Monday, February 3, 2014

By Rob Goldman, Historical Writer - 

One of the toughest things about winning in World Series in 2002 was not being able to celebrate on the field with a player who had a tremendous influence on many of our lives. Gary DiSarcina was the heartbeat of the Angels teams in my early years. A natural leader, everyone looked to him for insight, direction, and when things needed firing up.

Every team needs a guy who stirs things up once in a while and holds everyone accountable for their jobs. “Disar” was a throwback of sorts who insisted that you appreciate the game by playing it the right way, not by showing people up. If you stepped out of that mold around him, watch out. “Ratboy” would call you on it.

I think that Gary Gaetti was the original Ratboy, but since he and Disar were lockermates, it was passed down when Gaetti was released. The name fit Disar as well or better because he was skinny and wiry and had a bit of a schnozz that resembled a rat’s. His surly, prickly disposition had something to do with it, too. He always seemed to be agitated, as if he had a burr in his underwear or something.

I think part of that was his unquenchable desire to win—and in those days, nothing came easy for us. Sure, we won our fair share of games, but it was due more to our grit than an overabundance of talent. I can always remember him talking about how much of a grind the game was. Being a shortstop, where you need laser focus on every play, I’m sure is more demanding, I'm sure, than playing the outfield.

He demanded that the rest of us play the game to his standards. If you didn’t, he’d get right in your grill, which he did to me a few times.

Nobody was off limits from Disars wrath, not even Roger Clemens. In fact, I think he despised guys like the Rocket all the more. Anyone that was on top of their game, making it look easy and having fun with it, really seemed to irk Disar. One night, playing Boston, Rocket was on the mound and dealing. Disar must have picked up on a disrespectful arrogance in the Rocket’s game that night. After striking out once, Disar walked all the way back to the dugout staring down Clemens muttering, “Im gonna get you, you SOB, I’m gonna get you!”When he got to the bench he became a little more vocal about it, drawing a few looks from the mound.

Sitting on the bench taking this in, I thought, Based on the swings you just took, Disar, I don’t think you have any chance getting him tonight, but I certainly applaud your confidence. But that was Disar, and his attitude rubbed off on all of us. His credo was: Make it personal and never give up! Anytime he was beat, he always came clawing back, got in your face, and challenged you.

This attitude prevailed off the field as well. If something was not right in the clubhouse or away from the field and needed to be addressed, he would do it. Seeing the situation exactly how it was, he cut through all the bull and got right to the point. At team meetings he never yelled—but he didn’t have to. You always knew that when he was talking, you’d better listen. But he would fight for you just as easily as he’d rip you a new one. If the opposing pitcher threw high and tight at one of our guys, Gary would be the one on the top step of the dugout screaming and calling the pitcher every name in the book. He would also be the one hang around the clubhouse after the game and offer encouragement to those who needed it.

In 2002 we had a team full of grinders, guys who played every inning hard and never quit. The core of that team set the tone, and all of them benefited from Disar’s influence. He was the ultimate team player and a great friend. Not having him with us at the bottom of our World Series celebration pile was a sad omission. But if you asked Percy, Ersty, Orlando, GA, AK, Speez, or me, we’d all tell you that the Ratboy was certainly with us in spirit.

(c) 2010 Always An Angel Playing the Game With Fire and Faith Tim Salmon and Rob Goldman
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