The MONTHLY Smile
CLEARING THE FENCES OF PERCEPTION
Lessons Learned From Baseball Legends and My Dad
Although I didn’t know it at the time, my childhood experience was far from ordinary. Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, I often found myself face-to-face with famous or up-and-coming baseball players as a result of my dad’s job with Louisville Slugger. It didn’t happen every day, but I’d occasionally come home to find Pee Wee Reese sitting on my couch chatting with my dad. Or I’d spend the weekend at a clubhouse running around with Ken Griffey Jr. Looking back, I now recognize my experiences interacting with famous baseball players influenced how I’ve viewed and treated people my entire life. My dad’s job was to call on professional baseball teams, sign players to contracts, and deliver bats. Throughout his career working in pro baseball, he was given the opportunity to present the Silver Slugger Award. My dad was travel partners and friends with Pee Wee Reese, who is best remembered as the captain of the Brooklyn Dodgers when Jackie Robinson joined the
Although our experience with
Joe DiMaggio was positive, I can’t say the same about every player I met. Each year, my dad brought my mom, my sister, and me along to the Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown, New York, and we were able to observe the way the baseball players interacted with the people around them. Some players were polite; they would say
Rex and David Bradley
league. Their friendship lasted for over 30 years; he was an important part of my dad’s life and an influence on mine. Once, when Patti and I were in dental school, we had the opportunity to meet Joe DiMaggio. Patti and I could not wait to meet Mr. Coffee and the
"It doesn't matter if I’m treating a CEO or somebody who needs free dental work; everyone deserves the same amount of respect and the same quality of care."
thank you to people who opened the door for them or showered them with praise. Others acted like the fans and staff didn’t exist — or at least weren’t worthy of their acknowledgment. As a kid, I internalized what I saw at those ceremonies. Some athletes, even with their fame, status, and wealth, acted like respectful, normal people. Their celebrity didn’t change who they were. However, some guys let fame negatively change them, and it was reflected in the way they treated those who were of “lower” status. Growing up, I was given a gift. Sure, I met a lot of fascinating people because of my dad’s work. But I also learned a fundamental lesson at a young age: Underneath it all, we are all human. As a
man who married Marilyn Monroe. We met up with my dad at a big warehouse where Joe was signing bats. Joe stepped away from signing to talk to Patti and me for a few minutes. He was a massive star, but he spoke to us like he was just a regular guy catching up with a couple of friends.
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