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07/03/07 8:00 AM ET

Hargrove's integrity shines on

As both player and skipper, dedication mattered most

I won't make the claim that I know Mike Hargrove well, but I have known him for more than 30 years.

It was in the early 1970s and Mike was a member of a Major League All-Star team that made a trip to Japan. I was an executive with the Los Angeles Dodgers at the time and served as a spokesman for the touring team as we visited various cities.

I was impressed with the young player Hargrove. It was obvious he took the game of baseball in a very serious fashion.

Mike and his wife Sharon formed an attractive young couple who seemed to enjoy being together and being part of the baseball touring group.

Hargrove had the look of a guy that if your team went into battle you would want him on your side. Bottom line, he looked like a winner.

The years passed, as they always do, and Hargrove went on to a successful career as a Major League player. I wasn't surprised when he became a manager.

But I was caught by surprise when I first heard the news that Mike Hargrove had resigned as the manager of the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.

Everyone seemed to be caught by surprise and the headlines told the story:

"Mystery surrounds Hargrove's resignation."

"Hargrove leaves us all scratching our heads."

"Resignation is inexplicable, even for Hargrove."

And these headlines came after Hargrove had met with the media and explained his thoughts related to his resignation.

Once I read Hargrove's statements I felt I understood his reasoning and his decision.

There was one quote that provided the summary:

"I ask every day from my players and coaches to give me all they've got physically and mentally. They've done that and I'm proud of that. At the same time, if I'm going to ask them to give me 100 percent then I have to be able to do that as well. There's a difference between willing and able. I've always been willing, but it's been more difficult to get myself able recently."

I don't know why it seems so hard for people to understand Mike Hargrove's feelings about the game he has loved all of his life -- if you can't give the game the best you have to give, then you know it's time to step aside.

My old friend Joey Amalfitano said it another way a few years ago: "Respect the game."

Mike Hargrove didn't want to remain the manager of the Mariners because he had a nice position and a nice contract with the promise of an extension the way his team had been playing.

This was more than title, fame and money.

This was a man reaching within himself and asking, in my words, "Can I give this position and this game everything it deserves?"

Anyone who knows Mike Hargrove knows he is an honest and sincere man.

When he answered his own question within his heart and his mind, he made what he knows is the right decision.

It didn't mean that he hadn't been giving his best. If you knew Hargrove as a player and as a manager, you know he always has given his best.

The fact is, Mike Hargrove wasn't going to settle for giving anything less than his best.

More than 30 years ago when I first met Hargrove I filed my own mental scouting report -- "This guy looks like a winner."

Thirty-plus years later I know that scouting report was right on target.

Mike Hargrove is a winner.

Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book, "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue," was published by SportsPublishingLLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.