Sept. 18, 1985
You probably aren’t going to believe a word of this, but it is all true:
It was in World War II, and I was taking the physical examination that led to the Navy. It happened that one of the guys in line with me was a friend named John McGraw. Not the baseball immortal, just a friend.
When the time came to give a urine sample, I was having a problem, but John obviously wasn’t. I asked him to take my little jar and fill it. He obliged. An hour later I was in the Navy.
A month later, I was at a naval training base and was called to the hospital. I was told to give a urine sample and to wait while they checked it. Later came the questions.
Did I have a family history of kidney trouble? Was I ever treated for blood in the urine? Sugar? Wet the bed? I played dumb because the doctor didn’t seem the type who would appreciate the truth. “I don’t understand this,” he said. “Come back in a week.”
That went on for three more weeks before they gave up. Incidentally, my friend McGraw never made it to the Navy. He was rejected – for flat feet. And don’t bother worrying about his kidneys or whatever. He’s still alive…
It’s still World War II, and now I’m stationed in Norman, Okla. My group is ordered to pass a swimming test, swimming 400 yards using four different strokes and staying afloat 45 minuets.
That was far too much for an old irrigation canal swimmer, but they said you’d get no leave until you either passed the test or were excused. That was serious, so I got a friend to use my I.D. and take the test for me. Dangerous stuff, but necessary.
He passed, but he overdid it. A real showoff. A few days later, I got a call from some officer at the pool. He’s d been checking and asked if I would like to transfer to pool duty. No, I said humbly, I wasn’t that good. Well, he insisted, I really was pretty good and maybe I should. I asked for time to think about it.
He called three more times before I finally had worked sent to them that I had transferred and was long gone. Too bad, he said, because that Snider, he was a hell of a swimmer…
It is now many years later in Washington, D.C., and my friend Bill and I are having lunch with Steve Alex and complaining that we haven’t yet found a good place to play golf. Steve grinned and said he had the solution.
“Go to my club,” he said, “and one of you say you’re Steve Alex. I’ve never played golf, so nobody around the golf shop will know me. Just sign my name and number to everything and we’ll settle up later.”
A flip of the coin made me Steve Alex. Naturally. And one fine morning finds yours truly, alias Steve Alex, on the course with his guest Bill. Things went without a hitch, except on the sixth hole, where I made a hole in one. Two bounces and plunk. My first ever, and only. But this was worse than making one while playing alone. Playing under an assumed name; there wasn’t much bragging I could do about it. It would be best to keep this quiet.
We finished paying, and went into the crowded men’s grill for a sandwich. For Bill and me, it would turn out to be two of the costliest d=sandwiches in history. In that grill room, things really fell apart.
By the wildest of chances, there happened to be a guy in the grill who knew us. He yelled across the room, saying hello and asking us how we played. Bill, without thinking, shouted back, “Dick did well. He made a hole in one.”
The room grew silent, and heads turned. Bill, realizing what he had done, put his hands over his face and muttered, “Oh, no.” But oh, yes. Confusion and noise suddenly swept over us. Drinks for the house, they shouted. Sure.
We were surrounded. Who made the hole in one? Who’s Steve Alex? He went to make a call. He must have had to catch a plane. But who cares? Have another drink.
I gathered the tabs and sneaked off and signed Steve’s name to them. Then Bill and I made our way out of there. It seemed to take hours. I was thinking that I’d hit a golf shot that should have put me in the Hall of Fame, but probably would have come closer to getting me in the county jail. But we escaped.
It is well established at Steve’s club that he made a hole in one that day, and that’s not bad for a guy who never played golf. It is also a fact that it cost Bill and me about $80 piece to play golf and celebrate a shot that went only 145 yards and officially never happened.