Spending time in Cooperstown last week reminded that the people responsible for my love of baseball were, in many ways, memorialized even though many are no longer with us.
Jackie Robinson. Larry Doby. Joe Black. Ted Williams. Babe Ruth.
I interviewed Ted Williams once - on the steps of Cooperstown's venerable Otesaga Hotel. His body was that of a old man in his final years. His eyes were fiery and his mind sharp. What a memorable experience.
Inever met Robinson or Ruth, but thank all my colleagues before me who put the human faces on these larger-than-life heroes and made them part of a nation's history and, therefore all of our lives.
As for Larry and Joe, I did know both very well. They were a part of the posse of noble men who sought to educate as many people as possible about the legacies of the Negro Leagues and blacks in baseball. That posse still rides - Fay Vincent, Len Coleman, Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan.
But the absence of Larry, Joe and Slick Surratt - a delightful former Negro Leaguer who is in failing health - leaves a void that hurts very much.
Not a day goes by without an urge to pick up the phone and reach out to Joe and Larry, to glean from their knowledge and understanding of the game they loved.
Then comes the inevitable - the acknowledgment of their passing and what time takes from us with each such loss.
Remembering Elden Auker
These reminiscences began today due to the sad news that Elden Auker, a peer of Dizzy Dean, Babe Ruth and a great friend of Fay Vincent's passed away today at age 95.
Fay wrote the following about his venerable dear friend:
Elden Auker pitched to Babe Ruth as a rookie for the Tigers in 1934.
He roomed with Jimmie Foxx in 1939 the year Ted Williams came to the Red Sox and he won 130 games in the big leagues, mostly with the Tigers where he was a stalwart on the great teams of the mid-30's, including the World Champions in 1935.
He grew up in Western Kansas, the son of a rural mail carrier who delivered the mail by horseback when Elden was a child.
At Kansas State he had been an All-American in football, basketball and baseball. But he also had been married to his beloved Mildred for 73 years when he died this morning at 95.
He is survived by his son Jim and his wife. He lived in Vero beach, Fla. He was a beloved figure in baseball and had been active until very recently.
Rest in peace, all.