My buddy Chicki is gone. He passed away peacefully today at his home in Pittsfield, Illinois.
We were friends for more than 30 years, since he was traded to the Reds from the Orioles in 1982.
“I had to befriend him,” he once told mutual friends. “He was wearing my jersey!”
I liked how he played — so smart, and with such good hands — and we struck up a conversation at Riverfront Stadium one day. That led to many great times as his career took him to Detroit, back to Cincinnati, then to Montreal, and many other stops in minor-league and independent ball.
And we remained friends after he was done playing and managing. A few years ago, he fell down a flight of stairs and suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) but recovered enough to thrash me pretty regularly on the golf course — completing a “season sweep” this year over me, as he called it — and reminding me of it on a regular basis. He threatened to quit the game and give me his new clubs if I ever came close to beating him. Grudge matches were already planned for next season.
He loved to hunt and fish, loved his Miami Hurricanes, and loved the quiet life he led in Illinois. And he learned to appreciate things a little more after his injury. We were comparing notes on our recent health issues, and he said, “look, we are both in extra innings now.”
Well, even extra-inning games eventually end. And for my friend, at least he finished safe at home.
So long, Chicki. Thanks for all the good times and great memories. Rest in peace.