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Interview with Keith Bratton [Undated]

Kyle Exline:

Today is December 4 and I'm here with Keith Bratton, World War II veteran, and I'm Kyle Exline from South Fork High School, Indianapolis, Indiana. Were you drafted or did you enlist?

Keith Bratton:

Enlist.

Kyle Exline:

Enlist. Where were you living at the time?

Keith Bratton:

Fort Wayne.

Kyle Exline:

Fort Wayne. Was there any reason why you enlisted?

Keith Bratton:

What?

Kyle Exline:

What was the reason for enlisting?

Keith Bratton:

Because there was a war on.

Kyle Exline:

War, okay. Did you pick the service branch you'd go in?

Keith Bratton:

Yeah. Navy.

Kyle Exline:

Navy. What was it like the first couple of days, service-wise?

Keith Bratton:

The first few days in the Navy. I don't know. We were all the same age. It was like the first day in college, I guess.

Kyle Exline:

Tell me about boot camp. Was it the boot camp kind of experience?

Keith Bratton:

Well, I started out in a different way. I went into the Navy and then they had a program in the Naval aviation, I wanted to be a pilot. And so I went in that way. I had to get called. And in the meantime, I took basic training, and then when I got called into the Navy, I was put into a program to learn to fly and then we learned -- there was a program opened up for bombardiers. The Navy didn't have any bombardiers. So I volunteered for that.

Kyle Exline:

Okay. Where in World War II, where exactly did you go, like, during the war?

Keith Bratton:

During the war?

Kyle Exline:

Yeah.

Keith Bratton:

You mean overseas?

Kyle Exline:

Yes, overseas.

Keith Bratton:

I was in, let's see, I was in Hawaii, Guam, Tinian, then Saipan Tinian, and Iwo Jima.

Kyle Exline:

Did you see any combat?

Keith Bratton:

Yeah.

Kyle Exline:

Really?

Keith Bratton:

Yes.

Kyle Exline:

What was your job assignment?

Keith Bratton:

I was a bombardier.

Kyle Exline:

Yeah. Oh, just bombardier. Okay. I got you. In your unit, were there many casualties during combat?

Keith Bratton:

Oh yeah. I don't know how many.

Kyle Exline:

Right. What were a couple of your most memorable experiences?

Keith Bratton:

Well, geez, I don't know. There's so many of them. I think, I think one of the most memorable experiences, we would fly missions to Japan and one day we were flying up north to, it's called Okido. We'd fly real low, and some girls ran out on the beach, Japanese girls, and waved at us.

Kyle Exline:

Really?

Keith Bratton:

Yeah.

Kyle Exline:

That's kind of funny.

Keith Bratton:

And then let's see, the other thing that I -- I have no idea. I can't. I'm 77-years-old and I have a hard time remembering these things. I've never much talked about the war.

Kyle Exline:

Okay. Any medals that you --?

Keith Bratton:

Yeah. I got a couple of air medals, and a unit citation and campaign ribbons in pacific combat in foreign country. I don't know, about 6 of them.

Kyle Exline:

Okay. How did you stay in touch with your family? Through letters?

Keith Bratton:

How did what?

Kyle Exline:

How did you stay in touch with your family? Just through letters or --

Keith Bratton:

Oh, yes. I just had my father and my sister.

Kyle Exline:

What, during the war, what did you do for entertainment - with, when there was down time?

Keith Bratton:

We drank a lot.

Kyle Exline:

Drank a lot. [Laughs.]

Keith Bratton:

Oh, we'd -- There wasn't much to do. What happened, we were in combat for like 3 weeks and then we'd come back to rest camp for two or three days and in that time, why, we got to shave and shower and then we'd go down to O Club or whatever. If we were in the states when we got leave, liberty, we would go in town and go to the movies, dances and things like that. Chase girls.

Kyle Exline:

[Laughs]

Keith Bratton:

Can't be in the Navy if you don't chase girls.

