The Greatest Gift
I met Walter Wellesley Smith only once.
I doubt that anybody but his mother called him Walter. He was known to the world as Red Smith. He is generally regarded as the most outstanding sportswriter in the history of journalism.
We met at his desk at the New York Tribune. There was an Underwood typewriter, a high pile of blank sheets, a jar of paste, and a few red-leaded pencils.
Being with Red Smith was one of the highlights of my life. But that's a story for another day. What I want to tell you about is the conversation we had. It's all about relationships.
When Red was in grade school in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Adelaide Breckenridge was his homeroom teacher. I'm going to let Red tell you the rest of this story as best as I can remember it.
“Miss Breckenridge was in charge of my homeroom. She also taught me fifth grade English. She was tough. She made me work very hard.
“I remember a number of occasions when she would say: ‘Red, you're made of great stuff. You are not showing your full potential. You can do really outstanding things when you grow up. You need to work harder.’
“It seemed that every time she had an opportunity, she would tell me about what high expectations she had for me. She'd tell me I had the makings of a good writer.
“Then I went on to junior high. On my very first day, there was Miss Breckenridge talking to my new homeroom teacher. It was before classes started. She asked me to join them.
“She said to my homeroom teacher that she felt I had ...