Kobe, Weaver and Bird, and longing for the old daze

Jered Weaver looked at me, and this is what his astonished eyes said: “You’re crazy.”

He was right, of course, but that was beside the point.

It was Saturday afternoon in the Angels’ clubhouse, and a bright, new Kobe Bryant jersey was hanging next to Weaver’s locker. My mind started racing. Weaver loves the Lakers. Like Gary Matthews Jr. and Sean Rodriguez, two other big Lakers fans, Jered actually has listened, with sincere interest, to my tales of the amazing ’80s when I was traveling with Magic, Kareem and Co., the greatest show on Planet Sports.

Strictly spur of the moment, I ran an idea past Weaver, who was pitching what would turn out to be his first career shutout, against the Padres, the next day.

“Jered,” I said, “why don’t you put the jersey on  before you go to the mound on Sunday – a show of support for your other team – and have one of the clubbies come running out to take it as you pulled it off and waved it to the crowd? The Lakers are playing after your game, so it would be a nice touch.

“It would make all the highlight shows,” I added, “but more than that, it would be a show of solidarity. I think the fans would love it.”

That’s when he gave me that look that told me I was crazy.

He probably couldn’t have gotten it past manager Mike Scioscia, anyway. Mike is a serious-minded guy who fully adheres to all the principles about respecting the game, and I appreciate that.

But the game also could use some color, some characters in addition to all that character. Some honest emotion, from deepest left field if necessary, wouldn’t hurt from time to time.

I told Weaver, as he stood there in amused disbelief over my suggestion, that it was my idea to have Detroit Tigers sensation Mark Fidrych speak to baseballs and manicure pitching mounds in the mid-1970s.

It was a complete lie, and he called me on it immediately. But I did know “The Bird” and spent one memorable night out with him in Detroit after he’d shut out the Angels.

That was the same night I sat beside Fidrych in the home dugout at old Tiger Stadium and watched about 50,000 people stay in their seats for 15 minutes after the game while “Bird” did a radio interview, a headset wrapped around his curly head of wild hair.

“What’s going on here?” I asked him, pointing to all the people who’d remained in the house after the game, just sitting there.

“Watch,” he said, grinning.

When the radio interview was over, he pulled off the headset jumped up on the dugout steps and waved to the crowd, which rose and cheered for at least a full minute before finally dispersing.

It remains to this day one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever witnessed, a stunning show of unbridled love for an athlete who clearly moved to his own beat and did pretty much what he felt like at all times, without regard for how critics would react.

I long for those old days, but they’re gone, gone, gone. So is Fidrych, who died in an accident not long after Nick Adenhart, another pitcher with uncommon talent, left us in this most distressing of baseball seasons.

Bird, I’m sure, would have put on that Kobe jersey, happily, without hesitation.

In fact, it would have been his idea.

It was a less structured, less controlled, less serious world back then.

I miss it terribly.

 

 

7 Comments

I’m old enough to have watched the Bird play – I live in Massachusetts – and I also miss the days when baseball was more carefree and, might I say, more innocent. We’ll never get that back, will we?

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

You have a fun sense of humor, too bad Jered couldn’t agree with what you suggested. Nothing wrong with a great laugh. Looking back, now that the Lakers have won……it would have been a true honest emtional support of another team. Maybe you should have done it instead!!

Great post. This is the sort of writing I’d like to see more of on the MLB blogs. It’s the best of what blogging is about: freewheeling, personalized riffs and free-range anecdotes.

How ’bout Fidrych’s latter-day godson of strange, Turk Wendell? Teeth around his neck, brushing his teeth in the dugout, snorting, spitting, and taking photos of the crowd on the mound?

Yep, we need more characters in the sport.

Lyle, having grown up(?) on P.C.L. baseball in the mid 50′s, I can say that there was alot of colorful and talented ball players from the “Seattle Reineers” to the “Hollywood Stars”.
I too, miss those days of pregame gags,double headers, Lady’s Day, give-away’s, red hots, rubarb’s and the ever present smell of cigars.
Jim Baxas, Frank Kellaher, Carlos Bruneir, Stan Williams, Bobby Bragen, Chuck Conners and Red Adams et al.
We cheered for them, had fun and teased other fans for thier errors. The players were personable, cared for the fans, and were genuinely dedicated to winning. They were my heros, not for who they played for, but for who they were.

Lyle, as usual you’ve hit it out of the park!

Don’t forget Jay Johnstone leaving the Dodgers dugout to go up to the concession stand to buy hotdogs in his uniform. I’m sure that no one would dare try that today.

Where did the fun go?

Mickey Hatcher probably would’ve given Jered his blessing. Remember the days when Mickey would color his teeth black and then smile at the camera while playing on the field? He looked toothless and everyone would crack up at his antics. In fact, once he told me that he thought it would be funny to paint his whole body Dodger blue. The only problem was that he didn’t use water-based paint and had to be scrubbed head to toe to get it off!

That’s why I stay out here in the bushes! The boys get busy during a rain delay, just for us. . .BeesGal . . .Veeck lives!
youtube. com/watch?v=Bdlkv_nFXLw
youtube. com/watch?v=SxiwmkWxV4U

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