Most at the Hyatt Rosemont O’Hare hotel for the 1990 winter meetings remember it for one thing: Blue Jays executive Howard Starkman stepping to the microphone and announcing loudly: “The Toronto Blue Jays have traded Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff to the San Diego Padres ... for Joe Carter and Robbie Alomar.”
Managers Tommy Lasorda, Frank Robinson and Bobby Valentine, who had wandered over from across the hall, applauded the old-fashioned baseball trade.
I’ll remember that winter meetings for that deal which changed the fortunes of the Jays and a few days earlier when the Jays obtained Devon White from the California Angels.
I’ll never forget being on the second floor one night and passing upon an ill Ed Farmer, then a Baltimore Orioles scout.
“Come here for a second,” Farmer said, “I want you to meet the man who is going to save my life — my brother Tommy.”
Farmer was in need of a new kidney.
Tommy gave him one of his in a surgery performed at Harvard Medical School.
The Chicago White Sox broadcaster and I sat in the first base dugout Tuesday night at the Rogers Centre remembering that night almost 22 years ago and other nights. (“Don’t write about it now, wait ’til I get out of town,” Farmer said).
Farmer recalled his mom Marilyn, lawn chair against the screen on a playground on the south side of Chicago watching her son playing peewee. How the night Farmer’s team, the mighty Eagles, were losing by a run, with two out and Bobby Wyatt at the plate. Each player had to play one inning.
Wyatt had polio and wore braces like Forest Gump in the movie.
Farmer stood in the on-deck circle when Marilyn called “Edward” to the screen and said “Bobby will walk, I want you to hit the ball over the right fielder’s head, now go and do it Edward.”
Farmer tried to recall the last time Wyatt got on base.
Wyatt did walk and the lanky Farmer hit the ball over the right fielder’s head like mom requested.
“I’m running the bases and I know I can’t touch him, can’t pass him or I’m out — my father told me the rules,” he said. “I realize that I’m 5-foot-2 at eight years old and their right fielder is about 3-foot-6. No way he’s going to get the ball back in time.”
Farmer was behind Wyatt whispering “Don’t fall down Bobby, take your time.”
Both scored and the game was won.
“I’m thinking my mom knows everything,” Farmer said.
The mighty Eagles hoisted Wyatt onto their shoulders.
“Eight years ago I get a note in the booth ... from Bobby Wyatt,” Farmer said.
The note read “I’m in the club section, thanks for making me feel like everyone else that one night.”
As an organ recipient Farmer has spoken at Harvard, before the House of Representative on polycystic kidney disease. Farmer says it is the No. 1 genetically inherited disease
“My blood work was so bad I had about three more days of life before I got the dialysis machine,” he said.
Now, he visits labs on trips into Boston to see scientists and researchers work with zebra fish.
Farmer recalled attending a shiva in New York in 1963, as an 13-year-old. His father told their mom to take the boys where ever they wanted.
Marilyn pulled her car onto the curb outside Yankee Stadium and banged on a metal door, which happened to lead to bullpen in left.
Eventually a man lifted the door. Marilyn asked the man to allow her three sons to see inside Yankee Stadium.
The guard said no chance. He was new to the job. He wasn’t getting fired.
“Let my oldest son in, he’s going to pitch here some day,” Marilyn said offering $20. Still the guard, who had three fingers missing on one hand, refused giving a New York answer “he can see inside when he pitches here.”
Eight years later Farmer was a rookie coming out of Alvin Dark’s bullpen with the 1971 Cleveland Indians. In those days a golf cart took relievers to the mound.
Farmer, 21, climbed in, ready to pitch in his seventh big-league game in an 11-year career.
Farmer looked at the man’s hand on the wheel. He was missing three fingers.
“You’re the same guy who wouldn’t let me in here eight years ago,” Farmer said. “You wouldn’t let me in then, you’re not taking me onto the field now.”
So, he ran in to face Bobby Murcer.
The guard’s name was Frank Rizzo from Yonkers and over the years Farmer and he became good friends.
Nothing like his brother Tommy though.
Tommy gave the gift of life.
Good stories and a better message: be a organ donor.
HOW THINGS CHANGE
The Blue Jays sent right-hander Kevin Comer to the Houston Astros as the player to be named in the J.A. Happ deal on Thursday. Usually a player to be named is a back-up infielder at class-A Dunedin. Comer was selected 57th overall and given a $1.65-million signing bonus by the Jays in 2011.
The Jays gave up too much, too early.
