"You play baseball, Frankie?"
Of course I did, though, as I told him, very little since Little League.
"That's OK, I know the coach at St. Joe's. I'll get you a baseball scholarship."
I thought of that Friday night when I learned Uncle Al, the 76ers trainer for nearly three decades, had died earlier that day at 83.
A streetwise, impatient man with a heart as big as the medical bag he carried onto the court during his 26 years as the Sixers trainer, Al probably could have finagled me a scholarship.
After all, despite bouncing from job to job as a young man, he had parlayed a rudimentary night-school course at Temple and a job as a roller-derby trainer into a long and remarkable NBA career.
His intimate connection to glory, to such idols of my youth as Hal Greer, Wali Jones, Bill Melchionni and, of course, Wilt Chamberlain, made him an iconic figure to me and the rest of our sports-mad family.
It never impressed Uncle Al that much though.
The father of eight, he lived his entire life in Northeast Philly rowhomes. He enjoyed the access the NBA gave him to two of his passions - golf and horse racing - and he genuinely liked the athletes he encountered. Billy Cunningham remained one of his closest friends. But he never acted like the big shot I always believed he was.
As a basketball-crazed teenager in the mid-'60s, I pestered him for tickets, so frequently that my father had to order me to stop.
(My father and Al - three years apart - were best-friend cousins as teenagers and young men. When Dad died in 2008, Al drove through a snowstorm and was first in line at the viewing. Looking around bewilderedly for a corpse that wasn't there, he finally asked, "Where's Fitz?" Told the remains had been cremated, he said, "Geez, why'd I'd even bother coming?")
The last time I bugged him for tickets was 1966. A friend, Gene Downs, and I met him at a Horn & Hardart's on Arch Street. Vince Miller, Wilt's best friend, was with Al. Gene and I, enraptured by their stories, barely touched our baked macaroni.
Later he took us into the cramped locker room at Convention Hall.
"You can stay," he said, "until the first player arrives."
We prayed it would be Wilt, or Cunningham or Chet Walker.
And then Art Heyman, an end-of-the-bench journeyman, walked in and we walked out crestfallen.
Over the years, Al's role evolved. Making players laugh became as essential as taping their ankles. Talk to anyone associated with the 76ers during his long tenure and they'll have a million Al Domenico stories.
Despite a paucity of formal medical training, he, in his own way, created a lasting legacy.
In response to his frequent late-game trips onto the court to minister Ethyl Chloride to questionably ailing players, the NBA instituted 30-second injury timeouts, which came to be known as the "Domenico Rule".
And I still hear bettors quoting his theory that the first team to reach 76 points in an NBA game invariably wins.
But while others were quick to tell Al Domenico stories, he could be more circumspect.
Not long after his 1989 retirement, he asked if I'd write his autobiography. We found a publisher and set up our first interview session at his house on Jackson Street.
He'd relate some fantastic tale involving Wilt, Charles Barkley or Moses Malone, and then tell me I couldn't use it.
"I can't put that in a book," he said, over and over.
Soon it was clear there was no book.
For most of his long retirement, Al golfed and/or went to Philadelphia Park every day. Like a lot of old men, he grew crustier with age but somehow he got softer too - except on the golf course where woe to you if you were playing slowly in front of him. Once at a family outing, as I putted on the first green - the first green - his fairway shot landed a foot or two away.
"Hurry it up!" came the distant, Philly-accented cry.
A few years ago, at his sister Barbara's 75th birthday party, we were seated at the same table. I probed him about his parents, my father and all the Domenico aunts, uncles and cousins they shared.
It was like we were doing the book again. Al seemed to recall very little. And then, out of nowhere, he began to sob. He hadn't forgotten them. It was just too painful to remember them.
"I miss everybody so much," he said.
And everybody who knew him will miss Al Domenico just as much.
Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at email@example.com, or on Twitter @philafitz.