Kyle Exline:

That's right. That's a perk. Is there any humorous or unusual events that happened that you can look back on and laugh?

Keith Bratton:

Well, I made a bomb site out of a roll of toilet paper and a piece of string.

Kyle Exline:

[Laughs] Really?

Keith Bratton:

What you did -- in bombing you have to have a fixed angle and a main level platform. And, so I'd gotten into this, we got assigned a new airplane and it had gotten shot up and they fixed it up. So, they hadn't put the bomb site in yet, the Norton bomb site, they hadn't put that in yet. But we'd go out on a mission and it was a patrol, they'd call it, not expecting to do anything, and there's no bomb site in there , but there's toilet paper so I took the toilet paper and put on the mount, put the bomb site, put my chin on it, and on the window on the front of the airplane, I'd strung a string across there so I'd have a fixed angle for my eye down, so from doing it before you can pretty well -- when you come to the target, then you get it lined up and you saw the string coming up, when the string hit the bottom of the target, you'd let the bomb go out.

Kyle Exline:

[Laughs] Really?

Keith Bratton:

Yes.

Kyle Exline:

That's pretty cool.

Keith Bratton:

And the other time, let's see, that's funny. Well there's a lot of funny things in the war. But, I had the gunner clean off his glass, armored glass, on the gun because it was all fogged up and he couldn't and he started off scraping it. He had to scrape all this off, like fog on there. And we found out what caused it was there's a gadget in the airplane called the pee tube, where you pee into. And it goes out but it goes out, we found, along the bottom of the airplane and then at the end of the airplane there's a vacuum that forms at the end of the tail right in here. And the urine would go up and it would just stick on that glass and crystallize.

Kyle Exline:

[Laughs.] After - do you recall your day, like when your service ended, when you -

Keith Bratton:

What?

Kyle Exline:

Do you recall your last day in war when you went home?

Keith Bratton:

Oh, well, yeah, I was on the, we were on the flight and we had a mission to Japan and we flew long. We were in what's called privateers. We didn't have any fighter escort or anything and we had a variety of different missions that we went on and this one, we were going up to get shipping along the coast of Japan. And we got up by an island, I think it was one where Bush crashed, it was called Chichi Jima. I think it was that or Eshima [sic]. There's a bunch of little islands along there. Anyway there was a lugger that we'd -- radar guy had on the screen blipped. And we were going to make a run on it and we heard Halsey, Admiral Halsey was in charge of Task Force '58, which we were a member of, called all of the people on the radio airplanes and said, "return to your bases immediately." In fact I heard him on the phone, "and if you see any enemy airplanes, shoot them down in a friendly way."

Kyle Exline:

[Laughs.] In a friendly way.

Keith Bratton:

Yeah, that was pretty memorable. We got back and we -- Iwo Jima wasn't a very friendly place. In fact, we had some warm beer.

Kyle Exline:

Are you in contact with any, like, friends you made during the war?

Keith Bratton:

Yes. The guy that I ran around with mostly, his name is Ira Morgan, and at the rest camp, why, we'd usually set around and talk about what we were going to do when we get out of the service, and he wanted to be an architect. And I was going to go into the advertising business. He was from Fort Worth, Texas. And another guy by the name of Zollie Toth and he later on became a half back for the Dallas Texans football team which became the Colts. As a matter of fact, I called the guy that wrote a story about the old Colts and I haven't been able to locate Zollie, but Morgan, I talk to every now and then and what happened to Moll was, he became a nuclear physicist. He got his doctorate in nuclear physics and I asked, he came up and we played golf together. He has Texas Nuclear and Chicago Nuclear and another one over in England and so he came up and we played golf and I said, I said, "How much money do you spend on advertising?" He says "Oh, about 8 hundred thousand a year." And I said, "Do you remember when I saved your life?" He said "no." He said, "You want an account," he said, "you can have an account." I said, "Send me some literature. Let me see what it's all about." So he sent me some stuff. I got about two paragraphs into it. I called him and I said, "I'd rather keep your friendship than have your account. I don't understand anything." And anyway, I'm in touch with him, he is very sick now. But I ask him, I said, "How did you ever get into nuclear physics?" He was no mental giant I'll tell you. He said, "Well, when I got home after the war and some guys were talking about going to college. Somebody said that the nuclear business sounded pretty good and he said that might be good." And he said, "So I got into it." And he says, "Like anything else," he says, "if you start at the first word and you learn everything and focus on that," he said, "it's no more complicated than anything else."

