Cooperstown trip reminds author just how fragile life is

 The 2017 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee class. Photo Credit: Milo Stewart Jr., National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum.

The 2017 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee class. Photo Credit: Milo Stewart Jr., National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum.

By Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

Fragility of life.

You're issued a dose of reality and you try to comprehend what others might be going through in life when most of us are in reasonably good health.

Two people I know went to Cooperstown for Tim Raines' induction and some of the events associated with it. Both of them never made it to the Clark Sports Center for the ceremony because of illness.

One of these fine gentlemen is very ill with cancer. He wasn't too bad when he got to Cooperstown but he suffered a relapse.

"I got so ill that I missed all of the afternoon activities Saturday and I left before the induction Sunday,'' the man told me.

The other man was on medication. I called him from Main St. in Cooperstown to touch base with him and try to arrange to meet him. I talked to him and he said he was on medication. He left a phone message later to say that he would not be able to attend the induction ceremony. He offered to give me his pass but I already had one issued to me.

This 70-ish man, a household name in baseball, is going through a lot. His 45-ish son is deathly ill with cancer in California. 

"He's in the bottom of the ninth inning,'' the man told me about his son's prognosis.

So that's stark reality, putting life into perspective. 

Just a few weeks ago, I found out that Barry Salo, a seven-year teammate of mine in the 1970s and 1980s with the Sudbury Shamrocks of the Nickel Region Senior Baseball League in Northern Ontario, had died several years ago. He was only 63. Out of the blue, I googled his name to see if anything would pop up on him. Yes, something popped up: his death notice. It floored me. It sent shivers up my spine.

Salo's brother-in-law Pat Huot had also died a few years ago and I didn't know about it. Huot didn't play but he was an important part of our Shamrocks' executive for years. That's what happens when you leave a town where you lived and move somewhere else and you lose contact and don't stay in touch. Huot was only 70. Then there was Gilbey's liquor salesman Dave Horton, 63, and Labatt's beer executive Mickey McFadden, 78. They were strong supporters of baseball in Sudbury, especially the Shamrocks.

Mike Heaphy, 61, passed away, too, a few years ago. He was the coach of one of our opponents in Sudbury ball, the Copper Cliff Redmen. Like Salo, Huot and Horton, Heaphy was way too young when he died.

It all goes to show you that a reality check doesn't hurt once in a while. It makes you think of life's fragility.

Danny Gallagher

Danny was born in Ted Lindsay's hometown of Renfrew, Ont. but his roots are in nearby Douglas. He played 27 consecutive seasons of top-level amateur baseball in the senior ranks in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec and thrived on organizing events himself, the major one being the highly successful 1983 Canadian senior men's tournament in Sudbury. He began covering the Montreal Expos in 1988 when he joined the Montreal Daily News. Later, he was the Expos beat writer for the Ottawa Sun and Associated Press. He has written four baseball books, including Remembering the Montreal Expos, which he co-authored with Bill Young of Hudson, Que. Gallagher and Young are currently working on a book about the ill-fated 1994 Expos squad. Gallagher can be reached here: dannogallagher@rogers.com