Happy Reds birthday, Chris Sabo!

Sabo

January 19, 1962

1988 Rookie of the Year. 1990 World Champion. Three-time All-Star. Protective eyewear fashion trendsetter. Buzzcut aficionado. Spuds MacKenzie doppelgänger. Chris Sabo was all of these things, but so much more to a certain sixth-grade boy in 1988.

Mrs. Gracey’s assignment was to interview someone they really admired. Most of the kids selected a parent or grandparent, and while I loved my parents and grandparents very much, I was absolutely obsessed with baseball at the time. When I arrived home, I wrote down a handful of questions that I wanted to ask my favorite baseball player, Chris Sabo. I called the Reds’ general offices phone number and left my name, number, and reason for my call. The receptionist sweetly took my information and said she would deliver my message. I think my mom doubted the receptionist, and while she was not condescending at all, she encouraged me to develop a backup plan because Sabo was a professional baseball player and he certainly had more important things to do than talk to a sixth-grade kid on the phone. I shrugged it off, grabbed my basketball, and headed outside to shoot some hoops.

About a half hour later, my mother started tapping on the kitchen window to get my attention. I had a phone call. I came inside, sweaty and out of breath, and she whispered, “It’s Chris Sabo.” I smiled, grabbed my pen and paper, and answered the phone. I told him I was nervous; I had never spoken to an actual baseball player before! There was a part of my brain that told me there was no way this could actually happen, but here I was…talking to the rookie third baseman for the Reds! He told me that I shouldn’t be nervous; he was just a regular guy like me. And he was…he drove a Ford Escort instead of a Lamborghini (which is what I would have driven if I was a pro athlete in the 1980s), and he grew up rooting for his hometown team, the Detroit Tigers. His favorite player as a kid was Al Kaline.

I don’t remember the rest of the interview now, but I remember the feeling. Sabo even arranged for tickets to be left at will call for me a few weeks after the phone call. My dad and I sat in the blue seats (which were the really goods seats in Riverfront Stadium), behind home plate with the players’ wives. I even snapped a photograph of my favorite player in the on-deck circle.

I met Sabo in person later that year at a drug store (possibly Rink’s) in Bellevue, Kentucky, as he signed autographs for hundreds (maybe thousands) of fans; the line was out the door. He smiled, shook my hand, and signed a baseball and baseball card, but didn’t really have time for conversation. I have seen him a few times since then, and he claims to remember speaking to me when I was in sixth grade. Whether he actually does or not, it was nice to hear, and allowed me to relive that moment of pure joy that I experienced in 1988 again.

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About JT

Preacher. Author. 911 dispatcher. Baseball fan. Horror nut. Music nerd. Bookworm. Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the Year.

Posted on January 19, 2017, in baseball, baseball cards and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. That is such a cool story!! Chris Sabo is a great reminder that pro athletes are people just like us.

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