Elliott on baseball column

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

The few times we saw John Gibbons behind the plate with the 1986 New York Mets he looked fearless.

But it wasn't always that way.

The son of U.S. Air Force Col. William Gibbons, John lived the army life, moving from one base to another.

His first tryout for a Little League team actually came in Goose Bay Labrador, when his father drove him to the park on player evaluation day.

Was he the best player there?

"I don't know, I was too afraid to get out of the car," laughed Gibbons before yesterday's game when the Chicago White Sox brought out the lumber.

A friend of his father's put Gibbons on the Goose Bay Red Sox roster anyway. The next time, John's mother Sally drove him to the park.

"I got out of the car that time with mom, but I was on a team," Gibbons said. "I was a guy who played right field and picked daisies."

Gibbons learned a love of baseball in Goose Bay, and later when the family moved to San Antonio, Tex.

"My mom was the major influence in my life, dad was busy at work," Gibbons said. "Mom drove me to practice, drove me to games."

And mom was there at decision time. In 1989 at triple-A Oklahoma City in the Texas Rangers' system, Gibbons considered quitting.

"Don't give up your dream," his mom encouraged him, and added with some Texican philosophy, "plus you just got married ... you need the job."

After playing at triple-A Scranton in 1990, Gibbons accepted a roving catching instructor's job with the Mets.

"Mom didn't want me to give up," the manager said. "A lot of moms don't know when to say uncle."

If case you haven't guessed -- and in case you haven't bought flowers yet -- today is Mother's Day. As they used to write on the clubhouse blackboard: "call home today or don't call at all!"

Mother's Day is special, a day to give praise to mothers, even though some say Father's Day lasts 364 days a year.

Chrysanthi Andreopoulos' son Alex is the bullpen catcher for the Jays.

Chrysanthi was there, tears streaming down her face, when Team Ontario won the Canadian title at Trois-Rivieres, Que., and Alex was named most valuable player in 1991.

And Chrysanthi was in Buffalo two years later on Mother's Day, as Alex threw out the final runner at second as Team Canada won bronze in the World Student Games.

"My mom was born in Greece but she grasped the game quickly and would come to games with my father at Christie Pits," Andreopoulos said.

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers everywhere.

DRAFT WATCH

Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi watched Stanford Cardinal first baseman John Mayberry Jr. Tuesday against the Nevada Wolf Pack. Mayberry doubled twice and knocked in a run in Reno, Nev. The Jays have the sixth pick this June's amateur draft.

QUESTIONS

Are you like me when listening to a Jays game on the radio? Jerry Howarth paints one of his vivid pictures which, if you close your eyes you can see (unless you are driving) and you STILL expect to hear Tom Cheek's voice? ... We didn't see Damo Garcia in his prime, but have there ever been two better Jays second basemen than Robbie Alomar and Orlando Hudson? ... What's the main reason the White Sox are the go-go Sox -- second in the AL in steals going into yesterday's play -- of old again? Is it manager Ozzie Guillen's all-ahead full approach or the presence of first-base coach Tim Raines. We saw Rickey Henderson. We saw Raines who, in his prime, was better at thievery. And Raines had the better success rate ... Ever see two worlds collide the way they did before the second inning Friday? Catcher Gregg Zaun threw the ball to second as first baseman Eric Hinske tossed another ball across the diamond. The balls hit in mid-air. ... The name of the building has been changed, but were Rogers Centre fences moved closer to home plate? ... Why is Lou Tooulias, who mans the lunch room at Rogers Centre, walking around with his chest stuck out? Lou is a grandpa for the first time following the arrival of granddaughter Isis Antegone.

FORE

Ed Farmer, baseball's second best broadcaster and No. 1 story teller, is a man for all seasons.

Besides broadcasting the Sox he is a card-carrying member for Golf Digest's ranking panel of golf courses.

He has enjoyed playing and reviewing a number of Toronto-area courses: Glen Abbey, Angus Glen, Devil's Pulpit, Devil's Paintbrush and The National, which Farmer says is a U.S. Open-style course.

Farmer has a golf story on Canadian legend Moe Norman, on a trip to Augusta, Ga.:

"One day Moe is at the Masters hitting 3-irons off the putting green," Farmer says. "Two guys come out of a cabin and say 'you can't be hitting irons here, you'll make divots in the green.' They looked down. Not one blade of grass had been disturbed and Moe had hit 12 balls.

"Moe asked 'so do you want me to make divots?' "

CUBANO HUMOUR

Watching Orlando (El Duque) Hernandez Friday reminded me of the first time we spoke in March of 1993 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba.

"This guy here -- Juan Padilla -- is better than Robbie Alomar," Hernandez said.

Padilla nearly swallowed his gum shaking his head side-to-side saying no.

We once asked the Hernandez brothers who was the best pitcher in their family.

Livan: "El Duque."

Orlando: "The best two were my father, Arnoldo Antonio, and my late brother, Arnoldo Antonio Jr. My father made the best pitch -- he made three more pitchers."

SHORTHANDED

The Ottawa 67's are in London this weekend, but the team is not at full strength.

Gord (Tank) Hetherington has looked after the statistics and charted who was on the ice for goals for and against almost since coach Brian Kilrea's first bus trip in 1974.

Hetherington, 79, didn't board the bus when it left Ottawa on Thursday. He had been invited to attend the 60th anniversary celebrations of VE-Day and the opening of the Canadian War Museum.

He served on the HMCS New Glasgow, which was the final ship to sink a submarine, on March 20, 1945, north of Ireland.

A top notch softball player in his day, Hetherington worked on Parliament Hill for 32 years, from Progressive Conservative leaders George Drew to John Diefenbaker to Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark.


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