So I was sitting in the third row of the White Sox press box the other day when I overheard a couple of fellow scribes talking.
"Hey, did you see who died?" asked one.
My ears perked up. It had been a newsworthy week for celebrity deaths - Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson - and I was naturally curious to hear who was next.
"Yeah, Willie Mays," said the other.
The two then changed to a different subject, which I thought was odd. I mean, come on!
Willie Mays, the greatest ballplayer of a generation - the greatest ever, many believe - is dead, and these two supposed baseball guys just blow it off with a simple mention?!?
So I went on a couple of sports Web sites and I didn't see word one on the passing of The Say Hey Kid, which I thought was even odder. He might not have been as big as the King of Pop, but surely he had more star power even now than Farrah or Johnny's sidekick.
Then I got busy writing and kind of forgot to check on it again until I got home from the ballpark.
Over dinner, my son Ben asked: "Did you hear who died?"
To which I answered with great certainty: "Yeah, Willie Mays. What a bummer."
My son laughed and so did my wife, which I thought was the oddest thing of all.
"What?" said I, clearly upset. "Maybe the best ballplayer ever is dead and that's your reaction?"
"Billy," Ben said.
"Huh?" I asked.
"Billy Mays is the one who died, you dodo," my wife said, leaving me with only one response:
"You know," Ben said, "the guy from the infomercials."
I didn't know. I'm not trying to trivialize a man's death. I simply had never heard of him.
After dinner, I went online and looked up Billy Mays. His picture was vaguely familiar but, until right then, I wouldn't have known who he was if he had been sitting next to me in the press box.
A couple of the obits I read referred to him as an "infomercial legend."
Really? There's such a thing as a legend of infomercials?
If Billy Mays is a legend, what does that make Willie Mays?
Anyway, I'm sorry, Willie. I didn't mean to bump you off before your time!
I just hope I'm listening more carefully if I overhear folks talking about the death of legendary cream cheese inventor Philly Mays.