Former Blue Jays Manager
|Bobby Mattick, Feb. 27, 2003,
(Photo by Toronto Blue Jays)
I never really had the chance to know Bobby Mattick, but I felt as though he was a friend. It seemed as though I had heard his name a thousand times or more in my conversations with longtime baseball man Mel Didier.
Didier has been involved in professional baseball for more than 50 years, and I don't believe there is anyone in the game he doesn't know on a first-name basis. I know one thing for sure there was no one in the game Didier respected more than Bobby Mattick. Mattick passed away earlier this month at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona after suffering a massive stroke. Didier and his wife, Helene, were with him at the end. He had turned 89 on Dec. 5, and he had just completed his 71st season in professional baseball.
Mattick had traveled a long road in life, but the end was sudden and shocking to his legions of friends and admirers. Just three days before he passed away, Bobby Mattick was representing the Toronto Blue Jays at baseball's annual Winter Meetings in Anaheim. That Sunday morning, I was heading for the coffee shop when I spotted Pat Gillick sitting in the lobby and stopped to say hello. One of the fellows Gillick was chatting with was Bobby Mattick.
"Fred, you know Bobby Mattick," Pat said by way of introduction. I told Bobby I felt as though he was an old friend after hearing his name mentioned so many times by Didier. "Mel really enjoyed working for you during his years with the Dodgers," said Bobby in return. We struck an instant friendship, and the conversation quite naturally turned to baseball. Mattick told me he and Didier would be leaving to drive back to Arizona, where both men lived, after the meetings ended on Monday. "I hope Mel doesn't forget me and leave me here. It would be a long walk home," quipped Bobby. Four days later, Bobby Mattick was gone. Gone, but not forgotten.
Few men have affected a baseball organization the way Mattick affected the Toronto Blue Jays. "I don't know where the Toronto Blue Jays would be without Bobby," said former Jays CEO Paul Beeston. Gillick was Toronto GM when he hired Mattick away from the Montreal Expos. Mattick was there the first day and he never left. He served the Jays in a number of capacities, including a stint as manager. But Bobby Mattick's main role was as the heart and soul of the organization.
"He was the father of the whole organization," said Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey. "He was not the most high-profile individual for the fans, but he was a constant adviser to every president and general manager the club ever had." The relationship between Beeston and Mattick was particularly close, and the former Blue Jays executive gave a moving talk at the service for his longtime friend. "If he wasn't in baseball, he would have been a great parliamentarian," Gillick said, "because he sure could debate both sides of an argument." "He was our sounding board," said former Toronto GM Gord Ash, now with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Mattick was at ease with executives and the scouts sitting in the stands. He had loved the game for as long as he could remember, and he signed his first professional contract at age 18. He played for both the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds before an eye injury ended his playing career. Mattick worked with a number of teams in scouting and player development after his playing career ended.
When Didier became the director of scouting and player development for Montreal in 1974, the man he wanted as a cross-checker was Mattick. "Bobby told me it might not work out because he knew I liked written reports and he wasn't used to filing reports in writing," said Didier. "I told him not to worry. We bought him a tape recorder so he could do reports verbally and then send in the tapes." Mattick had a key hand in the development of the Expos, then moved over to Toronto to help build the Blue Jays. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
When the Winter Meetings ended, Didier was there to meet Mattick and to drive his old friend back to Arizona. The drive took six hours, but there was plenty of baseball to discuss and the time passed quickly. "We talked mostly baseball, but along the way Bobby told me that if anything ever was to happen to him he didn't want to be hooked up to any machine," recalls Didier. "He told me he had enjoyed a great life." In 2003, the Toronto Blue Jays renamed their Spring Training complex the Bobby Mattick Training Center.
Bobby Mattick won't be present for Spring Training in 2005 except in the words and thoughts of all of those who knew him and knew what he meant to the Blue Jays organization. Those people fortunate enough to know Bobby Mattick, even briefly, won't forget him.
Special to CANADIAN BASEBALL NEWS 02 January 2005
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