Friday, August 6, 2010

An Evening with Pops Derwood

Pops Derwood is practically a celebrity in his living room, so we've asked him to bring that fame and a .205 career batting average to Offbase and share a story or two about his illustrious career in the Chicago Cubs organization. His book, I Didn't See That Fast Ball, But I Heard It, is not scheduled for release until January, 2012, but here is an excerpt.

OK, I swear this is a true story though I wasn’t there. I have it from good sources though, my college roommate and fellow Chicago Cubs farmhand, Tommy Badcock, that this story was completely true. I had already been long gone from the organization when Badcock was in Triple-A with a catcher named Steve Swisher-yea, little Nicky’s Dad. Now Swisher (just like me) was a terrible hitter but not a bad catcher. Not a great catcher (like me), but good nevertheless.

Well (Swisher) was hitting about .150 in Triple-A playing in Iowa and according to Badcock was getting worse and worse. In fact, it was affecting his catching and everyone---and I mean everyone---thought his days were numbered. Even that lousy, crappy Cubs organization wasn’t going to hold on to a Triple-A, so-so catcher hitting a buck and a half.

One lazy, summer afternoon (yes we played in the after-freakin’-noon in those days) during BP there was no Swisher to be found; gone. He wasn't on the field and nobody could find him in the clubhouse either. The word in the outfield during hitting was ‘oh-oh, this could be it.’

And sure enough, a little while later, here comes Swish (original huh?), walking out of the clubhouse onto the field with his big old Cubs equipment bag over his shoulder (catching gear, helmet, gloves etc). Everyone was absolutely sure what that meant: “you don’t have to go home, but you gotta’ leave here.”

As Swisher meandered around the park talking to individual players, he would talk, shake hands, sometimes hug, and move on. Badcock’s group in the outfield just waited for him, head down, and wondered 'what the hell do you say to a guy who just had his life long dream blasted away on him?' (I remember what everyone said to me a few years earlier after being released in Spring Training: “get the hell out of here you’re using up space"). Tommy told me it was the longest five minutes of his life, just waiting for Swisher, who of course was Badcock’s catcher, to make his way out to him.

Slowly, he walked. It seemed like time stood still and when he got to Badcock he looked up with tears in his eyes. (Well that seals it--he’s toast). As if on cue, Swisher looked up, locked eyes with Tommy, and Tommy began to say “sorry Swish” but Swisher beat him to it: “I’m going to Wrigley.”

“Yea, so sorry to hear it, Swish…what did you say?”

“I’m going to Wrigley. Hundley’s hurt and they need a catcher.”

He never came back and played nine years in the big leagues.

Go figure.

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