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Two Numbers
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Numbers don't mean much to me. I managed to co-exist with simple arithmetic but long division and I had our differences and it's been downhill ever since. Still, certain numbers have stuck in my mind. I don't mean my phone number -- which I barely remember because I hardly ever call it -- or my Social Security number, memorized only by dint of having to produce it endlessly for Big Brother. Rather, there are numbers which actually bring to mind periods of my life. Consider, for example:


That's the number of homeruns the great Babe Ruth socked, the all-time career record when I was growing up. There's nothing more exciting in baseball than a homerun and no record is more important. Baseball is awash with records. There's nothing that isn't reduced to statistics. Did you know that Dale Berra, son of the Hall of Fame catcher Yogi, holds the National League record for reaching first base via catcher's interference seven times in 1983? Honestly.

There are books of records. But 714 rules them all. It's the first record I ever learned. It was part of the very definition of homerun. When I was listening to the Phillies games on my transistor radio and Johnny Callison would smack a homer, or when I saw Mickey Mantle drive a ball over the fence on television, accompanied by Mel Allen assuring us all that that ball was going, going, gone, there was always in the back of my mind the knowledge that the Babe, who had practically invented the homerun, had hit 714 of them and never been bested.

After I grew up Hank Aaron passed the Babe fair and square (755 homeruns) and Barry Bonds cheated his way past Aaron (762) but there's an aura about the number 714. It still looks more like the record to me than 755, or 762. Just look at it. 714. That looks like the record, doesn't it? It's another way of saying homerun. Well, that was the magic number when I was a kid, dammit, and it is still magic to me.

And then there is:


Cue the James Bond theme. Can't you see the stylized gun incorporating that "7"? Doesn't the phrase "license to kill" spring to mind? Not that I ever wanted a license to kill. One Christmas my uncle seemed to think I did.

My Uncle Sam, I mean. It was back in the early seventies when kids had to be drafted into useless wars rather than volunteering. If you are old enough you will remember the draft lottery, which sent the winners on an all expense paid trip the the jungles of southeast Asia. By the time I got my assigned number there weren't many winners. But for once in my life I got lucky. I was told I was 007.

How cool is that? Actually, not very. I'm sure the army would have taught me to shoot a gun but I felt like I was being given a license to be killed.

If only my number 007 had involved daring adventures and exotic women, from both of which I would emerge unscathed. Alas, what it meant was that I got Uncle Sam's greetings the day before Christmas and had to endure a draft physical. There weren't any beautiful women with physical deformities present, just guys bragging about the hernias that would exempt them. I was rejected due to my eyesight and weight. You had to weigh more than a rifle and be able to see it from a foot away. Too many kids weren't so fortunate. As I said, I was lucky. But still, when I see the number 007, it means something different to me than it does to most people.

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