Baseball stories, a Brazilian interview, good sons and other spring highlights

Over the last few months I’ve had the chance to interact with some interesting people and write about some interesting topics. I’d like to just hit a few highlights in case anyone is … interested.

March 28 — The rest of Vern Law’s interview

Last March I spoke on the telephone with former Major League pitchers Vern Law and Bruce Hurst for an article about baseball movies in timing with opening day. We mostly talked about baseball movies, but Law loves to talk baseball and openly shared a few other opinions and memories. Here’s what didn’t make it into the article. Among other things, he spoke about …

Vern Law poses for a portrait with his 1960 Cy Young Award in the basement of his Provo home Tuesday, October 11, 2005. Law was a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates and helped them win the World Series title. Photo by Jason Olson

  • Playing for the love of the game during the 1950s and 1960s. “We didn’t make any money back during those days. When you spend the better part of your life — about 20 years in the big leagues playing or coaching. A rookie today will make $590,000 his first year. I didn’t make one-third of that in 20 years. There is a little bit of a discrepancy there but that’s how it is. … The game has changed considerably. I think I played during the golden days of baseball. That’s when it was a game, not how much money you can stuff in your pocket. I was fortunate enough, as several other players I know, to spend my entire career with one team. There was loyalty with management and players. With free agency the way it is, there is no loyalty whatsoever.”

    Vern law of Provo, Utah throws out the first pitch as the Pittsburgh Pirates honor former Major League baseball player and Provo resident for his contribution in the 1960 World Series.
    In 1960, Law lead the Pirates to upset the highly favored New York Yankees in the World Series and won the prestigious Cy Young award. His biography, “Kiss It Good-bye,” put Law back in the spotlight.

  • There is no such thing as a pitch count, Law said. “That’s ridiculous as far as I’m concerned. One hundred pitches? That’s crazy. But I guess when you invest, let’s say $20 million, they are going to protect them. When I was making $5,000 a year, it didn’t make any difference because I pitched 18 innings of a 19-inning game. Four days later, I had to go 13. We trained to go nine innings, not five or six or 100 pitches. … Some guy sent me the stats of my first win against the Cardinals. The game lasted an hour and 35 minutes. … I don’t know how many pitches I threw.”
  • On former Pittsburgh teammate Roberto Clemente. “He was a great player. He did a lot of good things, and was doing a good thing when he lost his life. It’s too bad what happened. He does have a legacy. He didn’t get the publicity that Willie Mays or Hank Aaron or people like that. He spoke English but it was very broken. He was not a good interview. I think that’s the reason he didn’t get the accolades and popularity of some of these other guys. He had an infectious smile, a great personality. He got into a little bit of mischief once in a while. He liked get a few laughs and so forth. If I was to say anything bad about Roberto, he had an interview with Bob Prince, our radio announcer. I listened to the interview. Prince asked why he didn’t wear his 1960 World Series ring? He says he thought he deserved the MVP award that year. To me you don’t put yourself above other players. There were probably three of four guys they could have given the MVP to that year. … He didn’t do all that much in the 1960 World Series. He played well, made some good catches in the outfield, had a few hits, but didn’t play like he did in ’71, where he pretty well dominated that series. He deserved that award that year. But to me, you don’t put yourself about other players, your teammates. … I think that award should to a guy who is in there every day battling.”

April 2 — Not lost in translation

On the morning of April 2, I was in the press room at the Conference Center. We found out LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson was going to announce five new temples. This meant I would be writing an article about the announcement and following up with reaction to the news.

