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  1. #1

    RIP Bob Kammeyer


    Old friend had big-league heart

    BY DAN McGRATH. Dan McGrath is the Tribune's associate managing editor for sports

    Published February 7, 2003

    You would have to have studied the Baseball Encyclopedia with the zeal of a biblical scholar to know of Bob Kammeyer, but he's in there, right between Scott Kamieniecki and Ike Kamp.

    A right-handed pitcher for the Yankees, he was in seven games in the 1978 season and one in 1979, when he failed to retire a batter and gave up a screaming, bases-loaded triple to Jim Rice in a nationally televised Monday night game. His ERA for that season: infinity. It was 9.14 for his eight-game career thanks to that one horrendous outing.

    A dubious distinction? Hardly, when you think how many thousands of hurlers have toed the slab over the years. Only a relative handful make it to The Show--to Yankee Stadium, no less--and Bob's line in the Encyclopedia verifies that he was one of them.

    He was proud of it, as well he should have been.

    I first ran into him several years ago when we lived in Sacramento. He was managing a Little League team that my 10-year-old son landed on, and this was a good thing. The boy was serious about baseball--pop-up slides in T-ball serious--and he figured to benefit from the teachings of a former big-leaguer.

    Turns out both of us did. Bob asked me to help him coach, and we had a blast that spring and summer, particularly when some of the dads would grab the bats and balls after the kids had finished. Once in a while Bob would take the mound and good-naturedly buzz a heater under your chin or run a cutter right in on your hands, offering a taste of big-league cheese that was very educational.

    In many ways it was the typical Little League experience. Some of the parents viewed us as a baby-sitting service. Some of the kids were more interested in airplanes or cloud patterns or dandelions than in flagging down a ball that might come their way. One exceptionally serious lad--he has to be an astrophysicist by now--calculated that his odds of reaching base via a walk were much greater than his chances of getting a hit, so he did not swing the bat the entire season. Not even in practice, with Ol' Hoss McG serving up irresistible BP.

    But Bob was good and kind to each kid--"Give me a smile, Avis" was the season's most frequent exhortation--and, truth be told, a little tough on the ones who could play some. He wanted them to appreciate the game, to work at it, to learn to play it the right way. He was a big guy, with a drill sergeant's voice and bearing, and when you're 10 . . . or when you're 39 . . .

    But the lessons took. The Braves won the Pacific LL flag that year, and two years later four former Braves were on an all-star team that nearly made it to Williamsport. Bob's son Mickey caught and ran a game like a little Gary Carter. My son G (his given name is Matt; it's a long story) played the best third base of his life. I think they enjoyed it as much as we did.

    Bob and I spent many a warm summer evening with a cooler between us talking baseball and other things during those years. He felt he had been a JUGS gun casualty--scouts believed that a guy the Encyclopedia lists at 6 feet 4 inches and 220 pounds should rear back and fire bullets, whereas Bob always got by with sinkers, sliders and guile.

    He was a consistent double-figure winner in Triple A, where he spent seven of his nine pro seasons, but the Yankees didn't much believe in growing their own back then and theirs was a tough roster to crack. He never made it back to the bigs after '79 despite a 15-7 record at Triple-A Columbus in '80. The Yankees then traded him to San Diego, and when the Padres offered another minor-league contract, Bob decided it was time to put his Stanford business degree to work and be home with his family: a lovely wife and three great kids.

    He came through Chicago in the summer of 2000, on his way to Columbus for his induction into the International League Hall of Fame. We took in a Sox-Cleveland game at U.S. Cell . . . I can't say it . . . Sox Park, and he renewed acquaintances with Herm Schneider, the Sox trainer who had tended to his aches and pains in the minors. If he missed the big-league experience, if he was at all bitter about what might have been, he didn't let on. He almost never did.

    So word comes from California last week that Bob Kammeyer had died, victim of a pulmonary embolism, way too young at 52. It must have been some massive clot to silence that heart.

    For many years I've tried to heed a sage old editor's advice about not "godding up" the athletes, so there will be none of that here, even for a friend. But it feels right to acknowledge a good man who raised a good family and in his own way touched a lot of lives, including mine.

    The Baseball Encyclopedia doesn't measure that.

  2. #2
    NYYF Legend

    Michaels07's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Aberdeen NJ

    I do remember the name.

    But not the details, wishing the best for his family.

  3. #3


    Sorry to hear that. Big righty. I think he threw a sinker, but I'm not sure.
    Thanks for the heads up.

  4. #4
    NYYF Legend

    Sixty one's Avatar
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    Sep 2001
    Raritan, New Jersey
    I do remember him as a prospect who never really had a chance. Those were the days that George was constantly trading young pitchers for vets who had a year or two left in their arms. He was too young and apparantly led a productive and good life after the baseball one. May he rest in peace!

  5. #5
    God Bless the Scooter NYYFAN's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    I wonder if he got a ring for the 1978 season...?

    He's with his catcher now...RIP

  6. #6
    NYYF Legend

    wexy's Avatar
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    Aug 2001
    The BK
    I remember the name. Way to early to go. R.I.P

  7. #7

    Re: RIP Bob Kammeyer

    No, not from the Yankees, although I believe the Clippers won the International League that year, too. He would have gotten a ring from there. I do have his 1980 Clippers ring.

  8. #8
    Tends to be difficult JL25and3's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006

    Re: RIP Bob Kammeyer

    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty one View Post
    I do remember him as a prospect who never really had a chance. Those were the days that George was constantly trading young pitchers for vets who had a year or two left in their arms. He was too young and apparantly led a productive and good life after the baseball one. May he rest in peace!
    I don't think he was ever more than a so-so prospect. Even in the minors, he had a high WHIP and low K rates, and he was already 27 when he was called up in 1978. He was pressed into service because the Yankee rotation was in a shambles. Gullet (predictably) and Hunter were hurt; Tidrow was brought out of the bullpen to start; and Billy Martin refused to give Ken Holtzman a shot. So Jim Beattie and Ken "Spit the Bit" Clay and even Bob Kammeyer got their chances. For a little while, Kammeyer wasn't awful out of the bullpen, but then he got the living daylights beat out of him by the Indians, and that was that. Hunter was back by then - he also got the crap beat out of him in the same game, but went on to pitch spectacularly for the last two months of the season.

    Kammeyer pitched once more, in September of 1979. He faced 8 batters: HR, double, single, single, HR, double, HBP, single. 0 IP, 8 ER, for the rare ∞ ERA.
    A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
    - Barry Manilow

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