DAUER HELPED BAPTIZE SPIRIT IN REDLANDS, 1987

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Rich Dauer sat beside me on the first base bench just after the San Bernardino Spirit finished playing under the dimly-lit field at Redlands Community Field.

It was April 1987. Thirty-one years later, he would be taking part in a pre-game ceremony at the newly-crowned world champion Houston Astros. Back then, they were playing in the Astrodome.

But on this date in 1987, something new was taking place. The California League had just expanded to, of all places, San Bernardino.

Less than two decades earlier, his high school team came to play at Redlands.

“I remember playing here,” he said, referring to Community Field, “in high school.”

Here was Dauer who, only a few years earlier, had played second base on the 1983 Baltimore Orioles’ World Series championship.

He was homegrown.

Colton High School, a 1970 graduate.

San Bernardino Valley College, then known as the Indians.

Then it was onto USC, where he was a two-time All-American third baseman, helping lead the Trojans to win the College World Series in both 1973 and 1974. He’s now a Baltimore Orioles’ Hall of Famer, having been the team’s No. 1 draft pick (1974), playing in two World Series.

Chris Tillman, Rich Dauer
Colton’s Rich Dauer, inducted into the Baltimore Orioles’ Hall of Fame in 2012, brought the San Bernardino Spirit to Redlands’ Community Field in 1987 (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

The Spirit knew where many of their fans might show up at Fiscalini Field – located on Highland Ave. in San Bernardino – and that was Redlands.

Showing up at Community Field was the perfect public relations move. The Spirit could sell a lot of tickets to these folks.

With his hitting coach, Jay Johnstone, sitting nearby, Dauer reflected on minor league ball players.

“These guys,” he said, motioning out to those Class A players, “aren’t that far away from the major leagues.”

It was quite a proclamation. These were minor leaguers, Rich, I’d told him.

He shook his head in disagreement.

“All these guys are,” he said, “just young. They need experience. They can throw just as hard, hit it just as far … as any major leaguers. They just need to get consistent.

“That’s what will keep them out of the majors,” he said. “If they’re not consistent.”

There were some future major leaguers on that Spirit roster.

Todd Cruz and Rudy Law, plus Terry Whitfield, pitchers Andy Rincon and Craig Chamberlain – all of whom showed up

Cruz, in fact, was an infield teammate of Dauer’s on that 1983 Orioles team.

Law played against the O’s in the 1983 American League playoffs when Baltimore knocked off the Chicago White Sox.

All those ex-MLB players were playing out the string.

Another Spirit, infielder Mike Brocki, had torn apart Redlands High in a CIF soccer playoff a few years earlier – scoring three times in a 6-0 win. For the Spirit in 1987, he hit two HRs and batted .233.

Let’s not forget another Spirit infielder, Leon Baham, who would eventually become one of Redlands’ top youth baseball coaches in years ahead. Baham hit .279 with 8 HRs that season.

And Ronnie Carter, a Fontana product who was an NCAA Division 3 All-American at the University of Redlands a couple years earlier, got 164 at-bats (4 HRs, .213) for a squad that was filled by plenty of guys that had no shot at a major league career.

Dauer sat over all of them, perhaps lining himself up for a lengthy future in MLB. Curiously, he never drew a manager’s assignment at the MLB level, coaching at Kansas City, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Colorado and, finally, Houston.

Dauer spent as much time as I needed on that Community Field bench that night. Plenty of local youths showed up to watch this split-squad game.

Pitchers fired seeds.

Hitters took big cuts.

Baserunners seemed quick, fast.

Fielders made it look easy.

Dauer, working for the Seattle Mariners, had the task of sitting over these guys.

Three decades later, Dauer was pulling himself to the mound at Minute Maid Park. It was April 2, 2018 – today’s date, in fact.  He threw out the first pitch.

For the previous three seasons, he had coached first base as the Astros made a dramatic move toward becoming contenders. When Houston beat the Dodgers in a thrilling 7-game series the previous fall, Dauer was back in familiar territory.

Tragedy struck at the World Series parade. Dauer suffered a head injury, resulting in emergency brain surgery. It brought his coaching career – 19 years strong – to a pre-mature conclusion.

He was the perfect selection to throw out the first pitch.

That 1987 season in San Bernardino was his first as a coach. His playing career concluded in 1985. He had been teammates with the likes of Hall of Famers Cal Ripken, Jr., Eddie Murray and Jim Palmer.

