It's too bad you don't get to see your own funeral, because if you lived a really good life and had a lot of close friends it'd be a good time. Monday night a coworker and I headed over to the Fifth Third Arena for Glenn Sample's memorial service.
I met Glenn last year when I began working for Major League Baseball at Great American Ballpark, and like everybody else says, he was the nicest guy you could ever meet. He would write down people's names upon meeting them so he wouldn't forget their names later. Glenn wore many hats throughout his life, and his nearly 30-year tenure as Official Scorer for the Reds is what led me to meet him.
Glenn loved UC athletics. He has a street named after him on campus and is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame (and eight others). In some ways, he reminded me of Jerry Orbach's character from Law & Order in that he was distinctly from another era and knew a ton more than you. He grasped a great deal of the sort of knowledge and life skills which are timeless.
The only player who ever hated Glenn was Davey Concepcion. Apparently, Davey thought he had never committed an error as a member of the Reds. Not once. Sometimes Concepcion would come off the field, angered that he had been charged with an error, and offer Glenn his extended middle finger or another vulgar gesture. Others in the booth would say, "Glenn, I think Davey's really mad with you this time!" to which he would reply "No. That's Spanish for ‘I love you.’”
I remember when the Mets were in town last year and their catcher Brian Schneider came up to bat. Before he was done digging in at the plate, he had purposely kicked and muddied up the batter's box so that all the lines were pretty much disintegrated. Obviously, Schneider was doing this so that he could creep up an inch or two further than he was allowed when he was back there catching: an old veteran shady move that vets try to get away with all the time.
I can say this was the only time I ever saw Glenn get angry. He said, "He can't do that! It's against the rules. They should throw him out of the game for doing that."
Somehow, it made me realize how guided an individual he was, and that nothing could affront him more than breaking the rules.
Many people's funeral video slideshows would consist largely of beer-in-one-hand poses and other forgetful occurrences. What I found impressive the night of Glenn’s service was how many years were spanned during the slideshow, and not a single picture was of him sitting on his butt doing nothing. They were all hitting, catching, coaching, refereeing — action shots.
Perhaps that's why I was so stunned to hear of his death. When I worked the last game of the season (which was a makeup game vs. Florida scheduled on a Tuesday afternoon that Fox SportsNet didn't even broadcast), he was as lively and full of vigor as ever.
To see Don Zimmer get up on stage, weep, and compare Glenn's jump shot to Shaquille O'Neal's foul shots was something else. These guys played high school ball together on the West Side and have had their lives intertwine for more than 50 years since then. The same Don Zimmer that got so pissed off at Pedro Martinez that he tried to attack him was moved to tears.
Former UC wrestler Frank Shaut cried through his eulogy, and while he was speaking I glanced up to see a photo of him from his wrestling days. In the photo he looks like a guy who would beat your ass and not think twice about it. To see him so hurt by Glenn's passing was a testament to the kind of life he lived.
Memorials are never fun, but this one was educational.