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Head 'Til You Get Enough...

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Whenever I go food shopping, I run into someone I know. A lot of times, that person isn't from my recent past but from my distant past. Easter Sunday was no exception.  

I was in Shaw's in Easton, which is not my regular store. I'm more of a Big Y kind of guy. But they were closed for Easter, so I ended up at Shaw's.  

I'm always in a hurry when I go food shopping, trying to get it done as quickly as possible. But because I'm not familiar with Shaw's, it was taking longer than usual. I was actually reading the overhead signs at the ends of the aisles, trying to find what I needed. I work off a list; otherwise, I'd forget something. Sometimes, even with a list, I still manage to forget things.  

My long-term memory, however, is still very good, sometimes too good. Having a good memory is not a blessing; it's a curse. There are so many things I'd like to forget.  

I was going down an aisle and was almost at the end when I saw him. He's unmistakable, a real character. We were both on the Red Sox in Pony League in 1968,  just a year after the Boston Red Sox went to the World Series and Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown. Every kid playing Little League in Massachusetts then wanted to be on the Red Sox, and we were the lucky ones. 

He's two years older than me, so when he was on the mound, and I was catching, he was in charge. He regularly shook off my signs, sometimes several in a row, which really fucked with the batter, and threw the pitch he wanted to throw. He was 14, maybe 15 at the time, but he had at least five pitches in his arsenal. Unheard of. There are pitchers on the 2024 Red Sox trying to develop a fourth pitch. 

His 12-6 curveball was sick, and he messed around with a knuckleball and a screwball, too. He froze kids with his fastball and fooled them with his change-up. At a young age, he had become the El Tiante of the Pony League and, for me, a real privilege to catch. He pitched with a confident smile because he had a plan; he knew how to get guys out.  

But what really distinguished him from everyone else wasn’t his pitch selection or his confidence; it was the size of his head. He had the biggest cranium most people had ever seen, and fortunately, his big face fit perfectly. 

If he were a dog, he would've been a St. Bernard, and who isn't drawn to them?  

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And he was funny as fuck. I loved going out to the mound to talk because he was so sarcastically funny. Truly one of the funniest guys I ever met. When an umpire would miss a pitch, as they often did, he'd summon me to the mound and ask, "What the fuck was wrong with that pitch? Go back and talk to him, will ya!" I was young, and I wasn't gonna approach an umpire, and he knew that, but he liked messin' with me.  

If you have a big nose you can get a nose job. If you have a big head, you make it work. And this kid made it work. He was the perfect blend of quick wit and a contagious smile, and there wasn't anybody who didn't like him. And for a big dude, he was incredibly athletic.  

The first word under his yearbook picture was his nickname, "Head," proving he was not only fine with it, but it was a badge of honor he embraced.  

I graduated high school with his younger brother David, and I thought how lucky he was to grow up in the same house as Head. David was quieter but funny in his own right. After all, he had a seat at the table, and he learned from one of the best.  

Head was a lineman on the high school football team, number 68, and they had to special order a helmet for him. I was a sophomore when he was a senior, and his helmet was so fucking big it was intimidating. He'd run up to the line of scrimmage ahead of everyone else and scare the crap out of everybody. Interior linemen do a lot of helmet-banging at the line of scrimmage, and anyone going up against Head was at an extreme disadvantage. He used his oversized cranium as a weapon.  

He practiced hard and was a hell of a game-day football player. Throw in his unique brand of humor, and he was a great addition to any team.  

To me, bumping into him at Shaw's was nothing short of seeing an A-list celebrity. The mere sight of him immediately brought a smile to my face. I called out his first name, "Hey Steve!" but he didn't respond. So I went first and last name, and that got his attention.

He was obviously in a hurry, probably picking up some last-minute items for Easter, but he stopped and came over to talk. He asked who I was, and when I told him my name, I could see it didn't immediately register, so I said, "I was your catcher in Pony League when you played for Mr. Paul's Red Sox."  

Then he smiled and laughed, "That was 100 years ago!" 

I said, "Actually, 55." Then he smiled even wider.  

I told him how he was the first pitcher I ever caught who threw a legit 12-6 curveball and a knuckleball for strikes and how much fun I had catching him. He asked how I'd been and where I was living. When I said Norton, he said his sister lives in Norton, and I suspect he was heading there for Easter since he doesn't live close by. Then we shook hands, and both went back to shopping. 

In addition to his large head, he had a big body, too, and the way he moved through Shaw's was nothing short of outstanding, especially for a guy who's probably 70 years old. There was no one quicker in the store. He moved with the grace of a dancing bear and the speed of a cheetah. Impressive!  

When he disappeared out of site I was envious of all those people who had a seat at the table and were gonna have Easter dinner with him. Head is a special dude, and spending the day with him has to be a fucking treat!

Because let's face it. You can never get enough Head!

Here's your chance to get your freak on…