Following my recent back surgery, I finally feel like sitting up and writing again. This has been tough on me and I am still a long way from returning to normal. However, as I sit back and reflect on the happenings of the last several weeks, I am reminded once again of the fragility of it all. In the past several weeks, many of my childhood baseball idols have passed away. Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Whitey Ford to name a few all died in the last week or so. Many others like Jimmy Wynn, Claudell Washington, Bob Watson and Al Kaline all passed away earlier in 2020.
Maybe it's the terrible things we have gone through this year that make those losses seem much more than usual.
Or it could be the fact that the older I get, the more people I care about are going on to glory.
Whitey Ford and Bob Gibson were my two favorite pitchers in the 1960s. Whitey, also called the "Chairman of the Board" is the all-time career wins leader for the New York Yankees. He was a 10- time all-star and won six World Series rings in his 16-year career, all with New York. In 1999, he was selected as one of the top 52 players of all-time by the Sporting News. Whitey passed away at the age of 91 just last week.
Bob Gibson was perhaps baseball's most dominant pitcher in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In fact, the mound was lowered by Major League Baseball following the 1968 season - a year that Gibson tossed 13 shutouts and turned in an era of 1.12, the lowest in 55 years. He was one of the greatest competitors to ever play the game of baseball and, when he pitched the Cardinals to three wins in the 1967 World Series over the Boston Red Sox, I called in sick from school so I could stay home and watch the games on television. Behind the Yankees, the Cardinals were my favorite team as a teenager and it was mainly because of Bob Gibson.
One of the greatest thrills of my lifetime was being at Turner Field in Atlanta for the 2000 Major League All-Star game. Many of the greatest stars in baseball history were on hand and I was on the field right in the middle of them. For more than an hour, I stood at the batting cage and watched the game's current stars take their cuts, while being watched by Hall of Famers all around them. That's something I will never forget. Being able to shake hands with guys like Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson and Willie Mays to name just a few is the dream of a lifetime for a life-long baseball fan. Thanks for all the memories, fellas.
Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org