None of that trio ever played California League ball. Dauer cut his teeth as a coach in that historical assemblage of minor league cities.

It no way resembled the California League that would eventually surface in various Southern California cities.

San Bernardino had joined the Bakersfield Dodgers, Fresno Giants, Modesto A’s, Palm Springs Angels, Reno Padres, Salinas Spurs, San Jose Bees, Stockton Ports and the Visalia Oaks. Truth is, the Salinas Spurs had moved to San Bernardino, adopting the Spirit name.

Here he was, back in Redlands after a well-traveled baseball career. Only a few hundred had bothered to show.

Dauer seemed to be the perfect pick to lead the Spirit.

After all, he had been a local product.

“It never occurred to me,” said Dauer on that April 1987 night, “that there’d ever be a minor league team in San Bernardino.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART 4: HALL OF FAME CONNECTIONS INFILTRATES FAMILIES

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Check out the earlier parts first if you haven’t yet!

After getting his college degree at Humboldt  State (Calif.) – Giants and A’s country, incidentally – my baseball-loving son Danny moved away to Tallahassee, Florida. Master’s degree. Marriage to Sara. Job. Career. A son, Elliott. While he claimed that his baseball interests died a little because he had no one around to share it, I’d long suspected that baseball’s PED controversies chipped away at how he viewed baseball.

“I don’t think it’s fair, Dad, that those guys are kept out of the Hall of Fame.”

I blame the unfairness and ineptitude of the media for killing Danny’s baseball love. I think he does, too.

Danny, plus my youngest son, Chet, aren’t advocating PED use. All they see is a widespread dose of unequal justice. They see media corruption. In other words, the players didn’t do any more wrong than the media did in failing to properly cover the corruption. How can they be allowed into the selection process when they failed at their own reporting assignments?

By voting those same players – Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, et al – as MVP or Cy Young winners, that fraternity of media was also part of the problem. It’s some of the more disgusting acts of hypocrisy. Many held out their votes for the Hall of Fame.

Many of those media types show up on TV, or as columnists, or on blogs, nodding, saying, “See? See? We told ya.”

They watched Verducci, “Game of Shadows” and Jose Canseco break the stories, or write their books. In effect, they got scooped. They piggy-backed on their research to stand up against PED users.

Jose Canseco (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)
Maybe Jose Canseco was as much of a hero off the field as he was on the field – using PED, then later confessing to the process. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Where were they when it counted? As sports editor of a small-city newspaper, I relied on their expertise and frontline coverage to properly present readers with stories. I wasn’t in MLB clubhouses like they were.

They’re not guardians of the Hall of Fame gates as they proclaim themselves. In fact, it wasn’t until after all of those golden on-field moments took place when they took action. Too late.

It’s a simple fact for Danny: Baseball’s over, at least in his mind. The sport has lost a fan.

Chet continues to surge ahead. His love for the game continues. His disgust for the Hall of Fame criteria, however, has increased. For the media. For the Hall voters, he’s spewing out total acrimony. Each January for the past few years, Chet seethes over the perceived injustice.

Brown_Chet
My son, Chet, doesn’t like the current Hall of Fame practices, but he still loves the game.

He questions Selig’s own 2017 induction, claiming that it was under his watch that baseball’s PED involvement had surged to unforeseen heights.

How dare Selig be allowed in while Bonds, among others, has been kept out. If the media, Commissioner’s office, not to mention each team had done its respective jobs, PED usage would’ve been exposed early enough and, perhaps, stamped out.

I don’t think Chet’s the only one that feels this way.

Previous Hall inductees Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre should’ve and could have known. La Russa fronted for McGwire with the media. He took up on McGwire’s side, pushing away media that dared to assault the single season HR record holder. For years, too.

Until McGwire confessed.

Torre and Cox, too, had guys in their clubhouses – Sheffield, Canseco, Man-Ram, A-Rod, plus others – that enhanced their playing efforts by using PED. World Series championships were claimed with “dirty” players on their rosters.

Weren’t those managers also part of the problem? Let’s give them benefit of the doubt.

Perhaps they didn’t encourage PEDs. But it was happening under their very noses. In their clubhouses. Did nothing to help clean up their sport.

Somehow, they all got a Hall pass to Cooperstown.

You almost get tired of hearing the refrain from voters, or the observers that don’t have a vote but want to interfere.

“Bonds was on his way to the Hall of Fame until 1998. But …”

There is no “but.”

