What I Saw In Arizona. Part Two: Photo Album

I have a few more things gleaned among the cacti to report (besides the fact that Billy Hamilton is the fastest ballplayer I’ve ever seen, and seems to be going faster than freeway traffic).

But first, the photo album from a week in the incredibly convenient Cactus League:

IMG_4449No, this is not the world’s oldest, saddest boy band. Nor, despite the angles, are Manager Terry Francona of the Indians and President Theo Epstein of the Cubs actually resting their heads on my shoulder (they’d join me in saying ‘thank goodness’). I was privy to witness the reunion of the Men Who Made The Red Sox Great at HoHoKam Park, two weeks ago tomorrow. They’re both among my baseball friends and typically we spent almost no time talking baseball. Also got to see Billy Williams, Dale Sveum, and Brad Mills that day, too (“Nice to see you back with a Major League Team,” I said to Millsy. He smiled and was respectful enough to say nothing, but he looked 10 years younger – as did Tito).


This is not Jackson Browne, though I’ve seen them both in the last 18 months and if the gentleman spotted at Peoria during a Brewers-Mariners game dyed his hair, they’d look like brothers.

That’s Ted Simmons, now an advisor in the Seattle front office, and simply put one of the smartest men in the sport. When Pirates fans harken back to the last winning Pittsburgh team they invoke the names of Jim Leyland and Barry Bonds (and occasionally even Stan Belinda), they don’t mention the last winning GM: Ted Simmons. He was just getting into the rebuilding of the post-Bonds Pirates when he suffered a heart attack during the 1993 season and retired. He’s been a coach and executive since – and that was after his 46.5 WAR (greater than Hall of Famers with careers of similar length like Nellie Fox, Kiki Cuyler, Orlando Cepeda, Ernie Lombardi, and the just-elected Deacon White). Narrow that down to catchers (Bill Dickey 52.5, Gabby Hartnett 50.7, Simmons 46.5, White 44, Lombardi 43.6 – and you occasionally hear Jorge Posada’s name mentioned at 39) and it’s obvious that “Simba” is a Hall of Famer. Despite a career line of .285/.348/.437 and seven .300 seasons, his work was overshadowed by being Johnny Bench’s exact contemporary for 15 years, and then spending nearly all of his last five at DH or 1B.

IMG_4543Here’s another should-be Hall-of-Famer.

Dale Murphy returned to the game last season in the Braves’ tv booth, and returned to uniform this spring as the first base coach for the USA team in the WBC. One of the older arguments for the Hall was the “wozzy” test – “was he considered for any length of a time one of the top five players in the game?” After two MVPs and a decade as one of the most feared hitters/least feared people in the game, Murph kinda flatlined starting with his 13th season in the majors. But again, WAR puts him in historical context. Lou Brock’s a 42.8, Jim Rice a 44.3, Chuck Klein a 41.5. Murphy: 42.6 – and in this time when one element in the Cooperstown ballot has suddenly taken on added importance (“character”), his was and is impeccable – and generous.

IMG_4697Here’s another one of my favorite baseball people. This one unexpectedly showed up with the visiting Royals on a frigid night at the Rockies’ facility, Salt River Fields.

When I tweeted this photo I believe I said that I first interviewed George Brett in 1980. In fact, that was when we were first “introduced.” I actually interviewed him in 1976, 1977, and 1978 during the A.L. Playoffs – the “nice to meet yous” came during the 1980 World Series during a memorable and scatological interview about the hemorrhoids that plagued him during the post-season. This might have been the same day I met a mid-level Royals’ executive named Rush Limbaugh (how would you ever forget a name like that). He and Brett remain best friends, and George and I laughed our way through 15 minutes in the KC dugout, which no matter how you diagram it means baseball trumps politics every time. George remembered that ’80 interview of course, but also (to my surprise) recalled that I got to interview him – for Fox – after his election to Cooperstown in ’99.

Photography by Jon SooHoo/©Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2013

This, of course, is Wash.

All the other guys on the photo tour are Hall of Famers, or should be, or might very will be (Terry Francona needs one more measurable success in his managerial career to cinch a spot – and he’s only 54 – while if Theo Epstein also turns the Cubs around, he’s a lock).

The first person to tell you he’s not getting to Cooperstown – surely not as a player – is the ever-affable skipper of the Rangers, Ron (.261/.292/.368, ten years, one as a starting player) Washington. But few figures in the sport are greeted with greater affection, by his players and rivals alike. Just to amp this shot up a little bit, check out the copyright. That’s Jon SooHoo, who I’ve known ever since I was a local sportscaster in LA and who has shot 30 years of incredible images on behalf of the Dodgers.

There were many other men I’m proud to call friends who I didn’t trouble for photos: Vin Scully, Bob Uecker, Bruce Bochy, Bob Melvin – the average was about three a day, and it emphasized that while we get swamped by scandal and controversy and stats and new-age stats and boasting and showboating, the game is about good people whom you get to know and cheer for, for a very long time.

