The phone rang and it was evident that the voice belonged to a man who was upset. |
"I read your article about Joe DiMaggio this morning, when he talked about his 56-game hitting streak being stopped, and I had to call you," he said.
In his next breath, I knew why.
"I was the cab driver who picked up DiMaggio and Lefty Gomez that night
the one Joe thinks might have jinxed him; and jeez I'm sorry he feels that way."
The man identified himself as William Kaval of Parma (Ohio).
DiMaggio had told The Plain Dealer, "Right away the cab driver recognized me. He said, 'Joe, I got a strange feeling in my bones that you're going to get stopped tonight.'"
Confirmed Kaval, "Well that's something the way it happened. I remember making a lot of stupid small talk with DiMag, and he was very nice.
"I never liked the YankeesI really hated them like everybody else did in Cleveland those daysbut I always liked DiMaggio. He was somebody special to me.
"So just before we got to the stadium, I said to him, 'Joe I hope you keep the streak going for a hundred games, but I feel like you're not going to get a hit tonight. I hope you do, but I don't think you will.'
"He smiled and said, 'Well, if I don't, I just don't.' But he wasn't mad. In fact, he was just as pleasant when he got out as when he got in my cab.
"Joe gave me a real good tip, too, and if Gomez was mad, like DiMag claimed he was, he didn't say anything to me.
"Maybe Gomez did cuss me out, but if he did, he didn't do it until after I let them out at the player's entrance," continued Kaval
who stopped driving cabs in 1942.
How much was DiMaggio's tip?
"Thirty cents," replied Kaval. "But you've got to remember, in those days the meter began at 15 cents and it clicked only once, for a nickel, from the Sheraton to the stadium. That means he owed me 20 cents and he gave me a half dollar.
"That's 150 percent, isn't it?" asked Kaval.
"I'd heard that story about Gomez being mad, but I never said much about it," continued Kaval. "Not after awhile, anyway, because most of my friends were skeptical. They didnt really believe me when I told them about driving DiMaggio to the stadium that night.
"But I read you story this morning and I said to myself, 'Darn it, I'm going to call Schneider and ask him to do me a favor.'
"The next time you see DiMaggio, would you tell him for me that I'm sorry if he thinks I put the evil eye on him? I sure didn't mean it that way.
"Like I said, I always hated the Yankees, but I liked DiMaggio.
"One more thing," added the ex-cabbie. "Would you ask Joe if he'd autograph a baseball for me? I'd sure like that."
Then Kaval's wife voice was heard in the background.
"After what you said to him, he'll probably want to throw an autographed baseball at you."
But I don't think so.
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