Friday, July 29, 2005
Voices on Peter Gammons
ESPN analyst Peter Gammons will be honored Sunday at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, presented annually "for meritorious contributions to baseball writing." Below is what others had to share about what Gammons has meant to them and to baseball.
"My first real experience with Peter goes back to the playoffs with Oakland in 1989. Back then, a lot of journalists used to take charters more often. All I remember is going on a coast-to-coast trip, Boston to Oakland, and talking with Peter on the plane and never coming up for air. That's when we became friends.
"Peter is the one person in the game who can pick up the phone and get anyone at any level. You always take his call when it comes in, because it's so stimulating talking baseball with him. He's a very well-rounded person too. We'll talk about music, or our dogs, or books that we've read, or about politics. It's not just baseball.
"With all due respect to everyone else, he's the No. 1 baseball writer in my lifetime. Sure, he's a journalist. But if there's one person who has the best interests of baseball at heart, I wouldn't know him above Peter Gammons. He just has that unique ability to make you feel like he's rooting for everybody in the game -- for every individual.
"Two years in a row, Peter called me from Cape Cod. He likes to go out and watch the games on Cape Cod, because he has his house out there. Two summers in a row he calls and says, "I just saw your first pick this year.' The first time he says, 'Mark Mulder.' This was after Mark's sophomore year and we had the second pick in the country that year. Peter was the first guy to say that. The following summer he said to us, 'I just saw your first pick this summer. It's Barry Zito.' He's the best bird dog we've ever had.''
-- Billy Beane, A's general manager
"I consider my buddy, Peter, to be more than just a friend. He's an inspiration -- to me, and (if they've studied their media history lessons) to everyone on earth who covers baseball for a living. Peter is to modern baseball coverage what Edison is to electricity. He isn't just the model for how to do this job. He invented how to do this job. He pioneered it all -- those long Sunday notes columns in every newspaper in America, those daily notebooks that every baseball beat writer takes as standard duty now, those game stories that veer way beyond how they scored to tell you WHY they scored, those Rumor Central columns that feed us our daily trade dirt. None of that was part of the landscape until Peter pioneered it. And now it's here forever. He made me want to do what I do. He's altered the course of my career. He's changed my life -- and all of our lives. He's a Hall of Famer in the same way that Ruth and Gehrig and Williams are Hall of Famers: He's why they need Halls of Fame in the first place."
-- Jayson Stark, ESPN.com senior writer
"I remember the 1998 World Series, when I was with the Padres. The main press box was overcrowded and the auxilary press box down the left-field line was just brutal. I was in charge of the radar gun, charting all the pitches for the Padres pitchers, behind home plate. I looked next to me in the second inning and there was Peter. He sat right there for the rest of the game. I thought, 'This guy has access whenever and wherever he wants.' Instead of being in the crowded press box, he was 45 feet behind home plate for a World Series game. ...
"When Ken Griffey was traded, there were all kinds of rumors about where he was going to go, who the Mariners were going to get in return, and when the deal was going to happen. Peter seemed to be ahead of everybody. He knew everything before everyone else. I asked him, 'Did you talk to the GMs?' He told me, 'No ... I just talked to Griffey.'
"That was Peter -- he was always five steps ahead of everybody else."
-- Theo Epstein, Red Sox GM
"Peter was extremely influential on me wanting to become a general manager. As a young child growing up in Weston, Mass., my greatest thrill on Sunday mornings was to wake up and run to the end of our driveway to get the Boston Globe so that I could read Peter Gammons' articles. I would sit on my dad's lap when I was 5 to 8 and come up with trades to help the Red Sox win. I cried the day they traded Hawk Harrelson and the day that Reggie Smith asked to be traded. But I knew about Fred Lynn and Jim Rice five years before they made it because Peter Gammons had written about them on Sunday.
"One of the greatest moments of my baseball career was last October. I was standing next to Peter as the final out was made and the Red Sox won the World Series. I had the opportunity to hug him and he hugged me, and we both had tears rolling down our cheeks. I got to celebrate the Red Sox's World Series with Peter Gammons, who I had read as a young child. It was a great thrill for me and something I'll never forget.''
