Damned if I can tell Fred from A.J. The two guys who liven up the local Houston-Beaumont or Beaumont-Houston sports talk radio channel in a noon-2 p.m. thing called “The Blitz.” Sorry guys. Not that Fred or A.J. read my blog, but it’s just difficult sometime telling one from the other on the radio. With that said, a little baseball talk, but more a small bit o’ discourse on dignity.
Today, this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame class was announced. The winners, nominees, selectees, chosen ones, whatever are Robbie Alomar and Bert Blyleven. Alomar is considered one of the best second basemen in baseball history while Bert “Be Home” Blyeven, as he was dubbed by longtime ESPN commentator Chris Berman, is known for the wondrous curve ball he chunked as mostly an American League pitcher.
While I remember Blyleven only a bit, when he played for Minnesota and Texas, about the only thing I remember about Alomar was when he spit on umpire John Hirschbeck during a dispute during a 1996 game. One of the Blitz radio guys, and again I am sorry I don’t know which one, spoke today about when his father took him to a Texas game when Blyleven was pitching. They later saw the pitcher in a restaurant and the then kid wanted to get Blyleven’s autograph. The radio guy said his dad told him to wait until the future Hall of Famer had finished eating, which is what the then kid did. Seeing a napkin on top of the plate, the kid approached Blyleven. Then, said the sports announcer, the pitcher jumped his s**t for bothering him while he was eating. That was even though the pitcher appeared to be finished with his meal. From that point forward the kid felt bitter toward Blyleven. Go figure.
While I was never a fan-atic in any sport, I nonetheless have enjoyed many games of different sports and admired athletes for both their sporting ability as well as those who showed some semblance of character. That seems hard to find these days with some modern-day jocks.
I have only asked for and received one autograph in my life, other than having authors sign a couple of books. The signature was from baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, one of the guys who knocked an impressive number of longballs (lifetime 574 HR), during his more than 20 years mostly with the Minnesota Twins and its predecessor Washington Senators. I probably shouldn’t have asked Hammerin’ Harmon for his autograph even though he was signing them at the time for veterans at a VA hospital. I say I probably should not have because I was covering the event as a reporter and that would be seen by some as “unethical” or “bias.” But screw it. Harmon was one of the best, not only players but human beings. He did that kind of thing, going around visiting VA hospitals around the country, all the time. I put in a shadow box the reporter’s notebook I asked Harmon to sign on the back cover. He said: “Thanks for everything … ,” meaning my coverage. What a guy.
The World has learned this week that Harmon Killebrew has been diagnosed with a rare malignancy, esophogeal cancer. I remember that as nice a man Harmon, now 74, was, he was also an old-time, hard-as-nails hitter. He said in an interview he is preparing, along with his wife, for the toughest battle of his life.
I wish the best to Harmon, the only person whose autograph I asked and received, and to his family as they face this rough road ahead. If class were a prerequisite of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Harmon Killebrew would win every time on the first ballot.