I felt bad for the kid. He has a chance to walk through the clubhouse and meet all of us and skip calls a meeting for the coaches and Lonnett is walking the kid out. Man he looks disappointed, coach is apologizing to him, but what could he do?
“Hey coach!” I called across the locker room, “you want me to take the kid around and meet the guys?”
“You sure Rudes?” I nodded. Coach introduced the kid to me as his buddy’s nephew.
“What’s your name?” I asked the kid
“Mark” he responded in a quiet, terrified voice.
“Well I am Joe, nice to meet you, come on lets meet the other guys.”
The kid’s eyes were as wide as saucers, just soaking in everything. He knew every guy’s name before I even introduced him to them. The guys love when we get to meet kids like this, quiet, polite and looking at us as if we are something special. Never considered myself anything more than a grown man playing a kid’s game and getting paid to do it. All the guys went out of their way to make the kid’s visit special, one of them, I think it was Tovar, had a program in his locker that had all of our pictures in it. He gave it to Mark and told him to get everyone’s autograph before he left.
Garner was the only one I steered clear of, the idiot never gets dressed until right before we take the field and was walking around butt naked. Not sure if the kid saw him or not, but I did my best to steer him away. Went into the trainer’s room and Tovar, Cesar Tovar who is one of the nicest guys around, was getting treatment on his back. He wanted to see how the autograph book was coming along. I motioned to him that I had to get the kid out of there, and he waved me off and proceeded to find every guy that had not signed the book yet, and got them to do so.
Then I saw Billy North found a couple of bats that got cracked during batting practice and gave them to him, one of them was a Reggie Jackson bat apparently. We found a bag and filled it with balls and whatever else we could give him and sent him back out to his waiting uncle
That was quite a day for that little guy, I just hope he enjoyed it.
This is a true story and yes, I enjoyed it and 40 years later can remember it like it was yesterday. It was a game between the Oakland A’s and the Chicago White Sox at old Comiskey Park, my uncle asked me if I wanted to go with him to the game and then after we were going to have dinner with Joe Lonnett, who was one of the coaches for the A’s. We were sitting in our seats and saw Mr Lonnett waving us down to the dugout. When we got down there he asked if I wanted to come see the clubhouse before the game started.
We ran to the clubhouse entrance and Joe Lonnett was standing in the door waiting for us. As soon as we walked inside, Chuck Tanner, the manager of the A’s called a meeting for all the coaches. Joe apologized profusely but told me that he had to go and would not be able to show me around, I was very disappointed but there was nothing I could do. That is when Joe Rudi, the A’s starting left fielder when they won the World Series in ’72, ’73 and ’74 came over and offered to take me around. Mr Lonnett asked me if I wanted to go with Rudi and I emphatically said yes.
Joe Rudi and Cesar Tovar made a lifetime impression on a 11 year old die hard baseball fan. We read so many negatives about today’s high priced athletes, but I refuse to believe that all athletes are like that. All I know is that the kindness of two men that day in 1976 will forever be remembered and I hope that there are other stories out there similar to this.
I posted a couple of videos below, one of them of Joe Rudi making a great catch in the 1972 World Series and the other a biography of Cesar Tovar. Unfortunately both Cesar Tovar and Joe Lonnett have passed on, but Joe Rudi is still around and on the very outside chance that he ever reads this, I just wanted to say thank you for a great, cherished, once in a lifetime memory.