Kyle Exline:

Huh.

Keith Bratton:

That's what I said - "Huh."

Kyle Exline:

So after the war did you go back to work, did you go back to school, or what did you do?

Keith Bratton:

Yes, I went to college.

Kyle Exline:

Did you the GI bill help you - what did you do after college, what career did you pursue after college?

Keith Bratton:

What?

Kyle Exline:

What career did you pursue after college?

Keith Bratton:

I went into the advertising business.

Kyle Exline:

Okay. Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about military in general?

Keith Bratton:

No.

Kyle Exline:

No. Okay. Have you attended any reunions?

Keith Bratton:

I never go to the squad reunion. I get invited all the time, but, I don't really like to go to them to hear about all the people who died. I get correspondence. I haven't talked to Moll, I've talked to his wife, because he is pretty sick, and some of the other fellas drop me a note every now and then, but it was a long time ago.

Kyle Exline:

Yeah. How did you your service and experiences affect your life?

Keith Bratton:

I made a lot of friends, yeah, and oh, I don't know, I think -- you know when you go, like, you're in high school now, right?

Kyle Exline:

Uh huh.

Keith Bratton:

Well, when you get out of high school in those days, war was on and everybody wanted to go to war. And I think when you get out alive, you have an appreciation about war. Violence is awful. Wars are awful. I mean, they're just - they're terrible things and I don't know why anybody's who's ever been in one would even think of starting one. I mean they're God awful. The food's terrible.

Kyle Exline:

[Laughs.] So if you had to do it again, would you -- you would still do it?

Keith Bratton:

Oh, yeah. Sure. I went down for reorientation on the carrier, the Lexington, in 1960-something, and there were some of us who were guests, we were guests of seven admirals, and down on the carrier, the Lexington. In fact I got to drive the wheel on the Lexington, aircraft carriers are like that big around --

Kyle Exline:

Really?

Keith Bratton:

-- like a steering wheel on the car. Look there in the back at this big damn carrier and you can turn a little bit and you can see your wake in turns. My son's got a boat down in Florida. He says, "You want to drive it?" I said, "Why should I mess around with this old boat?"

Kyle Exline:

Well, that's really all we have. Is there anything that you want to talk about that we haven't talked about?

Keith Bratton:

No.

Kyle Exline:

No? Alright.

Keith Bratton:

Was it of use to you?

Kyle Exline:

[Laughs]

Keith Bratton:

Oh, one thing that was interesting, I was one of the first people to go to airborne radar school. They hadn't had that open. That was at Purcell, Oklahoma, a very secret base. Radar was a very secret thing. And the Norton bomb site was top secret. You would have to have, used to have to have an armed guard would walk with you out to the airplane. But, the radar was fascinating. To get in on that part when it just started. They had antennas that stick out on the wing that had crossbars on them, and you could move those around, but where you see now a round scope that goes around like that, the square scope had a little pattern that went like that. And when you get a target and it would lift up, they called this little green stuff here grass, and kept responding to getting echoes back. And when you got a big echo out of the thing, it would bounce up. But, it was real -- very interesting. And we couldn't, we could take notes, we could read, but we couldn't take them out. They had a big fence around there. And you had to destroy everything, your notes and everything. And, that was pretty interesting. A thousand of us were on that base and if you walked out of there with an ounce of fat on you they'd shoot you. 'Cause all you did was study the airborne radar and exercise.

Kyle Exline:

Really?

