GOODBYE MR. CHIP AND GOODNIGHT MR. SANDMAN
The hardest thing about the minor leagues is the transient nature it has. You can be rolling along and the next thing you know, BOOM, you’re gone. As we boarded the bus on Wednesday for Syracuse, conspicuous by their absence were Chip Ambres and Sandy Madera. “Chipper Dipper” the former star high school quarterback out of Beaumont Texas was in his second stint in the Red Sox organization. In 2005 Ambres, an I.L. All-Star with Pawtucket, was traded to Kansas City for Tony Graffanino. He appeared in the big leagues with the Royals, Mets and Padres. Apparently the Mets wanted him back, because they acquired the softspoken outfielder on Tuesday night for a player to be named later. Presumably, our paths will cross again when the PawSox face Buffalo. It will be good to see him, but not the same as seeing him every day. Hopefully, the Mets will have a spot for him in the Majors. The news wasn’t as good for Sandy Madera. The slugger best known as the childhood friend of David Ortiz was released by the Red Sox. Madera had been hidden on the disabled list for much of the season, even though he had been healthy. Madera is a guy who has phenomenal strength and is a very good man, unfortunately he is somewhat limited defensively and became expendable. I hope another organization has the good sense to sign the Sandman and give him a well-deserved opportunity. He almost always produced for the PawSox when given the chance.
Here in Syracuse and looking forwad to Sunday’s game in Cooperstown at Doubleday Field. I have been to the Hall of Fame many times, but it never gets old. I am reminded of a trip I made there in the ’90s to cover the Hall of Fame game. The Dodgers were playing and I was on the field interviewing the great Tommy Lasorda. My conversation with the Dodger manager was wrapping up when the heavens opened up and it began to pour. I was prepared and opened my umbrella and Lasorda and I huddled underneath it. The game was soon called off and as I was about to head for my car, Lasorda asked me for a favor. “Son” he rasped. “Could you please take Annie to our bus under your umbrella?” “Sure, Tommy, no problem”. I turned and came face to face with Ann Meyers Drysdale. Ann was an All-American basketball player at UCLA, perhaps one of the best players of her generation. In fact, so good that in 1979 she signed a contract with the Indiana Pacers of the NBA. Ann had recently lost her husband, the hard throwing right hander of Dodger fame Don Drysdale. Drysdale had teamed with lefty Sandy Koufax in the ’60s for an incredible one-two punch. I was somewhat taken aback by my new acquaintance. It was a short walk to the bus and we made small talk. As I left her off I offered my condolences about her husbands’ passing. She smiled, thanked me and got on the bus. Eight months later as a broadcaster for Syracuse University basketball, I was dispatched to Ogden Utah for the NCAA tournament. On the day before their first game, the Orangemen held a practice at the venue, the Dee Events Center. I was along to do my homework and prepare for the next days’ broadcast. I looked across the gym and there was Ann Myers, in her capacity as a reporter for CBS Television. I thought about going over to say hello, but decided that she would never remember our brief encounter the summer before. A few minutes later, she tapped me on the shoulder and amazingly, asked if I was the gentleman who escorted her to the bus in Cooperstown. I told her I was and she sat down and we chatted for the duration of the Syracuse shootaround. It was amazing to me that a small gesture would carry so much weight for such a successful woman. I came away incredibly impressed.
Hope the Red Sox first pick in the 2009 draft is as good as his cousin. 18 year old Reymond Fuentes is related to Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran. The scouting report compares the young Fuentes to Johnny Damon.
Tomorrow I’ll share more Cooperstown memories, my meeting with another great Dodger and running into an old friend in Syracuse.