YOU’VE GOTTA LOVE GAMMONS
Virtually every day I am treated to a front row seat to something special. Saturday was no exception. Baseball Hall of Famer Peter Gammons of ESPN was at McCoy to address the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR). After giving an enthralling, hour-long talk to the “stat-geeks” (I can call them that, I consider myself one) Peter consented to do an interview for the PawSox Radio Network. I consider myself a fairly adept interviewer, and I try to be prepared, no matter the subject, but I will admit that I tried to step up my “game” for the sit-down with Gammons. Among the topics we discusssed- Gammons being the real pioneer when it came to the transition from the print media to the electronic media. I jokingly told him that I hope he gets a lot of thank you notes from others that he paved the way for. We reminisced about the great Boston Globe sports page, and the incredible stable of writers he worked with. “There’s a story currently on SI.com about the greatest sports page in history. We had an incredible vibrancy and the camaraderie at the Globe. Bob Ryan and I started as interns on the same day back in the ’70s. Bob was a B.C. guy and I was out of North Carolina. We had Will McDonough covering the Patriots, Bob had the Celtics, I covered the Red Sox. We also had Ray Fitzgerald, Leigh Montville, who to this day, I consider the greatest columnist I’ve ever known, Leslie Visser who was a pioneer for female journalists and don’t forget Dan Shaughnessy.” A “murderer’s row” of journalists. Gammons spoke fondly about PawSox owner Ben Mondor. “Ben was the first minor league owner to “get it”. Come see the Boston Red Sox stars of tomorrow.” He relayed a conversation he had a couple of years ago with Red Sox G.M. Theo Epstein- “You can’t pay for what the PawSox provide the Red Sox.” When asked about the current rumor mill regarding the Red Sox and their needs- “They need a shortstop who can catch the ball.” Gammons had mentioned earlier that he was a Jed Lowrie fan, citing his high baseball I.Q. as one of the reasons. “They may be in the market for a successor to David Ortiz. I love Tito’s loyalty, but you have to have a DH that can hit the ball.” Gammons was the man who interviewed the disgraced third baseman of the Yankees, Alex Rodriguez, when allegations of the use of performance enhancing drugs arose in late March. “Alex is a very insecure person. Just keeping the interview going was a struggle.” Gammons added “Knowing now how human he is- I like him more.” Gammons had very definite thoughts about Roger Clemens and his chance of serving time in prison. “Clemens was so adamant with Congress- it’s perjury. Someone in the previous presidential administration (George W. Bush) told me it might be tough for Clemens to avoid jail time.” On the afternoon that John Smoltz was to make his first rehab start for the PawSox, Gammons looked into his crystal ball. “I think he’ll be a significant contributor to the Red Sox this season. But what I’m really looking forward to is caddying for him and Tiger (Woods) this offseason. Gammons spoke about a round of golf the two friends played this spring. “Smoltz started the round with three birdies, but Tiger birdied 11 of the last 12 holes and he wouldn’t talk to Smoltz until the round was over.” Gammons put reigning MVP Dustin Pedroia on his list of top 10 all-time favorite players. (Something we have in common). “What makes Pedroia special is is hand-eye coordination. As a boy, he played a lot of tennis and pingpong. The other thing that sets him apart is his incredible will to win. I love his cockiness. I remember a game last season, when Pedey stumbled and fell. I texted Alex Cora and jokingly asked if Pedroia was drunk. A few hours later, I got a message from Pedroia that said- Remember Peter, I am the greatest bleeping player that you’ve ever seen.” Gammons recalled a conversation between L.A. coach Don Mattingly and Dodger outfielder Andre Ethier. Mattingly asked why Ethier was always telling Dustin Pedroia stories. Ethier, who went to Arizona State with Pedey had a quick answer. “Pedroia’s the greatest teammate who’s ever lived.” I could have easily sat and listened to Peter Gammons for hours. I likened it to Christmas morning, being a baseball fan, picking his brain. I guess I am bragging a little bit when I tell you this, but I have NEVER been more proud of a compliment. As the interview drew to a close, I thanked him for his time and congratulated him on a brilliant career. He looked me in the eye and to my surprise said- “Thanks, by the way, I love listening to you.” Blew me away!