Keith Bratton:

Yeah. Exercise is awful and then, when you got done exercising, you'd play games, like soccer. Hell, I'd never played soccer ever. They had a day of wrestling - Wednesday, if you did anything out of line: talked back to the CO or whoever had a wet hat on, anything, just a minor thing, you were in the fights on Wednesday nights, "smokers" they called them. And in the, when you went to wrestling, boxing, like, I'm not a big guy and you'd line up two lines. The guy across from you is who you'd wrestle with. He might be 6' 8. You wrestled three times. If you don't beat him, you get three times, if you beat your opponent then you get to stop doing it. If you don't, you stay there and wrestle two more times.

Kyle Exline:

Did you ever have to wrestle? Did you ever wrestle anybody?

Keith Bratton:

Oh yeah. I won. Luckily.

Kyle Exline:

Did you face a big guy or was he --?

Keith Bratton:

Oh, he was about my size.

Kyle Exline:

How long did that school last? The radar school?

Keith Bratton:

That was, I think 4 weeks.

Kyle Exline:

4 weeks?

Keith Bratton:

Yeah. And from there, you went out to combat or you got assigned a crew that you were going to join and then you flew overseas in your plane. In this case, our plane, we got halfway out and we couldn't transfer fuel, and we had to throw everything out, armored glass off of the tail, everything -- machine guns, all that, to make the plane lighter so we could get back. Except we didn't throw out our personal gear. That was supposed to go too, but we didn't. But, we made it back, luckily. And then, you know, we're in the airplane we'd put on a baseball caps or something and this jerk SP, we landed, and he came up and he said "excuse me, sir, you're out of uniform." I said, "What do you mean, out of uniform?" He said, "You can't wear baseball caps on a fighter plane." [Laughs] Jerk! We just barely made it back.

Kyle Exline:

So you remember all your instructors pretty well, I mean..?

Keith Bratton:

Oh yeah.

Kyle Exline:

So a lot of jerks or some nice instructor guys?

Keith Bratton:

Oh, yeah. Had a good time.

Kyle Exline:

So would you recommend someone my age going into the Navy?

Keith Bratton:

Oh, very much so.

Kyle Exline:

Very much so?

Keith Bratton:

Oh yeah. Yeah, a guy that was one of my pledge sons in college, in fact, he was my pledge son in college and he couldn't make his grades and he went into the air force. 6 semesters he couldn't make his grades. His name's Pete Knight. William J. Pete Knight. He retired as a colonel and he, [reads] "in 1954 Second Lieutenant Knight won the Allison Jet Trophy Race at the National Air Show in Dayton, Ohio. He graduated from experimental test pilot school in '58 Aerospace Research Pilot School Edwards Air Force Base. Knight served as president of the Society for the Experimental Test Pilots and he now chairs the Society Scholarship Foundation, is a Fellow of SETP, and an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics." Now, he couldn't make his grades in college. Just stay with me. In fact he was here last year, he and his wife stayed over here. And, okay, [reads] "1999 - 2000: Legislator of the Year, California Veterans of Foreign Wars. 1998 inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame, in Alamogordo, New Mexico. '96 Recognition of Outstanding Contribution, California Pilots Association, 1990 one of the first five men recognized by the City of Lancaster Walk of Honor, 1988 enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. Combat service includes 253 missions in the F-100 over Vietnam. Awarded the DFC and the Legion of Merit, both with two oak leaf clusters, and the Air Medal with ten oak leaf clusters and 1968 received the Octave Chanute Award by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences for notable contribution made by a pilot to the aeronautical sciences. '68 awarded the Harmon International Aviators Trophy from President Johnson for his record in speed flight. 1968 made a member of the Air Force System's Command Primus Club for the X-15 Flight Test of a coating designed to prevent air friction heat from damaging the surfaces or structures of rocket planes. 1967 earned astronaut wings for another X-15 flight. [Phone rings.] Let it ring. He earned astronaut wings for another X-15, he flew 280 thousand feet, more than fifty miles above the earth's surface. '67 he flew the X-15 Rocket Research Aircraft to establish the world's speed record of 4,520 miles per hour in a fixed wing aircraft that still stands as listed in the Guinness Book of Records. In 1954 he won the Allison Trophy." He was retiring as -- from the California State Senate.

