Remembering absent friends

BOB ELLIOTT

, Last Updated: 4:43 AM ET

Maybe the nicest person I ever met in baseball was Carroll (Whitey) Lockman.

Lockman was a scout and senior consultant to the general manager for the Montreal Expos from 1977 until 1992.

We first met in the lobby of the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Fla., at the winter meetings in December of 1981.

When there was a lull -- and there were plenty for a rookie like me -- if Lockman didn't have a meeting to attend or had the time, he'd stand around the lobby telling the stories.

About managing the Chicago Cubs, scouting for the Expos, signing Wallace Johnson, near-miss trades, trades that worked out and his playing days when he was nicknamed the Carolina Comet.

Lockman hit a run-scoring double off Don Newcombe in the bottom of the ninth for the New York Giants in the third game of a playoff against the Brooklyn Dodgers at the Polo Grounds in 1951.

Dodgers manager Charlie Dressen went to Ralph Branca in relief and Bobby Thomson hit a game-winning, three-run homer.

Perhaps you may have heard of that one ... for "THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!" was said over and over by broadcaster Ross Hodges.

One night early in 1989 Lockman showed up at Exhibition Stadium to scout. We visited before the game; asked him if the Expos and the Blue Jays had any talks going on and of course Lockman gave his regular answer.

"Regular coverage," Lockman would say with a sly smile.

Jays' DH Junior Felix led off the third -- his first major league at-bat -- and homered off California Angels' Kirk McCaskill.

Our Ken Fidlin looked up the all-time list of players who homered in their first at-bat. There was Lockman, who had homered in 1945 against the Dodgers in his first at-bat.

Ken found Whitey and his great lead went something like:

"Junior Felix danced around the bases after his homering in his first major-league at-bat and one man amongst the 21,188 to see it, knew exactly how he felt."

Years later we had lunch and Lockman asked me questions. How a Canadian had more interest for baseball than hockey? Told it came from my father, Lockman asked what teams were my father's favourites?

The answer was the Boston Red Sox, the San Francisco Giants and anyone playing the New York Yankees.

"Was he a big fan?" Lockman asked.

"Well," I said, "I saw him cry at the final out of the 1962 Series when the Giants lost in the bottom of the ninth to the Yankees."

And the inning was replayed: Ralph Terry, the same Ralph Terry who gave up Bill Mazeroski's walk-off, homer two years before in Pittsburgh, is pitching with a 1-0 lead. Matty Alou beats out a bunt. Terry strikes out Felipe Alou and Chuck Hiller.

Two out.

Willie Mays then doubles to right and it looks ... as if Matty Alou may score ... but he doesn't. Now, it's Willie McCovey, tying run on third, winning run on second.

McCovey hits a ball as hard as humanly possible. Second baseman Bobby Richardson leaps and makes the grab.

Game over.

Series over.

"That's the first time I'd ever seen him cry," I tell Lockman, "two feet higher and the Giants win. My father thought the third base coach should have sent Alou home."

Suddenly, the expression on Lockman's face changed.

"You didn't know I was coaching third did you?" Lockman said.

I waited for him to yell. To scream. We quickly ran off a quick string of apologies.

"Don't feel bad," Lockman said, "you're not the first to mention it."

Then he laughed.

Lockman, 82, passed away from pulmonary fibrosis in Scottsdale, Ariz. March 17.

I hope my father is more respectful than I was when they bump into each other watching the World Series.

BOB.ELLIOTT@SUNMEDIA.CA


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