Following the conclusion of the Tony Gwynn Classic in San Diego, members of the 1974 Alaska Goldpanners met at Bully’s Sports Bar.
Members of that club present for the event were Don Dennis, Bruce Robinson, Kurt Wittmayer, George Milke, Tommy Sain, and Don Reynolds. Also appearing during the dinner were friends and acquaintances of George Milke from the University of Southern California. The man can’t go anywhere without being mobbed by fans.
One highlight of the evening included Bruce Robinson’s story of Stanley Burrell’s rise to international super-stardom. While Robinson was catching for the Oakland A’s, teenage fan Burrell often hung around the ballpark making friends with everyone around. Club owner Charlie Finley was impressed with the young fan’s ability to control a crowd. And so, Finley offered Stanley a job working in the clubhouse. Among his many duties was shining shoes for the major league players. His impressive banter and dedication to the craft led to to a close relationship with the players, who affectionately referred to him as the Master of Ceremonies – or MC for short.
One of MC’s main roles with the club was manning the dugout telephone, which he would use to relay events of the game to Finley using a sort of shorthand rap developed over time between the two. Eventually, because of his affinity for baseball and a striking resemblance to Hank Aaron, he was dubbed MC Hammer. Within a decade, MC Hammer would be a millionaire one hundred times over due to the skills perfected while working for the Oakland A’s.
Robinson and Wittmayer in 1974 and 2017
Topics of discussion ranged from the 1974 College World Series to the current rules changes in Major League Baseball.
George Milke, who was named the Most Outstanding Pitcher of the 1974 College World Series, offered support for the recent decision of Major League Baseball to automatically award intentional walks to batters without the delivery of a single pitch.
He noted that the situation was rare, and the chances of a pitcher throwing away the ball were extremely rare.
Tommy Sain then recalled that while playing in Triple A baseball a situation with relevance arose. Gorman Thomas was at bat for the visiting team with two outs in the ninth inning and the winning run in scoring position. When the pitcher for Sain’s club worked to a quick 0-2 count on Thomas, his pitching coach surprisingly signaled for an intentional walk. With three pitches safe of the strike zone resulting in a 3-2 count, the pitcher then fired a fastball down the middle of the plate to his waiting receiver, resulting in a strikeout to end the game.
Once the calamari was served, Don Reynolds called his younger brother – world-famous television personality Harold Reynolds. Though not a single word was discernible due to the noise of the chatter, Harold and Don Dennis enjoyed a heart-felt moment of cellular connection — a full 37 years after the two first met.
Tommy Sain and Don Reynolds in 1973 and 2017.
A great time was had by all. All former Goldpanners (and Panner loyalists) are welcome to alumni events. Keep an eye on the Alaska Goldpanners Alumni Association’s schedule of events on Twitter at twitter.com/Goldpanners.