Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Unique Mark Has Been Left

Usually, in life people have a role model. Someone you admire and look up to. A motivation that helps you keep going and get better as a professional and a human being in general. In my case, this person is (and always will be) my great-grandfather, Herman “Chiquitin” Ettedgui.
“Chiquitin” (Spanish for “Tiny” in an appreciative way) was inducted into the Venezuelan Sports Hall of Fame in 1989, the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005, and was given the Athletic Citizen of the Year Award in 2009. He was part of one of Venezuela’s biggest sports achievements, when he helped to ensemble the baseball national team that went to Cuba in 1941 to represent Venezuela and would ultimately shock the world by winning the tournament. Throughout all his life, “Chiquitin” practiced all kinds of sports (baseball, soccer, athletics and golf being his favorites). Always a true Navegantes del Magallanes fan ever since his older brother co-founded this Venezuelan baseball team (and he was a native of the state where the team was from). Also, in baseball, he was one of the first scorekeepers of the Venezuelan Baseball League, and in 1949 was the President of the Venezuelan Baseball League.
In soccer, he played as a forward for Union F.C., where he scored 12 goals in the 1940 Division I Venezuelan Soccer League, finishing as the league top scorer during that season.
In athletics, in 1938 he clocked 10 seconds and 50 milliseconds to establish the time record of the 100 meter mark at the Central American and Caribbean Games. Record that belonged to him until it was broken eighteen years later.
Golf was the sport my great-grandfather started playing last, but the one he enjoyed the longest, doing it until the age of 92. Two unforgettable characteristics about him in golf are that he once had a hole in one and that he never used a caddie or a golf cart. He was excellent playing the golf ball out of the sand bunker and knew perfectly how to play only with the driver, putt and three irons he would carry in his golf bag.
“Chiquitin” Ettedgui was an outstanding professional, as well. He excelled as a sports journalist, always remembering without any difficulty the personal statistics of players and group data of teams in all sports. He had the mental ability to talk about a boxing fight that had occurred fifty years back in time and tell you the result, details and highlights of it. His literacy was always impeccable and the sports anecdotes that he shared on the radio, TV or magazines were always well narrated and written.
But above all that, Herman “Chiquitin” Ettedgui was a family man and a great person. He always provided for his family and treated his wife like a queen. He enjoyed the presence and company of his five children, 16 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. He would always take the time to bond with you, to make you feel special and to identify your strengths (and he would speak of them to the whole family and his friends very proudly). He made sure he got us all involved in sports and away from bad habits. And this mission was not only meant to be adopted by his family, but the whole country. In every one of his radio and TV shows we would welcome the audience by saying “Salud deportistas. Gracias por no fumar!” (Cheers athletes. Thank you for not smoking!). That was his opening line and the one that he was identified by over the years.
He was a mentor to many generations of sports journalists in Venezuela and was called “the bible of Venezuelan sports", since he possessed a great deal of knowledge about sports in Venezuela, and knew so much old and new information about sports around the world. Of course that he was also a mentor to me, too. But more than my mentor and great-grandfather, he was my friend. Someone who I always counted on, enjoyed having around, had a good time with, learned so much from and admired.
On this year’s Father’s Day, at the age of 94, he departed to a better place leaving behind his invaluable legacy. A legacy that will keep me, my family and many Venezuelans on going to become better human beings and professionals. He always led by example, and his example will always retain me motivated, extremely proud of him, and learning from him by remembering the great person he was, the priceless moments we shared together, all the things he taught me, and how blessed I was to have such an amazing great-grandfather, friend and good influence in life.
People in Paradise have no idea how fortunate they are to have just welcomed such a great person with such a big heart, values and professionalism. He was well respected and loved in Venezuela. Always charismatic, humble, simple and willing to help others and to do his part to help his country be a better place.
Herman “Chiquitin” Ettedgui --- My Hero. My Motivation. My Role Model. My Mentor. My Great-Grandfather. My Friend. My Everything --- 1917-2012. RIP.

- Y gracias por no fumar!

"Chiquitin" in action during one of his radio shows.
Picture from Cristina Ettedgui's album collection.

Collage of pictures that show Herman "Chiquitin" Ettedgui with his family (top left corner), playing soccer (top right corner), playing golf (bottom left corner), acting as an umpire (bottom middle), and with me (bottom right corner) [Own creation].

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Griffeys Experience

Fathers are life coaches, one may say. For the many of us who have been fortunate enough to have the presence of our fathers, it is fair to say that we learn from them by observation, imitation and admiration. They teach us what we need to know and we also adopt some of their habits, culture, manners and ideas.

For Ken Griffey Junior his relationship with his father provided him with all of the characteristics mentioned above, and something else that was not only super special, but very rare. However, there were tough and dark times, too. This is a relationship that could have ended in tragedy before Ken Griffey Junior began playing professional baseball, as he tried to commit suicide at the age of 18 for having constant arguments with his dad, which led to depression and angriness, but thankfully, his suicide attempt was not successful. After the incident Junior and his dad improved their relationship by having more understanding, patience and respect for one another. Reasons that gave them the beautiful and never-seen-before opportunity to play professional baseball together for the same team a couple of years later.

In 1990, Ken Griffey Senior joined forces with his league son, Ken Griffey Junior, on the Seattle Mariners from 1990 to 1991, and became the first ever father and son duo in the MLB. Night in and night out, 40-year-old Ken Griffey Senior and 21-year-old Ken Griffey Junior were blessed to play with one another, to share the club house and dugout, to cheer and support each other right on the field. But what is really interesting about the Griffey father and son experience in Seattle, is that they once hit back-to-back home runs. First, Ken Griffey Senior catapulted a pitch 402 ft out of the park, and then his son took his turn at bat and knocked the ball 388 ft away to the left-field bleachers. The fact that they, occasionally, played together in the outfield was already amazing, but the back-to-back homers made this story even more unforgettable and historical.

