In the 1960s John Engel of Glendale, Wis., was given a box of hand-me-down clothes by his neighbor, Viola Ritz, whose son Peter was serving with the Air Force in Vietnam. In the box were two baseballs, one signed by more than a dozen Milwaukee Braves and the other bearing the signature of Hank Aaron and two other players, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Engel's mother said he could have them and they sat on the shelf for years, he told the Journal Sentinel Saturday.
"One day I came home and found the Hank Aaron ball covered with grass stains. My younger brother, Jeff, told me he had asked my dad for a couple bucks to buy a baseball at Bay Shore. As you might imagine, raising 11 kids taught my dad to be a bit frugal. He told Jeff to use one of my baseballs," said Engel, who left home at 18, taking the balls with him.
"There are very few things I've kept from childhood until age 54 -- my older brother's hippie peace sign medal, my second-grade report card with a perfect attendance ribbon and the baseballs. They even survived a house fire in 2001."
But he started thinking about returning the baseballs to their rightful owner, and after an Internet search Engel, who now lives in West Allis, Wis., found Peter Ritz in Oshkosh, Wis. They met and Engel handed over the balls.
"I got a call out of the blue from John. He had these baseballs. He said he was looking for me because for some reason or another he remembered my name," Ritz said.
"It's the cool ending I hoped for," Engel said.