Valo to Chuvalo…a terrific baseball/boxing scorekeeper story from Phil Jackman.
Closest I came to bodily harm occurred during a game wherein Oakland catcher Frank Fernandez hit a lightning bolt off the glove of Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson, right into the glove of shortstop Mark Belanger. Fernandez was about three steps out of the batter’s box when Belanger threw the ball over first base, and the batter ended up on second base.
He was steaming at second base after checking the scoreboard for the call, making semaphore signals up toward the press box after every pitch to the next batter. A single sent Fernandez around to score, and before heading into the dugout, he went to the backstop, took off his batting helmet and heaved it at the press box.
Unfortunately, that was not the end of it. Oakland manager Dick Williams called the press box and asked me to reconsider the call. He said the hit might be the difference between his catcher hitting .199 and .201 for the year. I was standing up in the middle of the press box and laughed. I know Fernandez saw me. Ugh.
The next week, the Orioles were on the road in Oakland and, during the afternoon before a night game, I went down to a boxing gym in the center of the city where George Foreman worked out. The gym was all but empty save for Big George, a guy he was sparring with, Mike Quarry (Jerry Quarry’s brother); manager Dick Sadler; and Fernandez, who was on the other side of the ring observing.
Fernandez was trying to place me, but wasn’t sure. He started around the ring as my legs began to buckle. The panicky look on my face probably gave me away. The supposed aggrieved party began shouting, on and on. After a while, Foreman called a halt in the ring and came over.
“Listen, I’m the only one doing fighting here,” he said, “so you two shut up and behave.”
Years later, attending a Foreman fight, I thanked him profusely for “saving my life.” George said he happened to be watching the game in question that night and recalled the play.
“You should have given him a hit,” he said.
I don’t think I was ever in the same city with Fernandez after that.