Kyle Exline:

He did a lot of stuff.

Keith Bratton:

Yeah. So, he done pretty good. I told him, I said -- what I'm doing when he was here we went up to Noblesville. We drove around trying to find where his old house was and where he grew up. They found it, but the people who lived next door to his family, the Knight family, were named "Day." So anyway, we drove around, and I told him, I said, "What I want to do, I think, since there's no brewery in town to name after you. There's a park here." And so I'm working with the mayor up there to have what's called Seminary Park downtown renamed the Pete Knight Park and put one of the planes up there. But he told me they named a school after him. I talked to him a week or so ago. They named a school after him out there, which I thought was funny.

Kyle Exline:

He couldn't make his grades. [Laughs]

Keith Bratton:

He couldn't make his grades. We've had a lot of good times together. So you ask if you should go. Look what happened to him.

Kyle Exline:

Right.

Keith Bratton:

I remember when he stayed with me while he went to school here to learn about politics when he was thinking about retiring. He was Mayor of Palmdale, California and then he was in the House of Representatives. He's got quite a record if you heard.

Kyle Exline:

All right. Well --

Keith Bratton:

So join.

Kyle Exline:

So join. [Laughs]

Keith Bratton:

Join up. I used to go around and I did a lot of work with the Navy, you know, and I was recruiting people and they had me do programs. It's really, now, it is so much more advanced. These guys, young guys, come in and they land on a carrier full-bore so they can hit the button and go back on. It's amazing how smart they are.

Kyle Exline:

All right, well that's all there is, unless you have some stories you want to talk about.

Keith Bratton:

When are you going to enlist?

Kyle Exline:

When am I -- I don't know what I'm going to do.

Keith Bratton:

Why? What you going to do?

Kyle Exline:

Well, I play baseball. So, I'm going to talk to some schools about playing baseball in college, so we'll see.

Keith Bratton:

I used to teach it up at Fort Wayne.

Kyle Exline:

Did you?

Keith Bratton:

I was, in my younger days, I was a catcher.

Kyle Exline:

Some catching?

Keith Bratton:

Yes.

Kyle Exline:

Did you get to wear your glove?

Keith Bratton:

Yes. I played short stop and third base, I played left field, and I was a catcher. But then, I couldn't get big enough. I mean, my God, the guy'd run over you.

Kyle Exline:

Right. Yeah.

Keith Bratton:

So, it's best to be on left field. I liked that better. You didn't have --

Kyle Exline:

No contact out there.

Keith Bratton:

But see, when I caught baseball, it was while I was waiting to go to college for the park department. They didn't have little league. They had American Legion ball. That was it. There was no - they'd come out there in the morning and play. I remember catching for some of those kids -- my God, they'd throw that ball like you didn't believe. I forget their names. They're probably in the big leagues now. But I wanted -- on television I see these people like in Ireland and Jerusalem and all where they're throwing rocks. I said, why don't we send somebody from the Cubs over and recruit these guys. The Cubs need them.

Kyle Exline:

Yeah. The Cubs need them

Keith Bratton:

And how come you never hear of any Taiwanese, like the Taiwanese people won the little league championship for years and years. But there aren't any Taiwan players here.

Kyle Exline:

Yeah, it's weird.

Keith Bratton:

What happens to them?

Kyle Exline:

I don't know. They've got some guys coming over, but none of them are pitchers or anybody. I guess it's more Chinese and Japanese. I don't know.

Keith Bratton:

I've got a picture in my album of doing a straffing mission on an island where the Japanese are playing baseball.

Kyle Exline:

Really? I think a lot of it is coming over to the United States that they don't want to do. I think they play there in their leagues.

