As I sit in the radio booth at Frontier Field in Rochester, directly to my right is the owners’ box. As I look out my window, I am privy to whatever goes on over there. Last night, it was occupied by the great El Tiante. Red Sox legend Luis Tiant was in Rochester to sign autographs and throw out the ceremonial first pitch. A couple of seasons ago we saw Dwight Evans here, and today Keith Olberman of MSNBC was in the house. In 2004, I was here setting up the equipment for a game when I looked to my right and spotted the Ripken brothers, Cal and Billy. When you’re in this business, you’ve always got an eye out for a potential pre-game interview. I figured “What could be better than an interview with a Hall of Famer?” The brothers were sitting there, alone, drinking beer. I approached and politely introduced myself. “Cal, any chance we could tape a five minute radio interview?” The so-called Iron Man of Baseball, the hero who outplayed the great Lou Gehrig, the guy who played through bumps, bruises, sprains, strains, pulls, fractures, coughs, colds and hangnails, the player who suited up for every single game the Orioles played from May 30, 1982 through September 28, 1998, Calvin Edwin Ripken Jr. He glanced up, barely diverting his attention from his cold beer and had the audacity to say. “I just got done doing an interview and I’m kind of tired, no thanks.” The great Steve Hyder was able to do what no American League team could do for nearly two decades. I brought the fraud to his knees. This cat played in 2632 consecutive ballgames and an interview wore him out. I do a nice interview (if I do say so myself) but for crying out loud, I’m not Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes.” He should have just said “no”, but to add that the previous interview had tuckered him out made me laugh. I don’t think Ripken caught on to the irony, and if I were sitting in a ballpark with my brother drinking beer, I probably wouldn’t want to do an interview, either. But “too tired”- are you kidding me? The Iron Man had the heart of the Tin Man.
There was an interesting article in the “Rochester Democrat and Chronicle” written by my old friend Jim Mandelaro, recounting the tale of former Red Wing Steve Dalkowski. “Dalk” was a pitcher who was said to throw the ball harder than anyone in history. Routinely clocked at over 100 m.p.h. he was never able to harness his potential. In his first 2 pro seasons, he averaged 19 strikeouts and 18 walks per nine innings. He was once lifted from a game after throwing 120 pitches by the second inning. Reportedly, Dalkowski was the inspiration for the Nuke Laloosh character in “Bull Durham”. Ron Shelton, who wrote and directed the flick, is also a former Red Wing, who played for Joe Altobelli, an I.L. Hall of Famer. Allegedly, “Alto” inspired the character Crash Davis and is a great story teller. Altobelli says one time the Wings were in Richmond and hadn’t had a day off in a while, so he and a couple of others snuck over to the ballpark and in the dark of night turned on the sprinkler system, flooding the field and forcing the postponement of the game. That scenario was famously played out in the movie. Altobelli once quipped- “I didn’t room with Dalkowski, I roomed with his suitcase.” Dalkowski is now 70 and is living in his hometown of New Britain, Ct. at the Walnut Hill Care Center. According to Mandelaros’ article, “Dalk” has suffered with alcohol-induced dementia.