Gammons returns to baseball

Gammons returns to baseball

BOSTON -- With the handshaking and enthusiastic greetings of people like Red Sox assistant general manager Jed Hoyer, ESPN analyst Buck Martinez and countless players and coaches from both the Red Sox and Twins, it was as if an ambassador was visiting Fenway Park prior to Wednesday night's game.

Indeed, few if any have carried the torch of baseball any better or longer than ESPN baseball analyst Peter Gammons, and appropriately he made his return to the national television stage Wednesday in the park where he began his Hall of Fame writing career in 1969.

Gammons is less than three months removed from suffering a life-threatening brain aneurysm near his Cape Cod home. So it was remarkable that shortly after 5:30 p.m. ET, there was the 2004 J.G. Taylor Spink Award inductee standing between the on-deck circle and the Red Sox dugout doing what he does best: reporting on baseball.

"People say to me, 'Is it funny to be back?' No, it's natural. It's what I do, these are the people I enjoy being around. It's very easy," Gammons said. "This is what I do. I made the decision 35 years ago or whatever it was to cover baseball and so forth. And it's what I love to do. I love the people in it."

And the feeling is certainly mutual, as ESPN's most-distinguished reporter discovered since his episode on June 27.

"I feel really good," Gammons said. "It's a testament to good Samaritans, people who work really hard and medical genius. It has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with what people did for me. It's pretty reassuring to get through this and be back less than three months later."

Gammons is already looking forward to covering the 2006 postseason.

"I'll probably be in the studio the first two rounds and then go to the World Series, which I'm really looking forward to," he said with a big smile.

"The first couple of weeks," he added, "I wasn't aware of anything, except that they tell me that I yelled at the doctor, 'I'm going to the All-Star Game, to heck with ya.' I don't remember that, but I heard that I yelled that at him."

It didn't take long for Gammons, known for his competitive spirit, to push the envelope and want to get back in the game.

"As I started to get more recognition, I realized it was close to the trading deadline, which is usually a time when I work 24 hours a day and this one nurse in Sandwich, [Mass.], at the rehab hospital came in and I was looking at the box scores and I said, 'Linda, what in the world is Austin Kearns doing playing for the Washington Nationals? I've got to know.' So she just gave me my Blackberry and said go ahead and e-mail and let it go at that."

In his first work since June, Gammons authored an column thanking the people who wished him well.

"It meant a lot to me," he said. "But the only thing is I was never comfortable even when I sent it in, just because I missed a thousand-something people and a friend of mine said I was in a unique position -- because I found out what it's like to die and find out the feelings people have and then you come back and you can enjoy it all. It makes the rest of my life so much more enjoyable, it really does."

President George W. Bush was among the thousands of well-wishers. The former Texas Rangers owner called to see how the man who once covered his team was doing. Sen. John Kerry and other dignitaries also chimed in to wish Gammons a speedy recovery.

"The incredible way people treated me, the outpouring and certain things people did for me and so forth," Gammons said in describing how he was touched. "That has probably made me feel even more strongly about the general good of the people in the game. There are moments in every business in which people do not come out looking as they would like to be, but the sincerity a lot of people had I'll never forget.

"Whether it's Don Mattingly, Ozzie Guillen or Pedro Martinez or Trot Nixon, people were pretty remarkable and I'll never forget it. I have no problem liking people, so I'm not going to change there."

And if Wednesday evening's reception from those at Fenway is any indication, the feeling is certainly mutual.

Mike Petraglia is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.