Gillick's emotions 'bottled' up

Pat Gillick, former general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies — as well as the Blue Jays,...

Pat Gillick, former general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies — as well as the Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners - will be inducted into the Hall of Fame next Sunday. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency Files)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:27 PM ET

Like any good travelling secretary, Frank Coppenbarger anticipates well.

So, on a sunny December morn, he was standing inside the Total Wine store across from Countryside Mall in Clearwater, Fla.

The Hall of Fame expansion era committee was to meet in nearby Lake Buena Vista, Fla., before baseball’s winter meetings.

And Coppenbarger’s previous boss, Pat Gillick, former general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies — as well as the Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners — was on the ballot for Cooperstown consideration.

Coppenbarger wanted to be prepared ... in case.

“You see everyone with Dom Pérignon when they celebrate,” Coppenbarger said when the Phillies were at the Rogers Centre earlier this month.

Yet, Coppenbarger didn’t like the look of the bottle. The reason was Melissa Manni of the Phillies front office had designed a label with a picture of Gillick to be affixed to a bottle, and it had to be the right size and shape.

“I’m standing looking and looking at the bottles. Finally I see one perfect for our fake label,” Coppenbarger said.

It was a fine champagne by Paul Goerg of France. And once the picture of Gillick was attached, Coppenbarger looked at the neck to see the initials “PG.”

Paul Goerg ... Pat Gillick ... perfect.

Now, the waiting game began.

On Friday, Dec. 3, a representative of the Hall called Gillick and asked where he could be reached early Monday morn if necessary. Gillick said he’d be in the Phillies suite at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts. He could be reached on scout Charlie Kerfeld’s cell phone.

Kerfeld’s phone rang about 8:50 on a chilly Florida Monday morning inside the third-floor suite.

Jane Forbes Clark, chair of the Hall of Fame, was calling from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel a few miles away.

“When I heard the phrase ‘Hall of Fame,’ I knew that the call sure wasn’t for me,” said Kerfeld, the former Houston Astros closer.

He handed his phone to Gillick, the way a 10-year-old might pass a still-warm, peanut butter cookie fresh from the oven to his brother — quickly.

“Pat Gillick speaking,” said the senior adviser to the Phillies president Dave Montgomery, walking into the suite’s bed room for privacy.

Coppenbarger said the Phillies executives leaned forward, straining to hear what was being said in the other room.

“Our room went quiet, each set of ears listening,” Kerfeld recalled.

Then, they heard Gillick say: “Well, thank you, thank you very much. This is a great honour.”

Gillick hung up the phone, let out a yelp and returned to the larger room with “the Gillick smile, the Gillick tears,” as Phillies executives stood and cheered.

And the Phillies, a team of action from Huey Alexander to Paul Owens to Dallas Green to Gillick to Ruben Amaro at the winter meetings sprung into action.

Coppenbarger produced the chilled bottle of PG champagne, with Gillick’s mug shot on the bottle.

Scott Proefrock, assistant GM, tossed Gillick two baseballs to autograph, the first autographs Gillick was to give as a Hall of Famer.

Proefrock gave one to Montgomery, the other to Amaro.

Amaro toasted Gillick, who became a Canadian citizen in 2005.

Assistant GMs Benny Looper and Chuck LaMar, scouts Gordon Lakey, Jim Fregosi Jr., Dave Hollins, Mike Ondo and Kerfeld, plus Coppenbarger, all raised their glasses.

Gillick phoned his wife, Doris, in Seattle and headed to his room where he was met by Bradford Horn of the Hall of Fame.

“Next we knew, he was on TV,” Kerfeld said.

I was seated in the press room beside former Philadelphia president Bill Giles as Jane Forbes Clark approached the podium with Gillick behind wearing a Hall of Fame ball cap.

“Hey Bill,” I whispered, as emotional knows emotional. “The over/under on tears is four seconds. I’ll take the under.”

Gillick’s lower lip was trembling after two seconds.

And next Sunday afternoon, along with former Jays second baseman Robbie Alomar, right-hander Bert Blyleven and Gillick will be at another podium — this one in Cooperstown — on induction day.


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