Wednesday, June 18, 2014
M*A*S*H/Cheers/Frasier writer remembers Captain Video.
He and I shared a cab to Shea Stadium in New York one afternoon. Somewhere in the streets of Queens the cabbie lost control and the cab did a full 360 spin before coming safely to a stop. Once we caught our breath I said to Tony, “You realize that if anything had happened the headline in all the papers and on all the news shows would be ‘Tony Gwynn and passenger killed in car accident.’ My life would be reduced to ‘passenger.’ “ Tony called me ‘passenger’ for the next two weeks.
Posted: June 18, 2014 at 02:38 PM | 7 comment(s)
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
In late April, I surprised him at the hospital. He was in a wheelchair. His hair was fully gray. He couldn’t open his right eye. He could only halfway open his mouth. He was on oxygen. The purest hitter of our generation was dying.
You can’t prepare yourself for that. Not when you knew him like I did. I was a rookie Padres beat writer in 1985; he’d won his first batting title in 1984. I knew him when his vision was 20-10, when he considered 1-for-4 a bad day at the office, when he used to write “5.5 hole” on his cleats. That day in the hospital, I would have done anything to see a young Tony Gwynn again. And then I looked down at his feet. He was wearing his old baseball shower shoes. On them was his scribbled number: 19. He was 19 to the end.
Ex-Padres beat writer visits dying Gwynn… my eyes must be smelling the smoke from the wood of a bat burning.
Posted: June 17, 2014 at 01:16 AM | 0 comment(s)
Thursday, February 06, 2014
Kiner always credited Hank Greenberg, the equally renowned home run hitter who hit 58 for the Detroit Tigers in 1938, as having most influenced his career. Greenberg was acquired by the Pirates in 1947 specifically to tutor Kiner, but besides working with him on his hitting, Greenberg also cautioned Kiner about his partying ways while ingraining in him the value of hard work. In becoming the most prolific power hitter in baseball, Kiner was credited with having coined the phrase “home run hitters drive Cadilacs” although he later confessed the quote was actually attributed to him by a ‘40s Pirate teammate, lefthanded pitcher Fritz Ostermueller.
Unfortunately, during those first seven years in the big leagues, Kiner’s Pirates finished last or next-to-last five times while finishing over .500 only once, prompting what has become one of the most famous lines ever uttered by a baseball executive. It was after the 1952 season, in which Kiner had won his seventh straight home run title, that Pirates GM Branch Rickey nevertheless offered to cut his major league high salary of $90,000 some 22% to $70,000. When Kiner protested, Rickey replied: “Son, we could have finished last without you.”
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