-- Jim Bowden, Nationals GM
"Peter Gammons has inspired two generations of baseball reporters, young journalists who were weaned on his notes columns, and on the details he provided with each of his stories. And, in a business that can be cynical, Gammons has maintained a boyish love for the game of baseball. ... Peter likes people -- likes talking to them, likes talking about the game with them, likes to look for the good in people. And this is a pretty rare quality."
-- Buster Olney, ESPN The Magazine
"A panicked beat writer for the Texas Rangers knew his team was on the verge of a trade, but he couldn't figure it out, so he called the beat writer for the Boston Red Sox. 'Oh yeah,' Peter Gammons said, 'the Rangers are going to trade for (Toronto's) Cliff Johnson today.'
"That is Hall of Famer Peter Gammons. He is the hardest-working, most passionate, most well-connected writer in baseball. He changed the business. He changed the way baseball writers wrote their game stories. He essentially invented, but definitely perfected, the Sunday notes column. He was one of the first to successfully make the crossover to television, opening the way for so many others. But mostly, he always has been incredibly gracious with his time and his information, even for a clueless young writer in Texas.
"Thanks for everything, Peter."
-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine
"Peter comes in every year and speaks to our winter development prospects. In the middle of winter, he comes into Cleveland on his own time, with no publicity and expecting nothing in return. He just wants to help young players on the cusp of the major leagues understand their role in the game and the impact they can make on the future of the game.
"The bottom line is, in a sea of people looking for controversy and negativity, he continually tries to find the positive story. He continually wants to find players he likes. He wants to find good stories. In a way, I don't view him as a writer or a member of the media. I view him as an ambassador for the game. He has huge passion. He loves the game. He's highly intellectual, and he does everything he can to promote the game. He's one of the 4-5 people most responsible for generating enthusiasm and the popularity of the game today.''
-- Mark Shapiro, Indians GM
"Peter Gammons' Hall of Fame plaque will duly note how he pioneered the 'notes network,' incorporated rock lyrics in baseball game stories long before it became fashionable, and made a seamless transition from newspapers to magazine writing to television and radio. Along the way, he raised the bar of expectations for everyone else in the profession.
"But when I think of Peter, I think of a man who never lost an almost boyish enthusiasm in a business that's too long on cynicism. He's invariably nice to everyone -- whether it's the blue-collar guy from Vermont who's made the trip to Fenway for a game and wants to snap his picture, or the young newspaper writer who dreams of being the next Peter Gammons.
"Here's the straight scoop: There will only be one Peter Gammons. And he's now in Cooperstown, alongside the greats, precisely where he belongs."
-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com Insider
"Just as Theo Epstein will inspire the next generation of young New England baseball fans to dream of becoming champion-building general managers, Peter Gammons fired the dream of an earlier generation to become a baseball reporter. We were bedazzled by his knowledge and endless contacts, entertained by the wit and flair of his writing, and blessed by his passion and commitment to the game. He was our Ruth, and like the Babe belongs in Cooperstown."
-- Gordon Edes, Boston Globe
"Here's what I love about Peter Gammons:
"How much he helped me when I was first starting out and didn't have a clue. It would never even occur to Peter to 'big-time' someone. If you show interest in the game, he's there for you, no matter who you are.
"How he changed our entire profession by inventing the notes column, and of course, making the transition to radio and television. Sometimes I wonder how much money he has made for all of us.
"How warm he is to fans when people approach him. Peter is a genuine celebrity, signing autographs, shaking hands, the whole deal. He handles it a lot better than many of the people he writes about!
"How he still kicks all of our butts at his, uh, advanced age. Peter's enthusiasm and energy is almost difficult to comprehend. It's inspiring.
"This honor is so overdue. Frankly, it's embarrassing to our organization that Peter did not receive this honor sooner."
-- Ken Rosenthal, The Sporting News
"Every time I walk into the Fenway Park press box, I stop to read Peter's game story from Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. (It hangs on the back wall.) For a moment, I am 10 years old again, sitting on the floor in front of the television set back home in Greenville, R.I., erupting in joy as Fisk's drive heads for the foul pole. To this New England kid who grew up loving baseball and wanting to write about it for a living, Peter was always an inspiration. He still is -- as a gifted writer, a tireless reporter and a good man who has always been generous with his time."
