Wednesday, July 2, 2014

By Joe McDonnell, Staff Reporter - 

On June 11th, Angels' manager Mike Scioscia was sitting in his office about an hour before game time, writing out what I thought was the lineup for that night's game.

"Any changes?" I asked, He looked up at me with a puzzled look on his face, before he could reply I said "that is the lineup you're writing down...."

"No. I'm trying to figure out how to get to Bobby"s funeral," Scioscia said with a melancholy you don't often hear in his voice. "I don't know how I'm going to be able to do it, but I really want to be there."

Bob Welch, Scioscia's teammate with the Dodgers and a Cy Young winner with the Oakland A's, passed away suddenly from a heart attack just a few days before, and the memorial service was scheduled for Saturday the 14th in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Angels would be in Atlanta for a three-game weekend series with the Braves. Scioscia checked every airline for a flight that could get him to Scottsdale and back to Atlanta. Up to that point he'd been unable to find any. 

It looked like Scioscia would miss a chance to say goodbye to his good friend.

"Bobby was one of the best people I've ever known," Scioscia continued. "This is tough. Really tough."

"He touched so many lives just by being Bob Welch. He played the game with a lot of heart, but as a person no one had a bigger heart than Bobby did.."

"It's hard to believe that he's gone."

I walked out of the office feeling Scioscia's pain. Welch had been one of the best friends I made in the sports world, and I wasn't quite over the shock of hearing about his death. I, too, was looking for a way to attend the service, but it looked like I'd be unable to go due to some matters that needed my attention. 

At the last minute, though, enough of it got cleared up and I was able to drive down to Scottsdale and attend the memorial.

It was held at the Grayhawk Golf Club, where Welch was a member and frequently played. It brought together a cross-section of Welch's life, including a who's who of baseball notables. In Tommy Lasorda,--his Dodger manager--along with Tony LaRussa--his Oakland manager. Former teammates Mark McGwire, Steve Yeager, Carney Lansford, Rick Honeycutt, Dusty Baker and Kenny Howell were also in attendance.

As was Mike Scioscia.

The Halo skipper walked over to where I was standing and extended his hand. "How did you figure out a way to make it here?" I asked. "There was no way I could miss this," Scioscia said. I had to be here. So, I talked with (management) and they said I needed to do what was best. This is it."

It was a great service that lasted over two hours on a 108 degree Arizona day. Welch's children spoke, as did their mother and many of his baseball colleagues, including Scioscia.

As the people started to disperse, Scioscia hurried to his rental car so he could hop a flight back to Georgia. Even though he missed the game--a 11-6, 13-inning win over the Braves--it turned out to be a very fulfilling day for Scioscia.
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