Honus Wagner, three links distant

Had another one of those social network experiences this weekend, but this one was much closer to home. It requires a bit of back story, a teeing up of the players so that the eventual network mesh makes sense. My father is a retired dentist. When my parents first moved to Freehold, NJ, my father and another dentist named Tony Hyman became close friends. Dr. Hyman was 20 years older than my father, and was the kind of friend whom you could count on for life. We had a special relationship with their family; the Hyman's sons are half a generation older than me so I enjoyed their hand-me-down baseball mitts and occasional babysitting adventures.

I always knew that Dr. Hyman loved baseball, and played well into his 80s. His son Mark, now covering the Baltimore Orioles for a living, captured the joy his father got attending the Cal Ripken Fantasy Camp where he packed the same punch with a bat that he did with a punch line. He remained active in Freehold's Little League program for as long as he lived in town. End of background.

Had lunch with my parents yesterday, and my son was telling us about visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer on a camp side trip. He insists that we go back, three generations of us, and see the Hall starting with the "first class" which included Honus Wagner. At the mention of Wagner's name, my father picked up the story. "Remember my friend Dr. Hyman?" he asked both of us. Turns out that Dr. Hyman was a minor league ball player in Pittsburgh, drilling hanging curves before he got into the business of drilling heads. My dad completed the three-generation, three-link story: Dr. Hyman knew Honus Wagner. And now my son knows his grandfather, who knew his best friend, who knew Honus Wagner, and the first class is separated from this year's graduating Little League class by only three friend-of-a-friend hops.

It's silly network effects like this that make baseball fans feel like they own the sport, and turn them into fans for life.

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Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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