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“I had a friend was a big baseball player back in high school, he could throw that speedball by you, make you look like a fool boy, saw him the other night at this roadside bar.”
That’s the opening for Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 hit song “Glory Days,” and it turns out the lyrics are about the singer’s real-life Little League baseball teammate, Joe DePugh, according to the New York Times.
DePugh and Springsteen also were seatmates in seventh grade at St. Rose of Lima School in Freehold, N.J., and DePugh even gave Springsteen the nickname “Saddie.”
In 1973, they actually did run into each other a bar in New Jersey to catch up on old times. DePugh had told a co-worker about the run-in, and when he heard “Glory Days,” he immediately knew it was about DePugh.
At this point, DePugh had moved to Vermont. He got a call from the former co-worker telling him about the song.
“He told me, ‘Springsteen has a new album out, and there’s a song on there about you,’ ” DePugh said. ” ‘It’s exactly the story you told me.’ “
Initially, DePugh didn’t want to believe it was about him, so he called into a radio station to request “Glory Days.”
“My wife starts bawling,” DePugh said. “That’s how I knew exactly that it was me.”
Years later, at their 30th high school reunion, a fellow classmate asked Springsteen if the song was about DePugh, and the singer confirmed that it was.
While the two were friends early on, they grew apart during high school.
“He lost interest in baseball, and I was nothing but sports,” DePugh said.
So who is Joe DePugh? He’s the oldest of six brothers, was a star Little League pitcher and had several offers to play college basketball as well as an invitation to try out for the L.A. Dodgers (the tryout apparently didn’t go so well).
He did go on to play basketball at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where he earned a degree in English. He worked as a substitute teacher before becoming a self-employed contractor and now spends his winters in Florida.
And he’s met up with the Boss again a couple times since that fateful 1973 encounter. A fellow classmate arranged a lunch meeting in 2005, and the two met up again a couple of years ago, both times in New Jersey.
“He said, ‘Always remember, I love you,’ not like some corny Budweiser commercial, but a real sentimental thing,” DePugh said. “I was dumbfounded. I said, ‘Thanks, Saddie.’ That was all I could come up with, and all of a sudden, he’s out the door. And it hit me that you’ve got to do a little better than that, so I pulled the door open and yelled down to him, ‘Sad!’ He turned around and I pointed at him and said, ‘I love you, too, and I’m real proud of you.’ And he just waved.”
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