What’s left is a mess. Millions like Danny and Chet continue to, perhaps, fret at the notion that suspected PED users Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez have been inducted. Meanwhile, some of baseball’s brightest stars have been left out.

It’s a deeply personal conclusion to a saga that won’t go away.

PART 1: HALL OF FAME CONNECTIONS INFILTRATES FAMILIES

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Here is how baseball’s Hall of Fame PED controversies has affected me, my family and, perhaps, a generation of baseball fans:

The raucous, unfair and unprofessional behavior of around 500-plus voting media members has rendered the process as complete buffoonery. It’s a cartoon of mass proportions. While the media continues to swing and miss in all its political coverages – whether you lean politically left or right – its Hall of Fame contributions may be among the most shameful display of professional conduct.

It’s almost as if the Hall-selecting committee exhibits no code of conduct.

It’s deep and personal when the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are kept out of the Hall. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, plus Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez. Jose Canseco could’ve had a shot. And Gary Sheffield, plus Alex Rodriguez.

On Jan. 22, 2018, four more players were elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America. None of the afore-mentioned claimed a spot, though A-Rod is not yet eligible.

My son, Danny, collected all their baseball cards in the early 1990s. Born in 1984, the kid followed my lead into following a sport in which many fathers and sons enjoyed together. Danny bought, traded and craved baseball cards.

Danny mug
My son, Danny Brown, was a rabid baseball fan who, perhaps, stepped away from the sport once inequality of media bias started to stain the Hall of Fame.

That little guy, age eight on up, adored those cards.

He memorized their stats.

We went to games, seeking autographs afterwards.

When it was time for the World Series, or the playoffs, or a huge pennant race game, we had the TV on full bore.

My youngest son, Chet, had pictures. Cards. Autographs. Autographed balls. He stared relentlessly at TV screens whenever Bonds came to bat. On those trips to the ball park, there were no trips to the rest room or snack bar when the Giants’ lineup was only a couple players away from Bonds’ spot in the batter’s box.

As the PED drama played out, dozens of players were spotlighted for using performance enhancing drugs. In the cases of the afore-mentioned players, it’s possible they’ll never be inducted into the sport’s greatest showcase.

I remember Danny saying to me, “Dad, I don’t know who to believe any more. It’s like they’re taking my childhood heroes away.”

Eight years younger than Danny, Chet completely bought in – BIG TIME – to the San Francisco Giants. At a time when Bonds was asserting himself into baseball’s home run chase, Chet was like millions of others.

Barry Bonds (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)
Barry Bonds, a San Francisco treat, was considered a traitor to the game by almost every other baseball fan other than the Giants. There are plenty that believe he belongs in Cooperstown. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Watching. Admiring. Enjoying those magical moments.

Milestone moments like 500 home runs. 600. 660, tying Willie Mays. 700. Then 715, cracking the Babe. Finally, 756, working his way past Hank Aaron.

He was almost at the game against Washington when Bonds slugged No. 756. I wouldn’t let him, nor his sister, Kelli, go to a night game by themselves. They went up to the Bay Area to stay with my mom and grandparents. Kelli was just 18. Chet wasn’t yet 14. Imagine letting two kids at that age loose on the subway train – alone in The City. With all those vagabonds? Not at night. It was hard enough letting them go in daylight hours.

Meanwhile, I was on the road with Danny, heading for Tallahassee, so I could drop him off at Florida State.

I’d picked the game after – a day game – in trying to predict when Bonds would go deep for No. 756. Got them game tickets. Airline tickets. They missed seeing the record-breaker by a day. By the way, Bonds wasn’t in the Giants’ lineup in that game.

To this day, I’m kidded and reviled for being such a bad father.

A few years earlier, Chet had been at World Series Game Six. October 2002. Angels and Giants. In Anaheim. Leading 3-2 in games, anticipating the Giants’ first World Series championship since 1954, he watched Bonds strike a massive HR off Frankie “K-Rod” Rodriguez. It was a Hall of Fame moment.

It wasn’t so pretty to watch a 9-year-old boy crying after the game. The Giants had blown a 5-0 lead. They lost. One day later, the Angels claimed the World Series trophy.

Chet, like millions of others, was in total awe of Bonds. His swing. His power. His complete dominance of pitchers, some of whom may have been using PEDs.

Hall of Fame selectors missed their chance to cover the story when it was taking place. They cannot now re-enact their mistakes by voting to keep the top candidates from their chance at glory.