once said “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
It’s a good idea to keep that quotation handy when you live in a world that
constantly changes on the fly, as those of us who work in baseball certainly
do. One has to keep life in perspective in the wake of impending rainouts,
back-to-back extra inning games, or the sudden realization that one of the
guests of honor at your 50th anniversary charity dinner is snowed in
at an airport in a state halfway across the country where it almost never
position in which we found ourselves last Thursday, fighting the ever more firm
reality that we would be without Will Clark, The Thrill, the man who we had
worked for over a year to secure, for the Hot Stove Gala. It was about 10:30 in
the morning, or about seven
hours before the doors were to open to the public
when we first found out. To quote the poet Robert Burns, “The best laid plans
of mice and men, oft go awry”.
through some expert maneuvering and generosity from those involved with our
parent club up north, we were privileged to host two very entertaining substitutes
in Giants pitcher and former Grizzly Sergio Romo as well as longtime Giants
player and current front office member Jim Davenport. Coupled with Matt
Williams, Mark Gardner and Steve Decker, our guests were still treated to a
panel of world class players and personalities.
there was also the Trophy. The real star of the show, the “big ticket” if you
will, may well have been the inanimate object sitting by itself on a black
tablecloth at the far end of the entry hall. Surrounded by more security than a
pop star, the golden circle of flags was a perfect centerpiece for this golden
anniversary event, and its presence lent a resplendent tone to the evening, one
that surely would not have existed without it.
meanwhile, made one of his biggest relief appearances to date. Pulled off a
commercial he was shooting in San Francisco that morning, he was whisked into
the backseat of the World Champions Trophy Truck and rushed to Fresno with
enough time to be debriefed about the event and grab a Starbucks before the
doors opened. His laid back and
easy-going personality helped him steal the
show, as he fielded question after question about his beard and his
relationship with off-color closer Brian Wilson, all with far more polish than
his 27 years would suggest.
as a last-minute replacement was the 13-year Major League veteran, Davenport. He drove down from the Bay Area
on almost no notice as well, bringing his son with him. The Siluria, Alabama
native kept the mood light and jovial, charming the crowd by recounting stories
and cracking jokes about Romo’s beard in his thick-as-taffy southern drawl.
certainly did his part, calling the airline from the tarmac in Dallas, trying
to switch his flight and find a way to Fresno. When he had exhausted every
possible option, he shot an apology video on his cell phone and emailed it to
us. He also agreed– when we finally got a hold of him again just before the
dinner began– to return to Fresno for a private reception for all of those who
missed him at Hot Stove. It was a classy thing for him to do, and we can’t wait
to bring him back to where he began his professional career later this summer.
Romo and Williams both stayed to fulfill every last autograph and photo
request. In our world, where we are too often bombarded with stories of the
arrogance of some professional athletes, it was a welcome and truly touching
sight to see each and every one of our fans go home happy, in the wake of what
could have been a disastrous day. Thanks again to all our guests and the Giants
for making this a Hot Stove to remember.
Photos by Don Davis: Sergio Romo (top) and Jim Davenport entertain a crowd of nearly 1,000 guests at last week’s Hot Stove Gala. Will Clark movie below.
As you may
know, our 50th Anniversary Hot Stove Gala takes place tomorrow night
at the Fresno Convention Center. The venue will be stuffed to the gills with
nearly 1,000 guests, enjoying the company of Giants legends Will Clark and Matt
Williams and basking in the golden glow of the World Champions Trophy, which
will be on display.
While all of
that is wonderful, one of the most rewarding parts about the event is the
opportunity to honor a member of our community with the Al Radka Award. The
award is designed for a member of the Valley community who has made a
difference through the game of baseball. This year, we will be honoring Malcolm
“Len” Bourdet, a very deserving recipient.
a two-sport star in baseball and basketball at Fresno State before going off to
fight in the Pacific in World War II. When he returned, he played minor league
ball for several years in the Cubs organization, including stints in Stockton
and Visalia. But he is best known for the days after his playing career, when
he decided to go into coaching.
of the legendary Pete Beiden when he played at Fresno State, Bourdet won 722
games, 15 conference titles and four state championships over his 31-year
coaching tenure as the skipper for the Fresno City College Rams. When you
really think about them, those are some truly staggering numbers. That is an
average of more than 24 wins per season, and a conference championship every
sports world they name buildings and fields after you or build statues of you for that
kind of dominant success. But Bourdet is as humble as could be, and was honored
when told about the award. You can learn more about Len as he talks to Hot Stove
Master of Ceremonies Jason Oliveira tonight on ABC 30 Action News at 11pm.
(Photo: Bourdet from his time at Fresno State)