I was talking to a former Cubs colleague the other night, and the name Mickey Morandini came into the conversation.
Remember Mickey? Too thin, too much hair – and a fundamentally solid second baseman who had a decent big league career.
Morandini played a pivotal role for the 1998 Wildcard Cubs, and he did a marvelous job filling the gap left by the retirement of Ryne Sandberg after the 1997 season.
One of these days, he’d be a good guy to connect with to talk to about his Cubs days. So would the guy the Cubs traded to acquire him – Doug Glanville. I’ll get right on both of those names.
Hearing Mickey’s name was more than a “Whatever Happened To” thought, though – especially since he’s not that hard to track down (he’s now the Phillies’ first base coach). Hearing his name was a huge reminder of the day the Cubs acquired him.
December 23, 1997. The day my pager buzzed.
No, this isn’t comparable to “Where were you when President Reagan was shot?” or “Where were you during 9/11?” From a technology standpoint, it’s the answer to the question of “Where were you the one and only time your pager went off?
Right around the time of the baseball strike in 1994, my media relations chief – Sharon Pannozzo – had me start carrying a pager. This way, should something happen when I wasn’t around the office, I could obviously get paged.
Either nothing happened, or I was around the office way too much – but the pager never buzzed. Ever.
Well, that’s not exactly true. I called myself from time-to-time to see if it actually worked. The battery inside lived a good long quiet life.
By 1997, even I had a fully loaded flip phone – meaning I had to manually lift the antenna when placing and receiving calls. But the Cubs never asked for the pager back, so I carried it in my pocket religiously just in case something happened. I even got to test the battery dialing the pager from the flip phone – and it buzzed every time.
And on that fateful December 23, the little pager hummed.
I was driving Michelle – who was still nearly three years away from losing a bet and having to marry me – to a rendezvous destination point with her mom. Three months earlier, Michelle had shattered her ankle playing flag football while I was on a road trip. Even then, the pager didn’t go off; I found out via a post-night game phone call after returning to our team hotel in Houston.
So Michelle, her external fixator and her crutches were in the back seat as I drove to the Dwight/Morris exit off Interstate 55 in central Illinois – about a 90-mile ride.
And just as I was pulling off the highway, this loud buzzing sound occurred.
The first thought was, “What the heck is that?”
The second thought was, “Really, what the heck is that?”
The third thought was, “Why am I getting a 911 message from the media relations office? I know they have my cell number.”
The fourth thought was, “Stop thinking. Call the office.”
I flipped open my phone, pulled up the antenna and dialed Wanda Taylor, the third member of our three-team staff. She apparently was the lowest in seniority, meaning she got to work on December 23. After thanking her for paging me – “Yay, it worked” – I asked what was going on, and inquired why she paged.
Wanda told me the Cubs had made the Glanville-for-Morandini trade … that neither player had been told … that the trade was going to be announced in a couple hours … that she couldn’t find Sharon … and she tried me on my phone – but that I was outside the network area when she was calling. The never-before-utilized pager turned out to be the knight in shining armor – or in this case, the knight in shining plastic.
At that specific point in time – in a parking lot in front of an Arby’s or Burger King or whatever was in existence on that day right off the interstate – my phone was working. Wanda could hear me now.
Being the hero that I am, I slowed the SUV long enough for Michelle to hobble out, tossed the crutches at her, waved to her mom, and got back on I-55 – racing to the ballpark. These were the good old days, meaning I couldn’t call Wanda back for another 30 miles or so until I was back in an area again. I asked her to Xerox multiple items and track down information, and I was in the office a short time later – writing the press release.
I’m going to have to talk to Morandini and Glanville one of these days about getting traded the day before Christmas Eve.
I wonder if they found out by phone call or pager.
Editor’s Note: No crutches were harmed after being tossed from the vehicle. They still hang out in the author’s garage.