ESPN analyst Peter Gammons will be honored Sunday at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, presented annually "for meritorious contributions to baseball writing."
I've never seen a guy with the passion -- an obsession, really -- for being involved in the game than Peter Gammons. We all love what we do, but Peter goes beyond that. The work he does -- he's always on the phone. He's built so many relationships throughout the game over the years. There isn't anybody he doesn't know.
When I was in high school, he was a schoolboy writer at the (Boston) Globe. Somehow, my name got dropped into one of his stories. That was my first introduction to Peter.
When I got traded to Boston (from the California Angels prior to the 1978 season), the beat writers traveled with us. Back then, being a beat writer was totally different. They'd take early BP and shag. It was a totally different atmosphere then. He got acquainted with different stuff on the field. He talked to players. He got to know them so well. And he retained the knowledge.
He was definitely on the younger side and more in touch with what we were into at the time. He was kind of a guy we could trust, because he could relate to who we were. There was a genuine trust with the players. If we needed our side of the story told, we knew we could trust him to tell it.
At the time, there were probably only three or four (beat writers) traveling with us. The access was totally different and because of his age and the time he spent with us, the relationship was different.
I don't think things were quite as competitive in those days. You could be in the bar, hear things, and we could trust that it wouldn't come out in the papers.
Peter did his homework. It's kind of like a play-by-play guy who spends time in the minor leagues. He did that as a writer. He already had a good idea about what the front office was doing, but then he also spent time with us, to learn the game from our side.
Before the game, there was just a lot of baseball talk, finding out what the players go through. He experienced that first-hand, from the moment you got to the ballpark until the game started -- (things like) "Why are they taking extra hitting? What are they trying to correct? What's his problem at the plate?" He got to see that first-hand, just from being on the field. It was a casual atmosphere and Peter could learn. And he did. He was always there.
He always seemed to know everything that was going on. A good example with me was when I was going through contract negotiations in 1981. We were negotiating with the Cubs, Oakland and Boston. Of course, I wanted to stay (with the Red Sox).
We had a meeting with (former owner) Haywood Sullivan and (former team president) John Harrington and my agent, Jerry Kapstein. Within five minutes after the meeting, Peter called me. He knew everything that had gone on. He was on top of all that stuff -- I was just one, small example.
I'm amazed at the effort he puts into it. I don't know what he does to relax. I can't imagine him being totally away from the game. I think he would crack up. I've never met anybody in the business who's as committed and obsessed with what he does.
Gammons' venture into television
It's kind of funny, when (former) players were first invited into the broadcast booth, the old-school guys despised that. Now, newspaper guys have become a major part of the landsacape of TV and radio.
Now, I'll watch Peter just to find out what he knows about what's going on. I have a sense that if he's saying something, there's something to it. If there's something going on with the Red Sox, I know Peter will have the whole story.
I'll watch him because I know he's talking to somebody who knows something. His role (on ESPN) isn't there to break down a player's swing -- he's there for information.
I think it was a gutsy move for him to (move from print to broadcast journalism). But if someone approaches you, why not? I think because of the work and effort he's put in, he's accepted by players around the game. They know he's not on there to just rip people.
Nobody else did that (transition) at the time. He grew into it and made the successful jump to television. He got the recognition and he became the 'baseball guru.'
As a player, when you see someone on TV, I think you say, 'Anybody can do that.' But that's not the case. I stunk for the first year as a broadcaster. When Peter first started, he looked so uncomfortable, it was painful. You have to get used to TV to get the information out. Then, once you get accustomed to being on camera, it comes out.
I think he's been a pioneer. I'll always remember him as a tireless worker and for his love for the game and the relationships he's built in the game.
I don't know what he would do (if he wasn't working around baseball). You could throw a guitar in his hands, but that's not his thing. I can't ever see him retiring. I see being him at the ballpark forever. I don't see how he could stop.
Jerry Remy played in the major leagues from 1975-1984. He serves as the Red Sox color analyst on the New England Sports Network and has a Web site at: www.theremyreport.com.
Sean McAdam of The Providence (R.I.) Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.