The passing this week of a truly wonderful human being and a man I was honored and lucky to have called my friend brought a flood of memories back to me of my times with the man we all affectionately called simply “Doc.”
During 2006 and 2007, I had the privilege of calling the press box my home and reporting on each home game and interviewing Ottawa Lynx players and their nightly opponents. Prior to those seasons reporting for the team, my time was spent in the stands sitting with and chatting to a group of dedicated and devoted fans who rarely, if ever, missed a game.
If truth be told, I began to prefer Triple-A to the majors for many reasons. The tickets were very affordable and there was not a bad seat in the park. I was able to see many future major league stars up close and personal and the outcome of the games really didn’t matter that much– everyone there was trying to get to the show, and we fans were having too much fun. Naturally we wanted our guys to win but loses were usually taken with an “Oh well get them next game” attitude.
Many of the managers and coaches were ex-major leaguers I had grown up watching on television or in Montreal and the vast majority were more than happy to sign an autograph or chat about their playing days. The fun was in the ribbing and my comments about watching them play when I was a kid were met with a good hearted laugh or a feigned disgust at how old I had made them feel.
I began my member of the press experience in April 2006, sitting in the press box with all the veteran local scribes and trying to work my way into their acceptance and confidence. Many had been there from the beginning and had their own routines which not all were at first, willing to share with me. Who had time to help a rook when there were stories to write and deadlines to meet? But eventually they seemed to accept me and I became part of the good hearted ribbing and other press box rituals which went on each game.
The first to take me under his wing, and I still don’t know quite why to this day, was a man everyone simply called Doc. I never knew his real name and back then I don’t know if anyone else did either.
Doc would arrive each game about the second or third inning, always wearing a short sleeved collared shirt with shorts, white socks and running shoes. No matter how cold or rainy it might be, Doc always wore those shorts. He would borrow my scorecard to get up to speed and then we would chat about anything and everything. I found out eventually that he had been a surgeon and had delivered countless babies as well.
Some nights he would delight in describing in much more detail than I wanted a complicated surgical procedure with detailed illustrations and a question period afterwards. My comments of “Gee Doc that was more than I needed to know” were met with a sly grin and a feigned apology.
Doc would usually follow us down to the clubhouse and while we conducted our post game interviews, would answer questions from the players about this ache or that pain and recommend various solutions. The team doctor never seemed to mind and Doc knew every player in the league it seemed.
His advice always seemed to be simple, logical and to the point and usually successful.
Doc’s first love was boxing and he had spent many years as a corner cut man. He had seen all the greats fight, and we were always asking him for a story about this great boxer or that one. Although he certainly knew his baseball, that was rarely a topic of conversation between any of us when he was around. He lit up the room and made the rounds chatting with everyone but he always spent the majority of the game with me.
I’ve thought of him often in those four years since we lost our team but I never saw him again. He’s surely up in heaven fixing some broken wings or telling God about the greatest Ali fight ever. The phrase great human being is often tossed around in these days of overhype and lowered standards and the truly great often gone unsung. Not in Doc’s case.