Reading Mark’s article tonight about his responsibility as a voting member of the BBWAA, reminded me of something I thought I had gotten past long ago–a little more than 2 years ago, to be precise.
You see, I was reminded about a player on this year’s HOF ballot–one that is now not fondly remembered by many baseball fans. One who had his demons that would never let him be. One, that lived to compete, to forever be one of the Boys Of Summer.
He was an Astro who soared ever higher, he was a Padre, willing to give you the shirt off his back, He was a Brave, unwilling to let you walk alone, yet too prideful to ever let you take his burden and lighten it–He was the ultimate teammate. He could never say no–ultimately, it led to his death.
Yes, I’m talking about Ken Caminiti, who is on this year’s Hall Of Fame ballot. No, I don’t hold any illusions of his induction, even though, it would be almost justice for his family and friends if he was somehow inducted, because as a man, a husband, a father, a friend and a teammate, Cammy was one of the best God put on this earth. He would literally give you the shirt off his back if you asked.
Cammy was great to his fans too. He always signed autographs long after everyone else had already left–I know, I got him to sign my shirt late one evening after a game at the Astrodome in 1999–I still have that shirt–I will cherish it always. I loved Cammy as a player, but hated to see what his personal demons had done to him as I sat in my office one sad day in late 2001 staring at an ops plan that named Ken Caminiti as the target of a drug bust. That was one of the saddest days of my life. Such a good guy, such a great friend, yet, he was going to be arrested at a seedy motel in Southwest Houston on cocaine possession charges. The Judge gave him probation, mainly on his status as a great player for the Astros and the testimony of his family and Astros friends who tried so hard to help him, but, sadly, he violated his probabtion and ended up in jail.
Then there was that sad, sad, day in New York in 2004 when he finally succumbed to the demons that haunted him. In a way, that was maybe the best the day in his life–God embraced him that night, as he died. Cammy is now playing the game he loved more than life itself with the heroes he loved best–Ken Caminiti is now playing in the greatest Field of Dreams with the greatest baseball players of all time.
So, in this year that he is nominated for baseball’s Hall Of Fame, here’s to you Ken Caminiti, the man, the player, the human being that you were. We know, all of us, your family, friends, co-workers, fans and employers, you were one of the kindest men we ever knew. May you rest in peace.