For Junior and Senior this was a blessing experience that almost no father and son can ever have or dream of at a professional sport level. It was truly magical for themselves and fans from all over the world to witness how they took the most out of this experience by enjoying every moment of it.

As a father, I doubt there was a better feeling for Ken Griffey Senior than to watch his son grow as an individual and a baseball player right next to him. In the two years that they spent together with the Mariners, Ken Griffey Junior played great baseball having a batting average of .300 and .327 while his father’s was .377 and .282. And, after Ken Griffey Senior decided to put an end to his 19-year-old career, his son went on to play for 20 more seasons (playing a total of 22 seasons) and worked his way through to become one of the most legendary players in the history of baseball, being always recognized for his offensive power and defensive abilities, and associated with All-Star games, MVP and Golden Glove awards. 

Happy Father's Day!
- Y gracias por no fumar!

Senior in front of Junior in 1991 baseball card photo.
Picture from

Friday, June 8, 2012

'Wicked' Fantastic Fans

True Celtics fans are characterized for being loyal to their beloved team and knowledgeable about the game of basketball. They are proud of forming part of a team with such great tradition, where amazing hall of famers have played. They understand what it really means to belong to 'Beantown' and the history of the Celtics franchise.

In addition, Celtics fans recognize that times have changed. They appreciate and measure the talent of their players by the effort they put into the game, the love they have for the jersey they wear, and the intensity they bring to the team colors they defend. Celtics fans know no race or color, other than the green of the uniform and the clover leaf logo that represents them. They are aware that it is not about the name of the player or how famous he may be, but instead about the individual contribution to the Celtics in order to make them a better team.

Boston Celtics fans are definitely the X-Factor of this team. They improve the quality of the team. They intimidate the opponent teams and their fans. They create a frenetic atmosphere in the stadium. They make the Celtics feel well supported, respected, admired and truly comfortable at home. And, they bring energy to the stadium, which is very positively absorbed by the players and all the rest of the fellow fans. They win with them and lose with them... they celebrate with them and suffer with them. They simply play the most important role on this team, and they do it 'wicked' perfect, because Celtics pride does not die in this side of the country, whether the team wins a crucial game 7, or the championship # 18 or not.

- Y gracias por no fumar!

Paul Pierce being congratulated by Celtics fans. Picture from

Collage of pictures that show the Celtics fans supporting and celebrating with their players, and intimidating and 
distracting the opponent players (Own creation).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What Could And Should Have Been... 21*

I hate to admit that ever since the Armando Galarraga's perfect game blown call, every no hitter or perfect game accomplished by any major league pitcher makes me a little... jealous, to not say upset. It automatically reminds me that Galarraga could have gone down to history for being the first Venezuelan pitcher to have ever thrown a perfect game in the Major League Baseball.

Friday night, I believe that the Gods of baseball tried to get even with fans of the sport and the people of Venezuela, when they clearly helped Santana's no hitter attempt by calling a fair ball hit by Carlos Beltran a foul ball. While this played out in Santana's favor, it does not balance it out for me, as Galarraga's blown call was too unfair. Not only because the first baseman umpire, Jim Joyce, was the only one at the stadium who did not see the last out of the game that would have made Galarraga the twenty first pitcher to ever throw a perfect game in the MLB, but also because the league did not intervene in any positive way.

I was disappointed in the league for not taking a better approach at this clear and huuuuuge mistake. To me, it would have been very simple for the league to reverse the call and recorded Galarraga's accomplishment as Perfect Game # 21*, especially since it would have been the last out of the game, and the next batter hit for an out anyways, ending the game after recording twenty eight outs, as oppose to the regular twenty seven.

Undoubtedly, Johan Santana's first ever career no hitter on Friday was spectacular, well deserved and incredibly elaborated. This is one of the greatest gifts the game of baseball has given to him, the Mets organization and fans who had never had one before, the Latino community and the Venezuelan people. Santana missed all of last year after he underwent shoulder surgery and completed the rehabilitation program he was assigned, so to watch him come back to the baseball field and perform the way he did Friday night, it is very prideful and joyful. I could not be happier for such a great competitor, role model and ambassador of my country, Venezuela.

Santana's accomplishment was well celebrated in Venezuela from his hometown, Merida, to the capital, Caracas, to the beautiful island of Margarita to all the way up north in New York City, USA. From now on, June 1st will always be remembered in Venezuela as the day that Johan Santana took the mound at City Field, allowing no hits or runs throughout the whole game. And, putting a big smile on the face of every Venezuelan, as he joined other fellow Venezuelan pitchers who have also thrown no hitters in the MLB, such as Carlos Zambrano, Anibal Sanchez and Wilson Alvarez.

It is just very unfortunate that the day that follows is already remembered in my country as the day Armando Galarraga should have had his well worked perfect game on June 2nd, 2010 at Comerica Park in Detroit. To me, that day will always create some bitterness in my blood, since I know from the bottom of my heart that, in reality, he did throw a perfect game, no matter what the call ruled. And to add on to his amazing performance that night, Galarraga showed the kind of professional and respectful humbled man he is by understanding the mistake the first base umpire made and forgiving him without any hesitation whatsoever. To me that was priceless, as it was a great behavior taken by an excellent man who threw a perfect game!

- Y gracias por no fumar!

Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga the day after he
 blew Galarraga's perfect game. Picture from

The play that should have been called an out, but 
was called a safe. Picture from

Santana's reaction after recording the last out of his 
no hit-no run performance. Picture from