There is no truth to the long-standing rumor that Arnold Palmer was on this day in 1929 born in The Tin Lizzy. The rumor was so persistent I asked Palmer about it.
“What?” he said scornfully. “You think we were pioneer folk crossing the prairie? I was born in Latrobe Hospital.”
I told one believer the truth from Palmer and he still wasn’t sold.
“Well, then he was conceived there.”
Maybe, but we don’t have the technology to determine that.
Here or there is neither, well, here or there. Because today we turn over the newsletter to AP, who would have been 92.
We miss you, Mr. Palmer. Thank you for sharing so much of your life with us.
• “The day Palmer nearly saw me ace,” 4:06 YouTube
• “Rivals Palmer & Player on bacon consumption,” 1:16 YouTube
Palmer notes …
• Questions I'm glad I never felt compelled to ask Arnold Palmer: "So what's Michael Jackson really like?”
• It’s now been 10 days. So this is the longest Arnold Palmer's gone without signing an autograph in 60 years.
• Just realized: For the first time in my life, I can probably beat Arnold Palmer at golf - but he'll still have to give strokes.
• Just occurred to me: Elvis Presley & Arnold Palmer will be seated near each other if there are homerooms in heaven.
• Half the fun of watching Arnold Palmer golf was watching him extricate himself from impossible situations. I don’t think he can club his way out of this one. Then again he’s only been dead one day.
• After we’d become friends — I interviewed him more than 100 times from 2004 through August 16, 2016 — I sat down in his office and began the interview by saying how much I looked forward to our breezy exchanges. His exact words: “And I can’t tell you how much I look forward to you coming in here to blow so much sweet smoke up my ass!” I kept waiting for the day he’d ask me to pull his finger. Understand, this is the same guy who the week before had been at the Bush White House dining with Queen Elizabeth. Talk about having the common touch.
• Arnold Palmer, the drink, is one part lemonade, three parts unsweetened iced tea. Arnold Palmer, the person? He was one part champagne, three parts beer.
• My favorite quote about Palmer comes not from a golfer or president, but from an actor whom he barely knew. It was Kirk Douglas who in 1970 said, “No one — not Frank Sinatra, not John Wayne or Ronald Reagan — has more charisma than Arnold Palmer.”
• John Paul Newport of the Wall Street Journal wrote on Palmer’s 80th birthday, “Lasting popularity of Palmer’s magnitude simply cannot be explained.”
• What’s Arnold Palmer really like? Arnold Palmer is perfectly cool, authentic and refreshing. If he were a drink he’d be an Arnold Palmer.”
• What’s he like?If Arnold Palmer were the only member of The Greatest Generation it would still be The Greatest Generation solely because it included Arnold Palmer.”
• As everyone knows, he is one of the greatest golfers who’s ever lived. But a charming alchemy of small-town grit, old-fashioned good manners and heaven-sent good fortune have made his a life unique in American history. Many presidents may admire Sandy Koufax or Cal Ripken, but that doesn’t mean they’ll ever invite them to the White House to play catch. But it’s different with golfers. And it’s different still with Palmer. That helps explain why former President Dwight D. Eisenhower showed up at Palmer’s house to surprise him on his 37th birthday on this day in 1966, and why Bill Clinton told biographers in 2000 that one of the greatest perks of being POTUS is the “opportunity to play golf with Arnold Palmer.”
Some Q&As …
CR: Are you ever sorry you didn’t give that paint salesman thing in 1954 more of a chance?
AP: No. There was some thought I’d need to persevere with that occupation. You never know and I needed to have a back up plan and that’s just what that was until I won the U.S. Amateur that same year. Was I good paint salesman? Obviously not! If I’d been really good, I’d still be there selling paint, wouldn’t you think? I’m thinking I chose the right path for me.
CR: Does Arnold Palmer have a bucket list?
AP: I’ve done a lot of the things I’ve wanted to do. Flying was a big part of that. I don’t fly myself anymore, but I’m still very active with flying and work with aviation organizations as part of the American way of life. There are a couple of places I’ve thought about visiting with Kit, my wife. One is Alaska. I’d like to spend some time with her there. Having played golf my whole life, I’ve been to most of the nice warm places on earth at one time or another. I haven’t been to the French Riviera and that’s a place I’d like to visit. But I’ve traveled so much that I really enjoy just being home in Latrobe and home in Orlando at Bay Hill. I really am looking forward to spending whatever time I have left in those two places.
CR: Would you ever go on “Dancing With the Stars?”
AP: No. I’m not a dancer. That’s not for me.
CR: I understand you were on the verge of having back surgery, but your experts decided you’d be better suited for therapy. How’s your back doing?
AP: I am undergoing physical therapy. I have a therapist that comes three days a week and she was here today for an hour. It’s very rigorous. She really works me out.
CR: Wanna wrestle?
AP: I’m game! You know, I used to be a pretty fair wrestler. I think she has me in shape to go again. Let’s just see how the rest of the interview goes.
CR: When was the last time you spent a whole winter in Latrobe?
AP: Oh, gee, it’s been so long. It’s been since clear back before I turned professional. I’m thinking the last one had to be about 1947. I’d winter in Florida because I couldn’t golf here.
CR: Do you ever worry that lack of exposure to Pennsylvania’s biting winter — the snow, the ice — is going to make you soft?
AP: Ha! No, I don’t worry about that one bit.
CR: Did you watch many Western movies growing up? Any favorites or favorite Western actors?
AP: “The Lone Ranger” was one of my favorites as a little boy. I love every John Wayne movies. John Wayne was always great.
CR: Ever meet The Duke?
AP: No, I never did.
CR: How about his sometime co-star, Jimmy Stewart from nearby Indiana, Pennsylvania?
AP: Jimmy and I did meet. We talked about Indiana and western Pennsylvania. And aviation, too. He was a pilot who flew in the service. I’m still a big Clint Eastwood fan, too. We had dinner last Saturday night. We talked about his old show, ‘Rawhide.’ He’s the same age as I am. About the same condition, too.
CR: What would happen if the two of you wrestled?
AP: I’d kick his ass. He has all those seconds do that stuff for him. I still do all my own stunts.
CR: Last question: When was the last time you helped build a snowman?
AP: Oh, it’s been a while, all right. I’ll tell you what: I’ll be here for a week around Christmas. If it snows we can all get together and make a really big one. That’d be fun!
Related Blog …
“Time to change name of town from Youngstown to Palmerville”
Because it would lure ample tourist dollars to a needy destination, I’m proposing we rename Youngstown, Pa., … Palmerville! Youngstown, pop. 314, was founded by the Young family of pioneers back in 1800. Like nobody would have found it in the next week or so. Heck, I can’t be sure but I think the local Taco Bell opened in 1804. And what kind of pioneers come to within a day’s ride of Pittsburgh and say, “Okay, whoa, that’s far enough.”
Signed copies of my book, “Arnold Palmer: Homespun Stories of The King,” available at www.ChrisRodell.com