Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What Baseball's All About

Peter Gammmons' Cooperstown induction speech is good stuff:

And to stand here in front of the Hall of Fame players is like standing in front of the baseball deities, and yet I feel so fortunate to have known so many of them as humans. I think of Carlton Fisk and I think of 8 to 10 hours a day of rehab in the winter of '73-'74, mostly in the Manchester YMCA, to come back from a knee injury that very few humans could have recovered from. Eddie Murray, I think of the hours he took, watching him take BP which allowed him to know all of those thousands of clutch hits which were only by design, not chance. I think of Robin Yount and the fastest he ever got timed to first was 3.9 seconds, the slowest 4.0. And I remember that George Brett always used to say he wanted his career to end on a ground ball to second base on which he busted his hump down the line. I think of Mike Schmidt mowing and lining the field in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida so he can coach his son's high school team. Then there's Sandy Koufax telling me that I lived in LA the way he lived in Stonington, Maine. I think of Bob Gibson's handshake, of Tony Perez, Petuka Perez, I think he lived a quarter of mile from where I lived in Brookline, Massachusetts, and to this day not two weeks to by when someone doesn't say, you know, how are Tony and Petuka Perez? They are the greatest people who lived in this neighborhood.

I think of the hours and I thank Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver for discussing pitching with me. I will never forget the day that Orlando Cepeda hit four doubles in one game in Fenway Park and could barely walk. I think of Reggie Jackson and the two of us wandering around Kenmore Square in Boston after the Angels had lost the 1986 ALCS outraged because Reggie Jackson's team had lost. I think of Dennis Eckersley and I think of his start in the 1978 Boston Massacre when seeing nearly 100 writers surrounded Frank Duffy because he made an error. He (Eck) started pulling him off. He shouted, "he didn't load the bases. He didn't hang a O-2 slider. Get to the locker and talk to the guy who has an L next to his name". Dennis Eckersley defines teammate. I think of Kirby Puckett, my favorite days in baseball while the lights were still off in the Metrodome at two o'clock in the afternoon, Game Six, the night he won the World Series, probably the only guy in the world that called me Petey, says, "Petey get up in your Sports Center and tell everyone that Puck is going to jack the Twins up in his back today". Well, four hits, a game saving catch, and a 10th inning home run later, Puck took us to the greatest seventh game, World Series game. I will never experience ten innings, 1-0, Jack Morris. These players are great players whose success is measured in overcoming adversity, but no one had to be a great person, no one had to be a great player to be a great person stored in my memory bank. So I think from John Curtis to Bill Campbell to Jerry Remy, Buckethead Schmidt to Bruce Hurst, Ellis Hurst to George Lombard, I've been lucky to know thousands of people who loved the game as much as I do. In 1985 the Globe sent me to Meridien, Mississippi to do a story on Dennis Oil Can Boyd's background. I had dinner with his father Willie James, who was once a Negro league pitcher and maintained the field and team in Meridien. He was telling me how he financed his life in baseball by being a landscaper.

Of the big four American sports, baseball is the richest in human interest stories. Gammons has probably heard most of them. Read the whole thing. From Gorilla Mask

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