by Jack Heyde
Los Angeles. CA
April, 1999


Roman's phone number is unlisted, so I take a chance on catching him at home in a suburb of Los Angeles that most people would probably not choose to visit. Not quite so forbidding as south central LA, the neighborhood just east of Baldwin Park is, nevertheless, not an area one is easily comfortable in.  Security is clearly a concern and most of the small homes on the block, including Roman's, have iron bars on the windows. The homes on the block are small. modest, and mostly single story frame houses. Roman 's home is surrounded by a recently painted, waist high, old iron fence. The gate is unlocked and the yard is remarkable for the delightful assortment of very well kept flower gardens. The elevated front porch is screened-in and the door providing access has iron bars and is locked. I press the buzzer.

There is no prompt response and, thinking that perhaps nobody is home, I turn Io leave. As I do, the door opens and Roman appears in a pair of work pants, a T‑shirt, and a painter's cap. He has been in the back yard working in his flower gardens.  I explain the reason for my visit and apologize for not being able to contact Roman by phone to request permission to stop by.  He smiles and walks to the porch door. In broken English he says. "Let me see what it is that you have."  There is a small door in the middle of the porch door, sort of a "pass through" opening, which Roman opens and gestures me to let him see one of the bats I want him to sign.  l pass my Forbes Field bat through the opening to him. He scans the autographs on the bat.

"Ah ...Bill Mazeroski!  He teach me English when I was at Pittsburgh.  He make me learn one new word every day. Very nice man. Very good friend. I am happy to sign the bat with Bill Mazeroski."  Roman reaches through the opening in the door for the pen that I have for him to use. He signs two bats and a ball for me.  While he is signing, I remark about how nicely kept and beautiful his yard and gardens are. He grins and says, "Yes, I love the flowers".

 I ask how he liked playing in Pittsburgh.

 "Not so much," Roman says. "One day we have snow and my friend and me can not get up the hill in my car. Some people stop to take us home and when we come back later to get the car, all of the wheels are gone!  I no like Pittsburgh very much."

 We chat for a short time about baseball, as it was when Roman played, and then it is time to go. I feel very happy to have met and visited with Roman. He is a man of unique pride, a evidenced by the meticulous care that he takes in maintaining his home, his property, and his flowers amidst an otherwise marginally maintained neighborhood. He is a genuinely friendly and appreciative person, the type one wishes the best for.


from Pop Flies and Line Drives: Visits with Players from Baseball's Golden Era
By Jack Heyde
Published by Trafford Publishing, 2004
ISBN 1412038898, 9781412038898
218 pages

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