My son Ian and I have had bum luck picking baseball idols.
We took up collecting Pete Rose cards a few years back because of his hustle and drive. Now it looks like we'll have to sell the collection just to keep "Gamblin' Rose" out of jail.So we switched to Wade Boggs.
I don't need to list the details of that little affair.
This spring, we began auditions for a new idol: Paul Molitor, Tony Gwynn, Walt Weiss. We finally settled on Scott Fletcher, the Texas Ranger shortstop. According to the latest Sports Illustrated, Fletcher doesn't smoke, drink, fool around or even swear out loud. He plays hard, is respected by other players and never charges for his autograph (Jose Canseco gets $8 to $12 a pop).
In short, picking out a decent baseball idol these days is tougher than picking out a good wife; decent wives outnumber decent athletes 22 to 1.
But - alas and alack - I remember well when it wasn't so.
When I was 11, my hero was Nellie Fox.
Fox played second base for the White Sox. He wore No. 2, so I wore No. 2.
He used an old-fashioned "bottle bat," so I had Howard Larsen, the neighborhood carpenter, saw the top off my little league model.
Fox was balding, so I shaved a widow's peak in my hairline.
And Nellie Fox was a left-handed batter. That's why, at age 11, I decided to be a left-hand hitter, too. I batted left-handed for nearly 25 years, usually ending up with a batting average around .231. Last year, however, I finally switched back to my natural side - the right side - and after three games for the Deseret News I was 8-for-8 and leading the league in hitting.
Nellie Fox ruined me as a baseball player.
But I have to say, he did help make me a man.
Whenever Fox was interviewed he was gracious, funny and wise. I know. I read every interview 20 times.
When coaches talked about him, they always said "good attitude," "hard worker" and "unselfish." I listened carefully to those words.
Several years ago Nellie Fox died of cancer. I remember reading that he showed humor, warmth and faith to the last.
In the end, this column is a love note to Nellie Fox; but it's more than that.
It's a lament that gentleman athletes are harder to come by, that the game I loved as a boy has been compromised by money and greed.
And it's a wish list; a "note in a bottle bat" to Scooter Fletcher.
Keep the faith for us, Texas Ranger.
My boy and I are on your team.