Niagara Gazette

Sports

March 17, 2014

BASE PATHS: Remembering a one-of-a-kind

Niagara Gazette — Base Paths’ favorite thing about baseball is the people he meets at the park. Along about St. Patrick’s Day in the late 80s he met Bill Rich in the pressbox at Florida International University.

Bill was broadcasting, scorekeeping and operating the scoreboard. He had a voice that would lacerate sandpaper, more opinions than Gallup, stood about four feet tall and navigated poorly.

He was also scorekeeper for the Marlins, shuffling painfully from the parking lot to the gate. Base Paths asked why he didn’t use a handicap spot. “Naaaah,” Bill gasped unsteadily. “Those are for sick people. I’m fine.”

Bill hailed from Chicago. His parents were long gone. Mrs. Paths and the Costly Daughter (then working in Miami) took Bill to dinner one night, at a restaurant of his choosing. Bill complained about everything. They paid.

Bill migrated to Arizona. Employment avoided him. He claimed prejudice but he was abrasive as Carborundum. He boycotted the Hall of Fame because he understood that somebody there once had said something derogatory about short people.

He had excruciating difficulty with his legs and an artificial foot. He came to visit once and wanted to see all the local arenas. Baseball hadn’t opened yet and hockey was on strike but Sabres great Joe Crozier gave him a royal tour of HSBC Arena. Bill almost smiled.

We posed him in front of Rich Products, Rich Stadium, Rich Marina, you name it, if it said “Rich” we took him there. Then we drove to him Oakville, ON, for a train to Toronto. He wanted to swing by Ivor Wynne, home of Canadian Football’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. We told him no, it was out of the way, congested, difficult to locate.

And as we passed by the “Thanks for visiting Hamilton” sign on the QEW, he growled, “Well, I guess we’re not going to see Ivor Wynne after all.” He had never thought it wouldn’t happen. That was Bill all the way. He wrote a romantic novel, had a play produced in Los Angeles (“House of Finnegan”) and in 2009 threw himself a 60th birthday party in a Phoenix Coyotes luxury box, treating pen pals from all over, including Base Paths.

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