Monday, November 15, 2010

Things Come in Threes--Sadly Again

     By Ross Newhan

     They say things come in threes, and too often that is the case in a sadder rather than happier vein.

     In the last week, three long-term acquaintances--both on a personal and professional level--have passed away, a loss for baseball, their families and a writer who has covered the industry for almost 50 years.

     A week ago I wrote on the loss of the institution that was Sparky Anderson, as managerially cunning as he was colorful, the first manager to win the World Series while at the helm of teams from both the American and National Leagues, and a font of endless stories who seldom turned a reporter away from his Thousand Oaks home or clubhouse office.

     On Wednesday, news came from Seattle that another institution, broadcaster Dave Niehaus, had died of a heart attack at 75.

    I had known Dave from the time he worked with Dick Enberg and Don Drysdale on Angel broadcasts from 1969 to 1976, when he got his break, selected to be the lead broadcaster for the new Seattle Mariners. Dave was there before Junior and A-Rod and the Big Unit, and his work ethic was such, as the Mariners moved from the Kingdom to Safeco Field, that he would broadcast 5,284 of the team's 5,385 games through the  2010 season, his "my, oh my" being familiar to every Mariner fan and his esteem among colleagues earning him the Ford C. Frick Award in 2008 and admission to the Hall of Fame.

    Replacing Niehaus in Seattle will be akin to replacing John Wooden in Pauley Pavilion, and thoughts of Dave and Sparky where still fresh when I received a call Monday morning that Ed (Spanky) Kirkpatrick, 66, had passed away after a long struggle with throat cancer.

    Kirkpatrick didn't carry the national reputation of Anderson and Niehaus, but among his friends he would become an inspiring figure who came out of Glendora High to play six years with the expansion Angels, and ultimately parts of 16 seaons in all, most often a part-time player with Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Texas and Milwaukee.

     Four years after his final major league season in 1977, Kirkpatrck was in a horrific, 1981 auto accident that left him in a coma for 5 1/2 months and in a wheelchair, partially paraylzed, for the rest of his life.

    During that time, at parties and other functions, Kirkpatrick never lost his sense of humor and uplifting personality, always willing to send a bet to the track or challenge friends to a football wager, a glint in his eye, and he never lost the love and support of his wife, Judy, who was beside his side through all the often difficult years, but years when their hearts continued to beat as one..

    Three passings--Sparky Anderson, Dave Niehaus and Spanky Kirkpatrick.

     Must they always be in threes?

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