Story time: Gillick chapter

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:13 PM ET

COOPERSTOWN - Plenty has been written about Pat Gillick and his photographic memory.

“He never forgets where he came from,” said Pete Ward Saturday afternoon.

The Montreal-born Ward was Gillick’s roomie with the 1959 Stockton Ports in the class-C California State League when both were farmhands in the Baltimore Orioles system.

Stockton centre fielder Ray Youngdahl and Ward were Gillick’s guests this Hall of Fame weekend.

The ex-Ports flew into Albany, N.Y., from the west: Ward from Portland, Youngdahl from San Francisco and Gillick from Seattle.

“One day this week Pete and Ray phoned, the next day all three of them took turns on the phone,” said their manager Billy DeMars from Clearwater, Fla.

“We spoke about the good times. We won a hell of a lot of games, but we couldn’t catch Modesto.

“Pat was a smart kid. We’d be busing into Fresno, hadn’t played them in a month and I’d say: ‘Pat, who will they start? He’d rhyme off their three guys. It was not surprising to see where he is today.”

Another lefty with Stockton was Bo Belinsky. Gillick and Belinsky were together in 1960 at triple-A Vancouver. Belinsky went to the California Angels in the Rule V draft in 1961.

Belinsky held out, became a celebrity before even pitching a major-league game, then won four straight in 1962, including a no-hitter for his fourth win against his ex-team the Orioles.

Gillick was at class-A Elmira. Belinsky was a Sports Illustrated cover boy.

“Bo was on that Stockton team for eight games, the first night he checks into the Wolf Hotel and spends the night with us, we had this huge room,” Ward recalled. “We wake up the next day and he’s packing. We asked what was up and Bo says: ‘You guys, too boring for me, I’m moving out.’

“Bo was a great fun-loving guy.”

For a few years Ward reported directly to Gillick. After injuring his arm and joining the Houston Astros, Gillick moved on to the Yankees. Ward managed class-A Fort Lauderdale and double-A West Haven before Gillick headed north to Toronto, his home for almost 30 years.

“For us old guys this is a great weekend,” Gillick told reporters. “Sometimes we take baseball too serious. Walking down Main Street — it took me about an hour on Friday to go two blocks I met so many people that wanted to talk — it’s baseball like I remember as a kid, the way things used to be.”

The way things used to be in Stockton when the young Ports were a pair of 21-year-olds.

“You know Pat had a really good move to first,” Ward said. “I told him the reason why was because he had so much more practice than any of our other pitchers.”

It’s funny, Ward was saying everything goes back to Stockton.

“I met Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey Friday, 1959 was his first year umping, of course I didn’t know him then,” Ward said. “I spent a long time listening to him.”

DeMars, 85, was an infielder for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1952-55.

“You know the mind is a funny thing I have a picture of Pete Ward in my mind, he’s 21, I asked him how old he was the other day and he said 73,” DeMars said. “Pat’s aged better than Ward.

“Pat didn’t have an exceptional fastball, he had a good curve and could get the ball over,” DeMars said.

Told Gillick said he was “short” as a major-league prospect and would not have made it had he been injury free, DeMars said, “Whitey Ford didn’t throw very hard, Randy Jones won a Cy Young award and he couldn’t break a pane of glass.”

In 1960, when Belinsky and Gillick were in Vancouver their middle infielder for 82 games was Tony Alomar.

Tony’s nephew, Robbie, and Gillick addressed reporters Saturday.

Alomar and Gillick will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Sunday afternoon.


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