From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 17, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / July 17, 1999

The late Leo Durocher was often misquoted as having said “Nice guys finish last.” Events of the past week have proven how wrong those wordscan be.

Todd Landry played for the New Orleans Zephyrs for only one season but in that one year, he touched a good number of people. That was obvious by thenumber of people who came out to donate blood Tuesday at Zephyr Field for Landry who was injured in the Kaiser explosion last week. There werelines at the mobile units from the Blood Center and nearly everyone there was talking about how good of a person Landry was.

Landry was the type of player you cheered for whether he was on your team or not. He was the one who waited until he had signed his lastautograph before leaving the park. The type of player who could not say noto a request.

It is often argued that type of player is a rare breed these days. But onejust had to watch the festivities at the All-Star Game earlier this week to see that is not the case. Because for every Juan Gonzalez, there is aTony Gwynn. For every Albert Belle, there is a Jeff Zimmerman, a SeanCasey.

While Gonzalez was complaining about not being selected to the game by the fans and refusing to attend as a reserve, there was Gwynn, unable to play because of an injury, making the trip to Fenway Park anyway.

Zimmerman was the player from Alberta, Canada, who after graduating from college and unable to find a job in the business world, sent resumes to all 30 teams. Only Texas responded and was rewarded for their faith.Zimmerman is 8-0 this season and should be a poster boy for what you can accomplish if you never give up on your dreams.

There was Casey, making his first All-Star appearance and drinking in the occasion for all it was worth with the exuberance of a youngster. It was amagical moment for the Cincinnati Red who had been let go by both Cleveland and the New York Mets, one that he even got teammate Barry Larkin to record with a video camera in the dugout.

That was how the whole night went. It seemed the announcers wereconstantly saying “such and such is one of the nicest players in baseball.”It could be argued that this was not only an All-Star selection of talent but also of players who represent the good of the game.

Luis Gonzales, who hit .260 for Detroit last year, making the MidseasonClassic with a .360 average for Arizona this year. There was MattWilliams, who turned down more money to sign with Arizona last year in order to be closer to his family, making the All-Star game again after leading the league in homers in 1994.

You had Nomar Garcia-parra and Derek Jeter hugging after Jeter replaced Garciaparra at shortstop early in the game. A Boston Red Sox and a NewYork Yankee doing that? Impossible. But anything was possible on thisnight.

The game included Harold Baines of Baltimore who every year quietly goes about his job. Cal Ripken, overcoming the death of his father and a backinjury to make his 17th All-Star game. And there were first timers likeKevin Millwood and Mike Lieberthal.

Actually, all the fun started the night before during the Home Run Derby.

Mark McGwire put on a show in the first round, hitting 13 home runs, most of them over 450 feet. And who was getting the biggest kick out of it?McGwire’s fellow competitors who were like young children, even stealing his bat late in the round.

The competition was won by fan favorite Ken Griffey Jr. who defeatedJeromy Burnitz in the finals. Burnitz had a look of “Aw, shucks, what am Idoing here,” enjoying every moment of it even while finishing second.

But the best moment of the festivities came before the All-Star Game when Ted Williams came out to throw out the first pitch. There were 40 ofthe greatest players to have played the game along with today’s All-Stars, surrounding Williams, just wanting to get a glimpse of him.

What was that James Earl Jones said in “Field of Dreams” about being dipped in magic waters? It was as if those players were youngsters again, many with tears welling in their eyes, as they greeted this living legend.

It’s too bad Williams has had to wait this long to get the credit he deserves. It was said he could be a surly player but here was a man whoserved his country in two wars, who was always willing to give hitting advice to anyone who would listen.

Ted Williams and Todd Landry. Two men who have had an impact on thosethey have met. And isn’t that what we are all here for?

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