Asking former Major League baseball players about their biggest thrill in the big leagues takes them about as long to answer as “Who's buried in Grant's tomb?”
The answer is quick and decisive.
For Milt Pappas, it was the no-hitter he threw in 1972 at Wrigley Field as a member of the Chicago Cubs. It would have been a perfect game, but the second-to-last batter walked after Pappas was ahead in the count 1-2 and threw three pitches near the outside corner of home plate.
“If you're (umpire) Bruce Froemming, how do not call one of those three outside pitches a strike? Later he said, he didn't know I was pitching a perfect game. How do you not know it's a perfect game? Did you see any hitters go to the right (first base) and stay to the right? Then, you're calling a perfect game.”
Asked if he still resents Froemming from keeping him from the elite perfect game club, Pappas retorted, “Let's just say he's not on my Christmas card list.”
Steve Sax and John Martin both pointed to the world championships they won – Martin with the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1984 Detroit Tigers, and Sax with the 1981 and 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers.
Martin had his two World Series rings on when the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association put on a youth clinic June 9 at Triton College. He invited youth and parents alike to try on the rings and hold them while signing autographs after the on-field portion of the clinic.
“To win a World Series in baseball tops everything else,” Sax said. “You will always be known as world champion.”
For Bill Campbell, who pitched for seven Major League clubs, including the Cubs, his biggest thrills were when he was first called up to the Majors, pitching in the World Series for the 1985 Cardinals, and appearing in the 1977 All-Star Game.
“When they first call you up, that's a real fantastic feeling,” Campbell said.
Former infielder Jack Perconte vividly remembers the final series of the 1980 season when his Dodgers trailed the San Francisco Giants by three games with three left to play. The Dodgers won all three and Perconte played in all three.
For former Chicago Cub outfielder Gene Hiser, the answer was “Sept. 20, 1972.”
“That's the day I met my (future) wife at Wrigley Field,” Hiser said. “She and her girlfriend had bought Terrace seats and (teammate) Pete LaCock was living on my couch at the time. He set it up for us all to have drinks and dinner.”
This article first appeared on Pioneer Press' Elm Leaves website, http://elmwoodpark.suntimes.com/sports/13183521-419/baseball-former-majo...