But occasionally, even in middle age, you make new acquaintances. While I summarize my thoughts for a future post, take a look at this, which might be – pound-for-pound – the best baseball stadium built in this country at least since 1962:IMG_4547



  1. LB (@ReasonVsFear)

    Love it! And I hate to be that person, but…. one of my favorite parts of this is getting to see you with a smile on your face – not just once, but many times over. Still missing you on my TV machine, but seeing you happy makes up for that. Hugs!

  2. Mary Caruso

    I loved the way you glided us through an extravaganza of pictographic history. All of these friendships were built over the ‘ages’ (not to indicate you’re old here, babe). It’s nice to see all of these people you still remain in contact with through a common love of baseball. Glowing faces aside, it is great to see you ‘au natural’ and smiling, well actually beaming, through this adventure scape. You do this so well and leave me wanting more. I will be patient as I feel there is more to come in the Epic of Arizona 2013 and I am so looking forward to it. Can hardly wait! LyK

  3. Michael Green

    I was afraid that Keith, Tito and Theo were going to break into a chorus of “Put Your Head on My Shoulder.” Great stuff!

    I don’t know whether Keith reads the comments but, for what it’s worth, the second greatest day in my life (after my wedding day) was my first MLB game, Dodger Stadium, August 1, 1974, Dodgers-Padres. Not only did we get a foul ball, but my parents had written ahead and I got to meet my idol, The Vin (when you are that eminent, you should have a special form of address, and I think The Vin is appropriate. Anyway, my reason for mentioning this is that Keith mentioned in another post that it took him a couple of years to be able to say hello to him. When I met him, he looked down at the nine-year-old me and said, “So you’re the guy who wants my job!” I gaped. I STILL haven’t said hello.

  4. patriciaellynpowell

    I agree with the gals here that “When Irish (German/French) Eyes are Smilin'” ♫ ♪
    …they’ll steal our hearts away! Forget stolen bases! I love that you have your MEDIA PASS and rightfully so! You’ve done much for many sports! Relax and drink it all in! That Cactus Cooler was the best! Let someone else fight. You wear peace and light well. Good luck in everything ye do! Blarney! We love ye!

  5. ShoeBeDoBeDo

    Despite what you say, Keith: Men resting their heads on other men’s shoulders: It’s classy and brotherly. I like it.

    And did you mean to use the word ‘hemorrhoids’ and Rush Limbaugh in the same
    paragraph? Hilarious! Because we all know he’s a royal pain in the ass!

    Wonderful pictorial. Nice to see you happy and relaxed. That stadium must be enormous. The people look like ants in comparison to all of the structures and stuff.

    BTW, thank you again for the recent ESPN spot you did on the Honus Wagner baseball card. I so love a mystery and was happy that you finished explaining that one. Any other baseball mysteries you might report on? 🙂

  6. Emerson Burkett

    Great pictures and smiles! Especially liked the line, “Baseball trumps Politics every time”. Enjoyed the Pics and anecdotes. And, Yes you do look like you died and woke up in Baseball Heaven. Great friends and memories. After all the feel good and great comments, a bit jarring to see the TROLLS already in action.

  7. Emerson Burkett

    As a loyal Giants fan, am disappointed you did not “trouble” Bruce Bochy for a photo, would have warmed my heart to see you and Boch grinning like 10 year olds.

  8. hamblin

    Spent yesterday at Salt River Fields watching the Dbacks full squad play a B or C-level Dodgers team……the field is lovely and the lawn HUGE! Still love Maryvale, where the Brewers have played since the 90’s. Your access to the players is unsurpassed. Got my own picture with Tito last Friday and for a Red Sox fan living in Phoenix, that was HUGE!!!

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  10. SamYanksGiantsMets

    Dale Murphy is from my neck of the woods– Oregon. I want to see a photo of Keith and Harold Reynolds– also from Oregon. Actually, I want to see a photo of Keith and me at the All-Star Game at Citi Field. I’ll buy the Keith Burgers (Keith H. not Keith O.). I’d “settle” for any game at Citi or Yankee Stadium.

  11. vader7176

    Keith, love your work. You need to be on the tube again. First time, Long time (my apologies to DP). I wondered if you could shed some light on why Dale Murphy Isn’t in the HOF yet. Keep up the good work.

  12. RobertaK (@justme2)

    Next trip to Arizona, don’t forget your wide-angle lens for Bochy’s head. Better yet, make an in-season trip to San Francisco for some good baseball and seafood. (My husband would talk your ear off about transit history if you let him.)

    • Emerson Burkett

      Thanks Roberta, keep on talking up the Giants.” Wide-angle lens for Bochy’s head”; made me LOL. Yea, Keith, how about coming out to “The City by the Bay”?

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