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Grich Finds Excitement Is Gone : Retired Angel Infielder Says He Misses the Thrill of Game

May 02, 1987|JOHN WEYLER | Times Staff Writer

Bobby Grich says there's only one thing missing from his life since he retired from baseball . . . excitement.

The game must be more stimulating than it looks because Grich has spent parts of the last seven months helicopter skiing in the Canadian wilderness, scuba diving in Hawaii, marlin fishing in Mexico and driving in celebrity car races.

"I've had a great time," he said, "but it's not the same as running your act every night in front of 40,000 people. Baseball puts you under the gun every night. It brings out the best in you."

It was Bobby Grich Night at Anaheim Stadium Friday and that--along with Boston pitcher Roger Clemens--brought out 50,352 fans. The majority of them were on hand an hour before the first fastball to help honor the Angels' all-time home run leader (154).

Grich, lean and tan as usual, said he has no regrets about his decision to retire.

"I think I still had some baseball left in me," said Grich, 38, "but I had to apply myself 24 hours a day for seven months a year to play the way I wanted to. It was very taxing, both physically and mentally.

"I made up my mind (to retire) last August and the way I played in the playoffs didn't do anything to change my mind. The season ended on a downer for us and that ate at me every day until this season started. But I feel good about my decision."

Grich, who has been working on lowering his golf handicap (which is eight) in between vacations, admitted to feeling a "couple of pangs" of remorse when he attended an Angels game last week. But that passed very quickly.

"It looks a lot easier from the stands or on TV," Grich said, smiling. "I look at that angle from the center field camera and wonder, 'How did that guy miss that pitch?' "

Grich missed fewer than most in 17 years of professional baseball, 15 of which were in the majors. He was named to the All-Star team six times, played in four American League Championship Series and retired with the best career fielding percentage (.984) of any American League second baseman.

In 1976, Grich became a free agent and the next season he was home in California. The Long Beach resident spent 10 seasons with the Angels and Friday night he became the first inductee into the new Angels' Hall of Fame.

"I had the timing just right," Grich said, refering to the plight of free agents in baseball these days. "I put in my five years and then free agency came along and I was fortunate enough to come back here to play."

There were a great many people in attendance Friday night--Angel owner Gene Autry included--who believed they were the really lucky ones.

"Your attendance here is a high tribute to a most deserving man," Autry told the fans during the pregame ceremonies.

"Son, I'm proud of your 10 years with the Angels," Autry said. "I'm only sorry that I couldn't present you with a World Series ring, but here's a ring that I hope you'll wear to remember us."

The ring, gold with a diamond inlaid, was just a part of the loot heaped on Grich. He got a personal computer, golf bag and clubs, a camera, luggage, a weeklong vacation in London, three days on a houseboat with use of a ski boat, a cruise on a 92-foot tallship with 60 guests of his choice, and a lot of memorabilia, including the ball which ricocheted off Dave Henderson's glove for Grich's last home run.

Boston designated hitter Don Baylor made a short speech, Bobby Knoop, the Angels' first-base coach, gave Grich second base, Anaheim Mayor Ben Bay presented him with a proclamation from the City Council and Doug DeCinces, a teammate of Grich's with the Orioles and Angels, gave him crystal wine goblets from the team.

He also received telegrams from sources as diverse as former President Richard Nixon, former Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver and former Angel Reggie Jackson.

When he finally got a chance at the microphone, Grich singled out his mother, Clara, who was seated at his side throughout the ceremony, Autry and longtime friend and teammate Baylor for special thanks.

"I feel like I'm on 'This Is Your Life,' " he said. "First, I want to thank you fans. You gave me a few standing ovations that were rare and special moments that I will cherish forever.

"This has been a very special night. It's kind of hard to believe it's here already, though. The time has passed so quickly."

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