, asking me where is a good place to eat. I told him O’Donnell’s Grill. Bet you don’t know where that was! It was George Brent, movie star of the ’30s. I ran into Hoot Gibson, famous cowboy and western movie star. Moving on, shook Jack Demsey’s hand. He was my physical director in basic training in World War II.

Yep, I met Billy Conn, Johnny Colon and King Livens, all heavyweight fighters in their time, and Marvin Hagler, when I was fortunate to bring him to Newburyport for Yankee Homecoming.

Yes, there were others, like “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, baseball great, involved in the Black Sox series of 1918. He ran a store in South Carolina, and traveling through on an assignment in the Coast Guard, I stopped, went into the store, shook his hand and asked him if he did not wear shoes. He told me he had a blister, took off his shoes, hit a home run and a fan hollered “run, you shoeless s.o.b.!” No autograph was asked for, and on Pawn Stars, his autograph sold for $75,000. Stupid me!

I was privileged to meet President Clinton on a security assignment and President Kennedy when he was our senator. By accident, while in New York on vacation, the group I was with went Christmas shopping. Not my bag, so I stayed and had breakfast at the bar. Who sat side of me was no other than Jim Plunkett, Pats quarterback, San Diego quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl winner. He was alone, waiting for his driver to take him to Rockefeller Center for a program. Yep, I got his autograph.

Not bad, don’t you think, for a kid from Newburyport, who never got out of town until WWII, but met all these people that we all know or have heard of. But you know what, folks? I wouldn’t swap relationships with any of these celebrities with the many friends I have in my hometown, and that’s a fact.

Hang in there, folks, ’cause summer is worth waiting for.

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Ralph J. Ayers of Newburyport calls himself a local yokel.