Friday, February 03, 2006

"....the makings of a beautiful friendship"

As team photos go, this one distinguished itself with the lovely backdrop of the Adirondacks. The sun shown and young, eager faces smiled during the summer of 1980, with big league dreams dancing in their heads. Sadly many are called, but few are chosen. Only a handfull of the young men in the team photo of the Little Falls Mets were destined for the major leagues.

Of those in the team photo, Lloyd McClendon had the longest tenure as a player, with him being most notable as manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates. This humble writer is on the extreme right of the photo, still unbelieving he actually wore those obnoxious white pants. He achieved his own big league dream a short five years later,

But there were two more. One was a first round pick, the second of three that June the Mets had. Billy Beane was sent from central casting. Tall, lean, articulate, and a smile made for shirt commercials was this California teenager. Another was a college man taken in later rounds when organizations merely sought to fill out rosters. Short, wiry with a face and accent that reminded of Phil Rizzuto. A small and obscure college in Massachusetts produced JP Ricciardi.

As fate would have it, the two arrived on the same day and the local GM bunked them together at the same home. An odd pair upon glance, yet they were perfect together and became fast friends. And it was a friendship which would endure well beyond the time they both played professionally.

Ricciardi was a calming influence on the high-strung Beane. Probably having few illusions about a big league playing career, yet seeing that Beane did, Ricciardi became a wise big brother for Beane, perhaps even a bit of a role model.

Ricciardi left to become a scout a short time later. Beane got the proverbial cup-of-coffee in the big leagues. Their paths separated, but not surprising and seemingly synchronously they came together when Beane was the GM for the Oakland A's. He hired Ricciardi as his assistant.

Now they sit with the same jobs, Beane still with the A's and Ricciardi having his own team, the Toronto BlueJays. Both are recognized as being of the new breed of baseball executives, their wise focus on things you can measure. Its easy to imagine either of them bringing World Series trophies to they're respective cities.

And I always wonder whether or not these two friends remember and talk about that summer in upstate New York where they met and developed this beautiful friendship,


At 5:59 AM, Blogger David said...


Do you have a link to the picture?


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