Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The epitome of class...

I'm hanging out in New York City (more specifically, Brooklyn), having just returned with friends from idyllic Cooperstown and the 2007 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductions. Why? Well, this man gave me 20 years of his heart and soul...I figured I owed it to him to be there on his day:

Of course Tony Gwynn was inducted with the only other player in the past twenty years who could match his class, his dignity and his dedication...the great Baltimore shortstop Cal Ripken:

What a day.

You don't have to be a hardcore baseball fan to appreciate what Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken have meant to their communties. In today's sports world where we have to sift through the garbage of steroid abusers, point-shaving referees and animal-abusing quarterbacks, it was an absolute joy to celebrate what sports should be.

The sign says "My son is named 'Cal' because of you"

The crowd at the ceremony was 75,000...that's seventy-five thousand. Almost twice as many came out to celebrate Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn as had ever been at a Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony ever before (the average is 15,000). Why would so many come to honor baseball players?

75,000 fans came to honor Tony and Cal

Consider what our perception of athletes is these days. Compare that to Cal and Tony:

* Both played their entire careers (20 years) with one team.

* Both could have left their teams for more money.

* Both gave everything they had each time they stepped on a baseball diamond

* Both worked tirelessly at their craft.

* Both married incredible wives and stayed married and in turn raised terrific kids. Their off-field conduct has always been way above reproach.

* Both Tony and Cal are humble men who have always credited others for their success.

* Both reflected the classy manor in which their cities in turn honored them.

Of course with Cooperstown, New York being so much closer to Baltimore than San Diego, Oriole fans outnumbered Padre fans about 3 to 1. But the roar for each player was equally loud. Why? Because Oriole fans had the class to recognize that Tony Gwynn was everything to San Diego that Cal Ripken has been to Baltimore. Everyone I talked to agreed that Sunday was special in a way it had never been before and would never be again.

In fact, someone described it as the "perfect storm" hitting Cooperstown.

From Monday's San Diego Union Tribune:

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – If it were simply a baseball game, even the biggest baseball game of his life, he could have played it cool in the hottest heat. Throw him a change, a change of any kind, and he could handle it with nary a flinch.

Precisely because he was so adept as a hitter, Tony Gwynn yesterday was sitting in a bus full of baseball legends as it approached the Clark Sports Center, site of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for him and Cal Ripken Jr.

Gwynn had barely absorbed the stunning view of 75,000 people assembled in the duo's honor – by far the largest crowd ever for an induction ceremony – when he learned that the lineup had just been changed because of threatening weather. Instead of going third in the order, his customary and assigned spot, Gwynn was up first yesterday. Leadoff. With only minutes to go.

Tony however handled the change in order just fine. And in typical Gwynn fashion, he gave credit to everyone else:

As he said throughout the lead-up to this first enshrinement of a player who spent his entire career with the Padres, Gwynn wasn't up there alone. Indeed, the thousands of fans who made the odyssey from San Diego nudged and cajoled him through his speech of nearly 28 minutes, punctuating his career recollections and words of gratitude with their applause and chants of “To-ny! To-ny! To-ny!”

“I played for one organization, the San Diego Padres, and when this day started out today, I thought I was going to go third,” Gwynn told the crowd, which was informed that the induction of Gwynn and Ripken would be moved up as defense against thunderstorms that were forecast but never arrived. “I thought I was going to get to hear what other people said about their teams and their towns and their cities. I only know one way – that's the Padre way.

“I wore brown. I wore the brown and gold. I wore the blue and orange. I didn't get a chance to wear the (current) 'sand' and whatever color blue you want to call that, but I'm proud as heck to be a San Diego Padre. I played for one team. I played in one town.”

Padre fans traveled 3,000 miles to honor Gwynn.

Gwynn summed up why he thought so many had come to Cooperstown to honor the duo of Gwynn and Ripken:

“With our teams, in our cities, people trusted us,” Gwynn said. “They trusted how we played the game and how we conducted ourselves. They trusted us to play the game right and take care of business the right way. They can look back on our careers and see that we did things the right way. There's no question about that. "

Thank you, Tony.

1 comment:

Joules said...

Wasn't that a nice speech he made at the induction ceremony?