Wedge re-lives glory days
Eric Wedge catching for George H. Bush? It took place 15 years ago after a Shocker in the CWS.
When Wedge and teammates, which included Mike Lansing and Pat Meares, were done celebrating in Rosenblatt Stadium, they jammed the bus the next day for the ride back to Wichita. That Sunday afternoon when they came over that last hill toward campus, they could see their home, Eck Stadium, was packed beyond capacity with local well-wishers waiting to greet their champs. It was just the next in a series of moments around that 1989 title that Wedge and his teammates will never forget. Not long after that, they visited the White House to meet with the first President Bush, the old Yale first baseman, who actually played in the second-ever CWS. Wedge played catch with the senior Bush in the Rose Garden -- George H. actually threw him a knuckler.
The youngest manager in the majors, Wedge says he dreads these two weeks in June in some ways, because the old footage of his heroics is going to come up again, and while many of his players may not put the video of the mustachioed Wedge together with their skipper, if pitching coach Carl Willis catches it, or bench coach Buddy Bell, the needle can go in pretty deeply.
Wedge says he doesn't have any particular keepsakes from that time -- his mom has all of it -- and the one thing he treasured, he gave away. His dad Tim, a former truck driver who's ailing back had taken him off the road and into marketing, often drove the 14 hours from their home in Fort Wayne, Ind. starting Friday night, and would be in Wichita in time for the noon doubleheaders on Saturdays, then drive back to Fort Wayne after the Sunday game until the next weekend homestand. Eric told me his dad knew this would be the last chance to see him play regularly, and that he never even knew his dad was coming until he'd show up just before first pitch. Because of that kind of dedication, and the values he instilled in Eric, a few years after being drafted out of Wichita by the Red Sox, Eric gave his championship ring to his father as a Christmas present.
Gary Miller is a reporter and play-by-play announcer for ESPN's major league baseball coverage.