First of the month rant — October: Dave Winfield is 60? And damn you, Randall Cobb

Posted: 10/03/2011 in baseball, first of the month rant, football
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Dave Winfield turned 60 today? Say it isn’t so.

This is one of those famous athlete birthdays that can make one feel a bit old.

This 60th birthday thing makes those days that Winfield played on some very awful San Diego Padres teams in the 1970s feel like something that happened in the 18th century.

Doesn’t seem possible that the guy frequently driving the Cadillac sporting “MR DMW” license plates on San Diego Mission Road could be that old. Don’t know how it feels to him, but it is pretty sobering to me that Winfield has hit 60.

I can recall being a kid hanging over the first base dugout during batting practice still seeking to get my first bat from a major-league player. It was a sunny summer day prior to one of those midweek day contests in which the Padres would play in front of a nearly-empty stadium.

Winfield picked me to hand the bat to … it didn’t matter that the bat actually belonged to Jerry Turner or that I would eventually get several others over the next half-dozen years or so – it was my first bat.

Getting that first bat from Winfield brought status to a kid. He was developing into a superstar and it was much better than saying you received a bat from Billy Almon, Hector Torres or Fred Kendall.

Those were the good old days in which baseball players weren’t that far from removed the rest of society. Winfield lived in a modest townhouse right down the road from the stadium and you would frequently run into baseball and football players at stores and other places in the neighborhood.

One time we encountered George Hendrick at a car wash on the main drag. He had a reputation through the media of being a jerk but he couldn’t have been more accommodating.

Hendrick liked the bicycle I owned and asked if he could ride it. We stood there laughing watching a major-league baseball player pedaling away on my cool little bike.

Another time Hendrick saw us walking down the street and offered us a ride home. There were way too many of us crammed into his light green Porsche.

(Wow – this is weird timing … a foul ball was just hit down the first-base line in the postseason game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers … Hendrick is Tampa Bay’s first-base coach and he fielded the bouncing ball and walked it over to hand it to a fan.)

So a day like today makes me remember the way things used to be and how different things are for the youngsters growing up in the early 21st century.

Star athletes live in gated communities and few of them live in your common every-day neighborhood like the one in which I grew up. Most of them have other people running their errands and many of them have bodyguards to keep the common folk from interrupting them or becoming a bother.

Of course, the ticket-price thing is a problem, too. I went to all 81 Padres’ home games one season. Can’t imagine a teenager being able to do that in today’s era of inflated ticket prices.

Winfield’s birthday makes it two consecutive months in which there was something that made my bones ache.

The responsible person for September’s feelings of old age was Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb.

Last April, I trumpeted Cobb as a player the San Diego Chargers needed to draft since it was apparent they weren’t going to re-sign returner Darren Sproles.

The organization didn’t heed the advice and the Super Bowl champion Packers got a steal by getting Cobb late in the second round.

Solid receiver and great returner who put up mindboggling statistics against SEC teams while playing for Kentucky. A guy with a big heart and an even better work ethic.

What is there not to like?

Oh, I discovered something all right on the opening night of the NFL season on Sept. 8. Cobb became a household name due to a 108-yard kickoff return and a receiving touchdown in his professional debut as the Packers defeated the New Orleans Saints but there also was something highly disturbing that was revealed.

Not disturbing for Cobb … disturbing for me.

Cobb became the first player born in the 1990s to play in an NFL game.

Yeah, that is something that definitely makes one feel ancient.

Damn you, Randall Cobb.

Hmmm … Chubby Checker turned 70 today. He’s just a name to me so that doesn’t bother me.

But Dave Winfield turning 60 does.

Is it time to purchase a rocking chair?

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