Keith Bratton:

But, it seems like they'd recruit. Put all of the little league players from Taiwan. They had to be good. Take like one would show up here. At least one of them.

Kyle Exline:

You would think.

Keith Bratton:

Like what's happening with that guy that was on the team that beat Brownsburg that they said was too old?

Kyle Exline:

Oh, Almonte?

Keith Bratton:

What is it?

Kyle Exline:

Almonte. Donny Almonte?

Keith Bratton:

Yes.

Kyle Exline:

He's still young. He's playing, he's like fifteen-years-old, but I haven't heard much from him. I guess he feels pretty good in that league too. But, he could throw the ball.

Keith Bratton:

I was up -- my daughter, she's in Chicago in the ad business too, she took me over to Wrigley Field, the Cubs were playing. Had dinner or brunch in the private dining room there with the owner Jim came over and said hello. We were a guest of WGN, and the owner came over and said hello. So we sat and talked to him. Had nice brunch, and then we went down and got our seats, real nice seats along first baseline, real, real nice seats, and then a guy comes down and he says, "It's time to go upstairs." So, okay, we went up into the broadcast booth with Harey Carey and Lou Boudreaux and I was down there talking with Carey, and he was a friendly guy, talking with me and he said, "That was a ball." And I said, "How do you know that? You're talking to me." He said, "That's what it was." And later on somebody down at the Star. I was down there for some reason. A guy said, "Well, you were in Chicago over the weekend, weren't you?" and I said, "Yeah. How do you know that?" He said, "Because you were at the Cubs game, Harey Carey said you were a guest of his. Came up to see his idol." I said, "Who did he say my idol was?" And he said, "Harey Carey." And I said, "No, Lou Boudreaux.'

Kyle Exline:

[laughs]

Keith Bratton:

That was -- I really enjoyed that. That was really neat.

Kyle Exline:

Wrigley Field is a nice stadium. I've been there before. It's real nice. Wrigley Field.

Keith Bratton:

Oh yeah. It's one of the oldest ones. Cincinnati at one time, it was the oldest field, I forget the name of it and also there's Boston.

Kyle Exline:

Fenway Park.

Keith Bratton:

Yes.

Kyle Exline:

They're talking about rebuilding that one or doing something because they don't have enough stands to accommodate all the fans.

Keith Bratton:

What was the name of that park in Cincinnati that closed down?

Kyle Exline:

Crosley field?

Keith Bratton:

Crosley, yeah. What position do you play?

Kyle Exline:

I pitch.

Keith Bratton:

Oh, you're a pitcher.

Kyle Exline:

Yeah. I pitch.

Keith Bratton:

So you're going to be on a farm team?

Kyle Exline:

Well, I'll just go to college and then play there four years and see what happens.

Keith Bratton:

Going to Butler?

Kyle Exline:

No, actually, I might go to Purdue.

Keith Bratton:

Purdue. Let's see, that's up near Lafayette, someplace. They used to play basketball up there.

Kyle Exline:

They still try to. They got beat last night.

Keith Bratton:

The pitcher - the guys that I worked with while I was waiting to go to college were all high school jocks, baseball or basketball and football players and one guy I worked with, he got an offer to go to the Cubs. He even went to their farm team. Bill Bower went to the Cubs. A guy that was a roommate or bunkmate, I guess, he slept in the upper bunk overseas someplace, his name was Merrill Mays. And I tried to get a history on it, but I was told that he used to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates and we called him the "old man." He was thirty-five-years-old. But I -baseball, I'm mad at baseball.

Kyle Exline:

Oh, you're talking about the strike and everything like that or what?

Keith Bratton:

Oh, they're a bunch of whiners. They're making all kinds of money and they're always complaining.

Kyle Exline:

Right.

Keith Bratton:

And, it's just a mess, it's no fun anymore. It's just no fun. I tell you. When I grew up in Fort Wayne, we'd go over and play ball, there's a place called the State School and it was a mental hospital, or institution, I should say. And they had a great ball field there and we'd play the inmates.

