Saturday, July 24, 2004

SPORTS: A Sad Day in Toronto

This space opined some weeks ago that Pat Hentgen was done and would retire before the end of the season. Today, that prediction came true. And that is very sad.

Pat Hentgen is the kind of athlete you want your kids to emulate. Self-effacing and willing to stand up and accept the criticism when he fouls up (even if he was the lesser of the culprits in any sort of mass screw-up), Hentgen was a good man who happened to be one of the best pitchers in baseball in his prime. You could argue his Cy Young-winning season wasn't, but you had to hand it to the summer-time Canadian. He was at least as good as the other candidates, and maybe, just maybe, got the nod cuz he was a prince amongst the swine that too often populate major sporting dressing rooms.

Right after I wrote that Hentgen was done, he went out and clobbered KC a couple of times to ward off the coming doom. But that was the end of it for Hentgen, one of three Blue Jay pitchers to win the top AL pitching prize in the last handful of years. One of the others, Roy Halladay, attributes much of his approach to the game to the time spent swapping stories with Hentgen. And, although he wouldn't admit it, I have to think Roger Clemens is a humbler man today, cuz his arrival came at a time before Hentgen had been cashiered out of town.

The Toronto Blue Jays and their fans owe a tip of the cap to Pat Hentgen today. Nice guys finish last was Leo Durocher's legacy to the field of quips. Hentgen proved nice guys CAN finish first, his contribution to the field of dreams.

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