Wednesday, August 03, 2005


In this age where the dominoes set in motion by revelations of steroid use in baseball have probably only just begun to topple, it would be nice if someone somewhere could find some column inches to devote to a player who wasn’t a showboating me-first blowhard or a chemically enhanced cheater (or both). It turns out Ray Ratto has done just that. Ratto is a pretty good sportswriter who, despite the fact that he can run two sentences together in one paragraph to great effect, is to the San Francisco Chronicle what Bill Plaschke is to The Los Angeles Times, and he's routinely been a voice of reason during the BALCO scandal and other Giant problems among the Chronicle sports pages. The only problem: Ratto's most recent piece is devoted to a player who is, after 16 seasons in Major League Baseball, taking his leave. Marquis Grissom was designated for assignment by the San Francisco Giants yesterday, leaving his future as a ballplayer in doubt.

But as Ratto’s fine piece points out, tears shed for Grissom would be tears wasted. Grissom is perhaps one of the most down-to-earth, levelheaded, decent, hard-working fellows to have ever picked up a piece of big-league lumber. I regretted his departure from the Dodger clubhouse two seasons ago far more than I ever did that of Dodger “heart and soul” Paul Lo Duca (who was a favorite player of mine on that team, no doubt) or Shawn “Never Met a Double Play I Couldn’t Hit Into” Green (a favorite of my wife’s, but not, grumble-grumble, especially for his efficiency with a bat and glove). The absence of Grissom’s solid ability and genuine good humor—he could actually make it sound like he enjoyed being interviewed on the radio by serial digressor Stu Nahan—was made even more painful by his traveling 300 miles to the north and settling in amongst the Hated Ones. And sure enough, whenever the Giants would play the Dodgers—and those games were always intense enough to begin with—Grissom would inevitably, through that solid ability as a clutch hitter and center fielder par excellence, make life tough on Dodger players and Dodger fans, especially those of us who appreciated what the Dodgers would be missing in his absence.

Ratto’s column, sent to me courtesy of best friend and frequent SLIFR contributor Blaaagh, is concise, eloquent testimony to the fact that not every Giants fan (especially not my very reasonable, good-natured friend) is a blind rubber chicken dangler or otherwise ignorant of the qualities, beyond the ability to knock balls into the bay with robotic regularity, that make a truly good player on the field and a truly good man off of it. Marquis Grissom may never play on a Major League Baseball field again; at 38, he is facing up to the realities of aging in a sport that doesn’t exactly lend itself to player longevity with characteristic quiet and unfathomable dignity. And if he doesn’t, we’ll still have the memory of seeing him play, as a Dodger, and a Giant, and a Brewer, Brave, Indian and, of course, an Expo. Check out Ray Ratto’s good-bye to Grissom and doff your cap to an excellent player and one of the really good guys of baseball. If he only could have gone out as a Dodger…


Thom McGregor said...

Hey! What can I say? You make me watch baseball, and I look for anything attractive to hold my interest. This year's Dodgers are not the bit least attractive. Neither is Grissom, but he is, indeed a really spunky player.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the nice tribute to Grissom! Glad you appreciated the Ratto piece, too. As for Giants fans, I'm pretty sure the numbskulls are the noticeable minority--just like the fans of any other team. Can't remember if you've yet been to a game at the new(ish) ballpark...if not, we'll have to get you out there--just not this season. Arghhh!

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing Marquis Grissom play in person at Dodger Stadium early in his career as a member of the Montreal Expos. He was a blur-- I think the only man I've seen who was faster from home to first was the lovable Mickey Rivers when he was with the Angels. Unlike Rivers, Grissom could catch anything in his zip code, he had a very good throwing arm, and his four Gold Gloves are proof of all of that. In 1994, the Expos outfield, arguably the best in baseball, featured Grissom in center, Larry Walker in right, and Moises Alou in left, each one 27 years of age. By the next season, thanks in part to the players' strike, Walker was in Colorado and Grissom was in Atlanta, and it was never really the same after that.

Thanks for the piece, thanks for the link to the Ratto column, and thanks to Marquis Grissom.


Anonymous said...

Grissom is a class act much like Wilson Alverez who said he would retire next year rather than simply pretend to be injured and keep 2 million dollars (obviously he just said he was retiring and didn't point out the pile of money larger than i would ever have in my life). In a world of Sosas, Bonds, Cansecos and now Palmeros it is nice to see a couple of class acts.

Meanwhile, I have friends in town and I am going to drink until I can't feel feelings (plagiarism) for the next couple of days.