An appreciation of Peter Gammons

In his 20 years at ESPN, Peter Gammons left an indelible mark on his profession and the people he's worked with. Along with Buster Olney, who wrote this blog entry about him, a few colleagues were asked to share how Gammons has had an impact on them professionally and personally. Their contributions are below, listed alphabetically:

Jerry Crasnick: "One of a kind"

Peter Gammons was the guy who interrupted his Hall of Fame speech in July 2005 to check his text messages and tell 28,000 fans in Cooperstown that the Red Sox weren't trading Manny Ramirez. So the reporter in him can probably intuit how he's regarded within the baseball industry.

But in the event he's too humble to embrace that thought, here goes:

For all his groundbreaking achievements -- the Sunday notes column, the song lyrics and the smooth transition from print to TV -- Peter's true legacy lies in the example that he sets and the lives he touches. At a time when scoops are fleeting and snide is chic, he views life with a passion that resonates whether the topic is Carlos Pena, Little Feat, the Cape Cod League or Neil Fingleton's transition from basketball to acting.

I've seen Peter show the same respect to a job-hunting college student at the winter meetings that he gives to a Joe Torre or a Bud Selig. He showed it to me a long time ago when I was a young sportswriter in Maine, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

The sad faces among Peter's fellow baseball writers at the Indianapolis Marriott this week were a testament to how deeply we'll miss him. But we will continue to watch and listen because of his integrity, his depth of knowledge and the genuineness he displays in everything he does. He will always be Peter -- one of a kind.

Tim Kurkjian: "The best, the most important, the most influential"

Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said it best many years ago: He has never met anyone who loves anything as much as Peter Gammons loves baseball.

And because of that love and passion, which still exists, Peter Gammons is the best, most important, most influential writer-reporter to cover baseball in at least the last 50 years. Gammons revolutionized the way baseball is covered. He changed the way games were written. He invented the daily notes column and perfected the Sunday notes column. Today's youth know him predominantly as a baseball analyst on TV, which former Globe colleague Dan Shaughnessy once wrote "is like knowing Joe DiMaggio as Mr. Coffee.'' And yet Gammons also was a pioneer in the way baseball was covered on TV when he began working at ESPN in 1989. He brought his Sunday notes column to "Baseball Tonight."

Gammons' greatest attribute isn't his writing, his research or his Rolodex; it is how charitable he is with his time, his information and his friendship. That's what I will miss most. At the World Series, he gave me one final snapshot of his iconic years at ESPN. We were standing in the lobby of our hotel in Philadelphia during the 2009 World Series. Mariano Rivera came by and gave Peter a hug. Five minutes later, Eddie Vedder came by and gave Peter a hug. That could happen only to Peter Gammons. There will never be anyone like him.

Thanks for being such a great teammate for so long.

Amy K. Nelson: "How the hell does he remember all of that?"

When I first started in this business, I was not even a year removed from college and I was covering the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Of course it was Peter who was one of my first allies, and from the start it was clear how welcoming he was to young writers. That cannot be said of many, but Peter always invested in people, and that is what I will always appreciate most.

Over the years, Peter has dropped me notes when I wrote stories that left an impression; of course his notes always tended to be about the stories that went off the field and tried to gain a deeper understanding of who the players were as people.

Last year I was in the lobby at the Bellagio at the winter meetings. It was early on the first day, and Peter and I stood beside the bank of elevators as team officials passed by, all of them greeting Peter in one way or another. A veteran talent evaluator chatted with us as Peter told stories, many of them dating back decades. This particular talent evaluator has one of the most impressive memories I've ever witnessed of anyone in our business. For the next 30 minutes, he listened and was blown away by Peter's incredible recall of names, pitch counts and obscure players most had long forgotten.

"How the hell does he remember all of that?" the talent evaluator said, mixing in some expletives while shaking his head.

Peter has never forgotten that this game is about people, and it shows in the relationships he has and in the way current players revere him. I've known that since I first entered the business and feel fortunate enough that I've been able to work alongside him.