Kyle Exline:

[laughs]

Keith Bratton:

Yeah. And the inmates would come out and watch the ball games. They'd sit there and then in the evening they would have AAA ball there under the lights and we'd sneak in through the fence in the back, and we'd sit there with the inmates sometimes, they couldn't tell the difference [laughs.] So many baseball stories. Baseball, I -- used to be, I couldn't wait to get home and hear baseball and see baseball. When I grew up, I wish I had known about golf. It was baseball. All the time baseball. It's all we did. If I had some of those baseball cards now, like if I had a couple of Honus Wagner cards, I'd do pretty good.

Kyle Exline:

Yeah, you'd do alright.

Keith Bratton:

But, that's all we did. This one guy I ran around with, Bill Warner, he had the greatest collection of baseball cards. He was a walking encyclopedia. He could tell any, any batting average you wanted to know, anything. I mean, he was great. And I wonder whatever happened to his collection, because it has to be worth a fortune. In fact, the president of Butler University Bobbie Fall is, that's one of his big hobbies, is collecting baseball cards.

Kyle Exline:

I used to do it a lot with my Dad when I was younger, collect all the cards and stuff. But, not anymore though. The card collecting business has gone down. But, like, if you have like those old time cards, they're still worth -

Keith Bratton:

Oh, yes.

Kyle Exline:

The new stuff --

Keith Bratton:

A Honus Wagner card, it's like a million - two million dollars.

Kyle Exline:

Right. Yeah. My dad always said when he was younger, he always had Nolan Ryan rookie cards and, like, the card was split in half with two different players, Nolan Ryan and someone else who didn't make it. And he'd use them as like, coasters 'cause he didn't like the two face cards and now the cards are worth a couple thousand dollars.

Keith Bratton:

[laughs] We'd get them in chewing gum, I think.

Kyle Exline:

Yeah. They used to put chewing gum into the cards. When I was a kid they did that.

Keith Bratton:

Swapping those cards was great. Baseball was all we ever thought about. It was just -- I saw Babe Ruth when I was a little kid. I'll never forget that. Babe Ruth came to Fort Wayne and I don't know what the circumstances was or how I wound up there. But, he was a huge guy and he had this camel's hair coat on and a matching cap, a cap, a great big guy. I mean, big around, just a massive - wasn't like a great big tall person. And I must have been this close, see. And you're in awe with the guy. All the kids that I played baseball with, we were all standing there. He was very friendly, would autograph anything. Give him anything and he'd autograph it. Then he's smoking a cigar. I wasn't quite sure if he had a cigar or not. But, anyway, I'd look back and I said, "My God, if I had just had a baseball or anything!" That close. Just this far away, Babe Ruth!

Kyle Exline:

Crazy. Now, where was that at? Where'd you see him at?

Keith Bratton:

Fort Wayne.

Kyle Exline:

Fort Wayne?

Keith Bratton:

Yeah.

Kyle Exline:

You were just out and about or was it at the game or where?

Keith Bratton:

No. He was making a personal appearance.

Kyle Exline:

Oh, okay. Okay.

Keith Bratton:

And I don't know how we got there, but my God, that was really something to see Babe Ruth and he'd talk to you. "And what's your name?" [stutters]

Kyle Exline:

[laughs]

Keith Bratton:

How you doing, Babe? Oh, yeah. Who else? Somebody. Oh, Pete Rose. A picture out in the garage is me with Pete Rose. And I forget what I was talking with Pete Rose about. Oh, I know. I was involved with the Rose Festival here. I had lunch with him when he was in town, and I was going to suggest, to get his permission, for the Rose Grower's Association to develop a new rose called the "Pete Rose," and he said, "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea." And I said, "What would be your fee?" He said, "Hell, I don't need any money," he says, "anything you guys make off of it, you can keep it." Here, I'll show you, yes, you wouldn't believe it.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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