Let’s face it: You never know how you will act if you come in contact with greatness. I found out in June of 1972, at a hotel in Omaha, Nebraska. As the 25-year-old business manager of athletics at Temple University, I had the honor of planning all aspects of our baseball team’s trip to the College World Series. Back then, the series venue was Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha. Temple had earned the right to compete against seven other teams for the national championship by defeating Long Island University and Penn State at the NCAA District II regional playoffs hosted by Princeton University.
You could feel the excitement in the air as we checked into the hotel upon our arrival. It was a stately facility, the kind that reminds you of hotels in the old movies, with glittering chandeliers and a mahogany front desk. The massive lobby boasted overstuffed leather sofas and chairs, along with an abundance of hand-carved oak tables.
That evening would feature the welcoming dinner, hosted by NCAA officials providing festivities to honor the eight participating teams and their various entourages. As I waited in the lobby for dinnertime, I decided to pick up the local newspaper, sink into one of those plush leather chairs, and find out what else was going on in cornhusker land. Nothing really grabbed my attention, except for the story about a celebrity who was in town to speak at a local college – none other than the great Charlton Heston, one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood. Heston had won the Oscar for best actor in the epic movie “Ben-Hur,” which was awarded a total of 11 Oscars, including best picture. Among other films, he starred in another epic, “The Ten Command-ments,” in which he gave a stunning performance as the biblical hero, Moses.
After reading the Heston piece, I flipped over to the sports page to see what was being said about our series. Within seconds, I heard a shuffling sound and looked up. I was amazed to see an imposing, 6-foot-3-inch, broad-shouldered, impeccably dressed man carrying an attaché case and walking directly toward me. Incredibly, it was him – Charlton Heston in the flesh.
As a carefree, fun-loving 25-year-old, I guess I had never really considered how I would react if a living legend should ever approach me. I suppose I could have graciously walked up to him, offered my hand, and introduced myself. I could have quietly glanced at him, awed by this accomplished man’s fame and achievements. I could have even politely told him how much I admired his work and asked for his autograph. Instead, I just did what came to me in the moment: I stood up, extended my arms out to the sides, and said in a moderately loud, somewhat theatrical voice, “Moses!”
The great Charlton Heston gave me a look that was a cross between a smirk and a wry smile and simply kept walking. I got the impression that perhaps it wasn’t the first time he had heard that remark. I know he did in “The Ten Commandments!” But, this time, it was delivered by me, and that experience has provided me with a memorable story, making me smile for more than 50 years.