-- Jim Salisbury, Philadelphia Inquirer
"Peter Gammons may never have produced a hit or struck out a hitter in his career, but no Hall of Famer has ever loved or has been as passionate about the game of baseball than Peter Gammons. He was the pioneer of how this game should be covered and a role model for every journalist in our profession. He not is a Hall of Fame writer, but most important, a Hall of Fame person.''
-- Bob Nightengale, USA Today Sports Weekly
"I'll never forget the first time I met Peter. It was in 1978, in Portland, Maine, and he was doing a piece on a local semipro league. I was just a high school player who was playing up a level in the summer. And I think about the odds of that now. Here we are in Portland, Maine, on a Sunday afternoon -- him bumping into me, long before I was a general manager or he was an ESPN Insider and a Hall of Famer -- and having that respect and that friendship and that bond for all these years, dating back to the old days.
"But that, I think, is why Peter has got the strong contacts that he does. I've been on the Cape, sitting on the sideline with him at a Cape League game before anybody else was there. And you see what a baseball junkie he is, what a good guy he is, the way he is with people. He makes people feel very comfortable. He just has that way. And that's how you develop that respect. There's a trust there with him. So he has all that, PLUS -- as everyone knows -- he works his butt off."
-- Dave Littlefield, Pirates GM
"In 1979, my first year covering the Montreal Expos I heard the phrase 'Peter Gammons wrote ...' Over and over. Eventually, we found a downtown newspaper shop which sold the Boston Globe, a day late. It was about $3.50 (Canadian on Sundays). Now in the younger years the post-game routine was the same in Montreal: take the Metro downtown and head out for a night on the town. Yet, never on Mondays. On Mondays I'd get the Sunday Globe, sit in a quiet corner of a restaurant and read Peter's weekly Sunday notes package. Then, I'd read the whole sports section and re-read Peter's page. The amount and depth of information contained within was staggering.
"Years later in 1987, I was traded to the American League and met Peter for the first time on the roof of old Fenway Park when Toronto visited. For years we spoke every Friday. I was always under the assumption that his lovely wife Gloria said good night to Peter on Thursday and good morning on Saturday -- he spent so many hours on the phone Friday.
"Peter was right about Rickey Henderson coming to the Jays in 1993, about John Olerud going to the Mets a few years later and countless other stories and countless other stories involving Toronto.
"Watching Peter at ballparks always impressed me: he always had time to stop and talk to the superstar, the 25th man, the equipment man or the fan who stopped him to ask him about a prospect at Double-A New Britain. The same went for writers, whether it was someone from the No. 1 paper or a suburban paper.
"I didn't see Peter his first year covering the Red Sox, but I would guess he has the same enthusiasm today as he did then. That can be said for only a few people in our business.
"After two narrow losses, Peter is a most worthy selection as the winner of the 2004 Spink award, for few have done as much to change the way baseball was covered as Peter Gammons."
-- Bob Elliott, Toronto Sun
"When I talk to my lifelong friends about what it's like to work in baseball, in some respects it means more to them than I know Peter Gammons than some of the players. He's a mythical figure. He really is."
-- Josh Byrnes, Red Sox assistant GM
"The Brookline, Mass., census rolls list no Gammons children but that's not entirely accurate. I should know because I'm one of the countless Sons of Peter Gammons that are scattered about the sports and journalistic landscapes. As I look around the press room at the winter meetings, I see many others just like me, native New Englanders who were inspired to take up this profession because we grew up as fans of Peter. And without his kindness, advice and mentoring, many of us wouldn't be where we are today. I am forever grateful and I've never been so proud to be one of the Sons as I am today."
-- Jeff Horrigan, Boston Herald
"It has been an absolute pleasure to get to know Peter through his involvement with the annual Hot Stove Cool Music benefit show for the Jimmy Fund. This event pretty much sums up everything you need to know about Peter: an unpretentious, warm, charitable -- and quintessentially Boston -- good time that seamlessly marries baseball and rock & roll. I have had the fortune to back Peter (I hope to be called Peter and the Back Gammons for this year's concert) a few years in a row and I suggest that, now that he has tackled the Baseball Hall of Fame, he can concentrate on making it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."
-- Bill Janovitz, Buffalo Tom ... Crown Victoria ... Red Sox fan