In between sessions, I hoped to find and interview a few international members of the church, preferably from the areas where temples were announced. For a while I stood near the station where they pass out equipment for those listening to conference in a foreign language. I didn’t have much luck, but I did run into a man from Brazil and he happened to be an area Seventy. His name was Elder Paschoal F. Fortunato. He didn’t speak English, but somewhow I knew he was willing and happy to help. With a thick Portuguese accent, he said, “Follow me,” and we walked into a crowd. A second later, he had a lady and her daughter standing next to him. She spoke both languages and was ready to translate my questions. Needless to say, it was a memorable interview. His face lit up as he talked about the members and growth of the church in Brazil. Knowing Spanish, I recognized some words and could follow a little bit and I felt the spirit as we communicated.

Me and Elder Fortunato following our memorable translated interview in the Conference Center.

It was so unusual, but we bonded in the process. Elder Fortunato was an instant friend. This former mission president even paused a reunion with some of his missionaries to take a photo with me. It was another classic example of the gospel uniting complete strangers from different countries.

You can read final version of the article here.

April 27 — A legend retires

Gerry Avant recently announced her retirement as editor of the LDS Church News. I have associated with her over the last seven years, just a small portion of her 45-year career with the Deseret News. This article, by Scott Lloyd, summarizes her amazing career.

Gerry Avant is greeted by President Henry B. Eyring and Elder Ronald A. Rasband.

The newspaper hosted a little reception for Gerry on the ninth floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Most of the LDS Church’s First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles came to shake her hand and give her a hug. I think that says a lot about their respect for what she accomplished over the span of her career. I even got to meet Elder Dale G. Renlund and his wife. So it was cool to be there and honor Gerry. She really gave her whole life to the success of the Church News.

More photos of Gerry’s retirement reception. Below you can see some of her most memorable Church News photos with presidents of the church, including Presidents’ Monson, Kimball and Hinckley.

Several apostles came to congratulate Gerry on her retirement.

In addition to these work-related highlights, I’d also like to mention two items that are personally significant.

April 30 — Kalen ordained a deacon

Last weekend my second son, Kalen, turned 12 years old and it was my privilege to ordain him to the office of deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood.

Me, Trevin and Kalen after Kalen was ordained a deacon. We are standing next to the old mural of John the Baptist with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey from the old Garland Tabernacle.

I am truly proud of Kalen and it’s exciting to know we have another member of the family with the priesthood.

Left, Kalen and Grandpa Greg Toone; Right, Kalen and Trevin with Grandpa Mark Richards. We are grateful that both grandpas were there to take part in that special ordinance.

May 2 — Trevin’s big hug

I’ve got to tell a quick story about my almost 14-year-old son, Trevin. This morning he forgot something he needed for an after-school activity. I was able to swing by his school around lunch time and found him in the cafeteria. The place was packed with 8th graders chowing down. A nice girl somehow knew exactly where he was and pointed him out to me. I started walking towards him thinking I could do a quiet hand-off. But as I approached, I realized how potentially embarrassing it might be for me to show up like this in front of his friends. I considered a retreat. But just then, one of his friends saw me and shouted, “Trevin’s dad!” Suddenly it felt like every eye was upon me and I thought, oh no, I’ve done it now. But I underestimated Trevin. Not only did he walk up and acknowledge me, but he gave me a big hug and thanked me in front of hundreds of 8th graders. He’ll never know how much that meant to me. When I asked him about it later, he said not one friend gave him a hard time about it. In fact, one commented: “You know you and your dad are tight when you hug like that.” I hope so.

Trevin shows off on a recent young men campout. He will be 14 years old in a few weeks.

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Trent Toone

My name is Trent Toone and I’m a journalist for the Deseret News, where I write for a variety of feature sections. I was raised in Northern Utah and graduated from the University of Utah in 2003. Since then I have worked for several newspapers and received various awards over my journalism career. I am the author of “No Excuses, No Regrets: The Eric Weddle Story,” the sports biography of San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle. I served an LDS mission to Santiago, Chile, and spent a year teaching seminary. Like my father before me, I am a proud Eagle Scout. My wife Lisa and I have four children and live in Northern Utah. Feel free to contact me by emailing to trent.b.toone (at) gmail (dot) com.

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