Remembering a friend who loved baseball, life
God blessed me.
God made Peter Ciccarelli a part of my life.
Four decades ago, when Peter was writing in El Paso and I was working for United Press International in Denver, we got to know each other, the start of a relationship that grew into a strong friendship. That was Peter's way. He was as good a friend as a person could have. He was caring.
And he was a baseball guy. He worked in the media, covering the Double-A team in El Paso. He worked behind the scenes, as the general manager of Class A Salinas. And he worked as an agent.
It was a love for him. He liked the game and he loved the people he met, and befriended, over the years.
We all miss him. He died recently in his sleep at his home in Capitola by the Sea, Calif. For those who knew him, the relief was the end came painlessly.
Peter battled MS for nearly three decades but you never heard him talk about it. He was too busy looking for ways to help others who he felt faced challenges. He didn't think about himself except in how he could be of assistance.
I remember the spring of 1987. I was covering the Texas Rangers in Port Charlotte, Fla. I got a call one day from Peter. He had a client, Alan Knicely, who was in camp with the Rangers. Alan was having some problems and Peter discussed them with me. He asked me if I could help. Of course I could. Peter never asked for much.
I told him I'd call him back as soon as I found something out. Peter paused. "I'll have to call you,'' he said. "They won't let me have incoming calls."
Where the heck was he? He was in a hospital bed. He was undergoing a series of tests. I believe he was just finding out that he had MS. But as usual, it wasn't Peter who Peter was worried about. It was Alan Knicely.
That was Peter.
He never forgot a thing.
When Tampa Bay played Philadelphia in the World Series, he hurriedly called and wanted to remind me that back in 1978 when Chuck Cottier was managing the Salinas Angels, Joe Maddon was a catcher on the team. On the final day of the season, Cottier let Peter manage the team.
There was a roster spot available, so Peter signed his clubhouse manager, Frank Copenbarger, to a one-day contract, put him in the lineup as the DH, and hit him third so he could get his at-bat out of the way in the first inning. Maddon was in the lineup. He hit behind Copenbarger, who was the clubhouse manager for the Phillies at the time of the World Series.
"You have to ask Joe Maddon if he is the first manager in World Series history to have hit behind the clubby," Ciccarelli told me.
"You've been talking to Peter, haven't you?" Maddon responded.
That was Peter.
He never forgot.
When the University of Wyoming had its celebration of the 100th anniversary of its basketball team, the Laramie Boomerang ran a lengthy story on Curt Jimerson, one of the first African-American athlete at Wyoming. He happened to be from El Paso and had been one of the 25 African-Americans who J. Edgar Hoover picked to integrate the FBI. He had retired and was working as the head of security for the Golden State Warriors. Given he was in El Paso, I sent the article to Peter.
My phone rang.
"I can't believe you found Curt Jimerson," he said. "I've been looking for him for decades."
Curt Jimerson? Peter, what are you talking about?
"When I covered preps in El Paso, I wrote that Gus Bailey was the greatest high school basketball player to ever come out of El Paso," said Peter. "Nolan Richardson called me and said, 'That's what wrong with you young kids. You don't have a feel for the history of the sport. Gus Bailey couldn't carry Curt Jimerson's jock.' I've been looking for Curt Jimerson ever since."
In late October, we found Curt Jimerson. Peter joined a group of us for the Wyoming at San Jose State football game. Curt Jimerson was at the Wyoming alumni event. Contact was made.
And you know, it was that day, the last day I spent with Peter, when he made a statement that underscored Peter Ciccarelli.
We were lifting Peter out of his wheelchair to a seat in the stands at San Jose. I introduced him to a friend.
Not being one for details, like Peter was, I said, "Peter, what is it you have had the last 25, 30 years?"
Without hesitation, Peter responded, "A wonderful wife and wonderful daughter."
They had a wonderful husband and wonderful father.
And all of us who knew Peter had a wonderful friend.
Tracy Ringolsby is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.