Peter Pascarelli: "A fount of information and entertainment"

Believe it or not, there was a time -- a long, long time ago -- when there was no Internet and, dare we say it, no ESPN. As memory serves, it was an innocent age in which information on our favorite things, such as baseball, was obtained largely by reading something called newspapers.

It was then I began working and first became aware of this guy named Peter Gammons who wrote for the Boston Globe and, in addition to covering the Red Sox, each Sunday wrote this mammoth page of baseball notes, rumors and inside stuff, not to mention bringing attention to emerging rock bands such as the Eagles and Little Feat. Gammons' column each week was a revelation, a fount of information and entertainment, and something I immediately would try to emulate in the nascent days of my own checkered career. As someone covering an American League team, I would talk to Gammons a few times every week, comparing stuff on each of our teams and exchanging rumors and bon mots.

Inevitably, career paths took us in different directions, and those regular calls ceased. Though I'm not a mind reader, I have to think that in these last few days, Peter Gammons came to the conclusion that it wasn't much fun anymore in this minute-to-minute computer age to keep trying to be the first to break news of momentous baseball events like Ross Gload's going to the Phillies. And that is why he has stepped back from the grind, perhaps to return to something closer to those glorious times when writing meant something and rumors weren't created and then debunked in a matter of minutes.

Karl Ravech: "Play on, Great One"

Growing up in Massachusetts, I was raised on the Boston Globe and Peter Gammons. Since 1995, I have been carried by Peter. As host of "Baseball Tonight," I have enjoyed the unique pleasure of sitting alongside one of the great baseball people of all time.

Peter has taught generations about the game of baseball and the people who play it. He helped me understand that the men in the uniforms are people, too. But as much time as Peter has spent in ballparks, he is a gym rat. Not a night went by that Peter didn't share his next day's itinerary with us. "I'll be in the gym at 6, at my desk by 10." Every time I saw him at the gym, he was pounding away on the elliptical at the same time he was gathering information on the phone. He is a living baseball Wikipedia, a multitasker and a survivor. For 15 years, he has been a rock I have come to depend on, and he never once failed to deliver.

Play on, Great One … play on.

Jayson Stark: "Grace, eloquence and genius"

It easily could have been just another Thursday afternoon at any winter meetings in any year in any town. But it happened only 24 hours ago. I found myself in a time and place I've been lucky enough to be in many, many times before: hanging out with my friend and hero, Peter Gammons, as another "SportsCenter" live shot approached.

We did what we've been doing at every winter meetings for the last decade: We reflected on what happened and what didn't, what it meant and where it was leading. Shared ideas and information, laughs and knowledge.

Then I sat back and watched Peter gaze into the camera and make TV magic, the way he always has. And as I took it all in, it hit me one more time how fortunate I've been to have a special human being like Peter Gammons as a mentor, a role model and a remarkable friend.

I've told Peter a million times that he made my whole life possible. He always laughs and says, "No, no. That's not true." But it is. He made this world possible -- for me, for Tim Kurkjian, for Buster Olney, for all of us who once "just wrote" about baseball for a living and now think of it as routine to wander into a TV studio and find a whole new way to tell our stories.

Everything I do now for a living, everything I've ever done for that matter, Peter did it first -- and did it better than anyone else has ever done it. So I say this all the time, but I'll say it again: What Edison was to the light bulb, Peter Gammons was, and is, to modern baseball reporting.

But for me, personally, Peter has been more than just my idol and more than just a co-worker. Way more. He's been the best friend anybody in my shoes could ever have had.

He always made me feel as though I was the special talent in our crowd, not him. He's the one who sought me out from my first days covering baseball and never stopped caring about what I thought or what I knew. He took the time to write me fan mail, included me in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, always bragged that we'd spent more time talking to each other through the years than to our wives.

So I'll miss working with him, more than he'll ever know. But I couldn't be happier for him, as he embraces the rare opportunity to redefine his life and his profession one more time. I have no doubt he'll spend the next couple of decades doing what he's always done -- showing all of us how to float through yet one more new stage of a remarkable career with his customary grace, eloquence and genius.