December 11, 2009

Gammons gave us the good stuff

Peter Gammons stiffed me.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. I mean it’s not every day that you can say you were stiffed by a Hall of Famer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing Gammons or Hall of Famers in general. I guess what I’m really saying is that it’s not every day that you even run into a “legend.”

They’re not moments you can necessarily anticipate. They just kind of happen and such was the case for me this past spring. Cheryl and I were in Tempe (just like always), when I saw a familiar sight moving from the practice fields to the stadium; Peter Gammons. He looked like a professor on his way to teach a class, clutching a notebook with papers sticking out (at least that’s how I remember it now).

I thought to myself, "that’s Peter Gammons; I should ask him for his autograph." So, I grabbed a baseball and caught up to him as he was walking through the parking lot that connects the practice fields to Tempe Diablo Stadium. I politely asked for his signature and he politely said he had to be some place and was running late.

Oh well… I wasn’t mad at him for not stopping. Disappointed; yes, but not upset. He had a job to do and I understood. Maybe he thought I was one of those guys who gets autographs and then sells the stuff on eBay (I’m not). It doesn’t really matter. At the time, I thought to myself that maybe I’d get another shot. Unfortunately I never did see him again and I may never get that chance back.

Peter Gammons said goodbye to ESPN today. He’ll be working for the mlb network and NESN in Boston.

I don’t know if he’ll be making any more trips out west and even if he does, the chances of seeing him in person again are slim. I wish I had taken a picture with him or shook his hand; something, anything that would have served as a nice memory. He always seemed like the kind of guy who would be fun to just sit and talk baseball with. He usually had good stuff to say about baseball players; things that revealed who these players really were. I admire that.

I remember when Milton Bradley had one of his “episodes” and Gammons came on ESPN and shed a different light on the volatile player. He told viewers that when he went through his health issues (he had a brain aneurysm), Bradley was the first ball player to call him and see how he was doing.

I appreciate stuff like that. I know Gammons is known for breaking stories about trades, signings, etc., but I liked him for his ability to share something about a player’s personality or character; something unique and sometimes even up lifting.

For many years, Gammons was our connection to the inside of baseball. He was the guy who knew the things we wanted to know more about. He was a pioneer and now there are dozens of reporters and media types who have followed in his footsteps.

Gammons has always conducted himself with a great deal of class. You can tell that he has a great deal of respect for the game and for the people involved in America's favorite passtime. He has never been the story; making sure baseball is always the focal point. Perhaps the coolest thing about him is you can tell he is truly a baseball fan.

I wish Gammons well in his new endeavors.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post James. I never had the chance to meet him. I tried many times but it never did happen. I once saw him on the field at Dodger Stadium back in '04 but he disappeared right before the game started.