I was saddened to learn today that Sal Bando, one of the mainstays in the great success of the Oakland A’s in the 1970s, died Friday.
I watched Bando a lot on television during those great A’s years, and I also got to see him play late in his career when he came over to the Milwaukee Brewers. I was in grad school at Marquette University then.
The summer before I started working toward my master’s degree in journalism, I’d worked as a reporting intern at the Chagrin Valley Times in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a few miles from Cleveland. Somehow I found out that Bando’s wife was from Chagrin Falls, and I figured I might be able to get a story out of that for the paper back home in Ohio.
Interview Sal, watch the game and report on how he did. What could possibly go wrong?
As I recall (and I don’t recall much, as memory has been kind), I called the Brewers’ p.r. office and got permission to come to County Stadium during practice one afternoon before a night game.
I found my way to the dugout, sat down next to Sal and introduced myself.
“So how do you like Chagrin Falls?” I asked.
His answer was brief: We’re not there very often, so I really can’t say.
I paused, could think of absolutely nothing in the way of a follow up question and said: “Well, thanks, Sal. Good luck tonight.”
As I made my way out of the stadium, I felt like a schmuck. A failure. A loser.
But at least I could watch the game that night from the press box!
Then I looked at the pass the Brewers had given me. A check was next to the box for on-field access at practice. But for the press box or even the game itself?
Mighty Danny had struck out.
On that day more than 40 years ago, I hadn’t even started my career. I learned a valuable lesson about preparing for interviews. I later realized that I had the thinnest of pretexts for an interview with a major league player, a veteran who probably laughed at me for a moment and quickly put me out of mind.
The kicker to that lesson is that in doing some basic research on the internet tonight, I learned that Bando grew up in the Cleveland suburb of Warrensville Heights. Had I known that on the day of the interview, I might have been able to improvise a few questions on his background and at least have had a decent conversation with him, if not a story.
But I was as green as the County Stadium grass, lacking in confidence and experience.
In the end, though, even if it was at my own expense, I got a story.
Thanks for that, Sal. Rest in peace.