So, the Jays acquired Brandon Lyon, minor leaguer David Carpenter and Happ for Francisco Cordero and Ben Francisco, plus minor leaguers Asher Wojciechowski, Carlos Perez, David Rollins, Joseph Musgrove and a blue chipper in Comer.
Then we found out the fastball Comer showed a year ago, regularly clocked at 94 m.p.h., was now 85-87 m.p.h. Like many others — Zach Jackson, David Purcey or Zach Stewart — the fastball was there and then it wasn’t.
And Happ pitched six innings allowing one earned run including striking out six Texas Rangers on Friday.
The process of evaluation continues to evolve.
Blue Jays fans deserve a hearty well-done in fund-raising efforts to help Jays minor-league coach Omar Malave’s daughter, Omarlyn Jensen, pay for her daughter Elisse’s open-heart surgery.
Elisse, 17 months old, is headed to Boston for surgery Sept. 17. The family was $20,000 short of the required $100,000 for the operation. Since we wrote about the family needing help on Wednesday, roughly $14,000 has been raised to reach the required amount.
Father Joe Jensen was laid off, found a new job, but his insurance does not begin until Nov. 1.
Don’t stop if you were considering making a donation (http://www.giveforward.com/openyourheartsforelisse) and see 100% raised. There is 7% withholding fee by the website, a three-week stay in Boston for the surgery, continual flights from Tampa to Boston to be and debt from when older brother Eli died last November after numerous hospital stays ain need of a lung transplant.
Omarlyn, a tearful mother, sends her thanks to one and all.
“We are all so amazed by all the support from Canada, we are all so pleased,” said Omarlyn, 26. “I can’t thank the people enough.”
Malave has worn a Jays uniform 31 of the previous 32 years as a player, coach or manager from class-A Florence to triple-A Syracuse and in 2010 was the bullpen coach on Cito Gaston’s staff. Only Dennis Holmberg has been in the organization longer.
Since the original story, he has been interviewed by ESPN and news has hit Baseball America.
The Krestinski family along with Ted & Jo Lynn Averbook donated $1,000, as did Brett, Jen and Bryton Cecil along with Paul and Lisa Spoljaric. Cecil is at triple-A Las Vegas, while Spoljaric used to pitch for the Jays.
SportsNet’s Jamie Campbell has been charging fans $5 to have their picture taken in Gregg Zaun’s chair on the Blackerry Studio set in left field at the Rogers Centre and says he’s raised $500 for Elisse, while the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America has donated $500.
But it’s the $10 and $20 which showed such an outpouring of respect.
It was something to see.
Outfielder Gareth Morgan took batting practice Thursday at Connorvale Park before a game against a team of players (grade 10, 11 and 12s) put together by Major League Scouting Bureau director Walt Burrows and Ontario scout Jason Chee-Aloy on Thursday.
“It was the most impressive batting practice I have ever seen in my 19 years scouting Canadian players,” one veteran scout said. “But now that the game started I haven’t seen what he showed during batting practice.”
Morgan, who is eligible for 2014 draft, did finish with two hits.
Sarnia’s Mitchell Bigras, a 6-foot-6 first baseman, Mississauga infielder Malik Collymore, Brampton shortstop Jade Salmon-Williams and Orleans outfielder Demi Orimoloye, who one scout called “one of the most athletic players he’s ever seen in Canada,” all impressed the pro scouts and college recruiters on hand.
“This is the finest collection of players I’ve ever seen on one field in Ontario,” said scouting director Walt Burrows, of Brentwood Bay, B.C. Burrows also had 171 players at an open Bureau camp Wednesday.
Mississauga’s Josh Naylor, going into grade 10, impressed junior coach Greg Hamilton after doubling against Logan Seifrit of Spruce Grove, Alta., Seifrit pitched for the rookie-class Arizona League Mariners this summer.
Naylor joined the team on their trip to Triesta, Italy. Then, Canada heads to the worlds in Seoul, South Korea, on Aug. 30th-Sept. 8.
Jays Missed starts
Brandon Morrow 12
Kyle Drabek 11
Drew Hutchison 11
(Starts to: Aaron Laffey 10, Brett Cecil 9, Carlos Villanueva 9, J.A. Happ 3, Jesse Chavez 2, Joel Carreno 1,)
All-time hits leaders
1. Pete Rose 4,256
2. Ty Cobb 4,189
3. Hank Aaron 3,771
40. Babe Ruth 2,873
41. Alex Rodriguez 2,872
42. Harold Baines 2,866
42. Omar Vizquel 2,866