Carnevale's death leaves sport with empty feeling
The Buffalo News
We lost a big part of Bisons history when Dan Carnevale died Thursday. The 87-year-old Carnevale, a longtime scout with the Cleveland Indians, is the only man to serve the Herd as a player, manager and general manager and was one of the greatest ambassadors of Buffalo's rich baseball heritage.
From the time then-Pilot Field opened in 1988 until his health began to fail early last season, Carnevale was a press box fixture at virtually every Bisons game. Often with wife Anita in tow, he'd sit in the same second-row chair keeping a scorecard and taking copious notes. And woe to an unsuspecting visitor who didn't know better and plunked down in his seat.
But once Carnevale moved the intruder, there were no hard feelings. In fact, he often spent the whole game providing visitors with nuggets about a baseball career that spanned more than 60 years and earned him the nickname "Buffalo Dan."
Always sporting his trademark fedora, Carnevale was an oldtime scout. His eyes were his best tool. He didn't have much use for sabrmetrics or the Ivy League-educated general managers that are taking over the sport because of their business acumen and ability to use modern scouting tools.
He didn't believe in things like radar guns.
"What the hell do I need that contraption for?" he barked one day to no one in particular. "Just watch the guy pitch the damn ball and you can tell if he's going to be in the major leagues."
When a pitcher was getting rocked, Carnevale would deliver a time-tested standard that was as funny the 10,000th time you heard it as it was the first - "Hey, I'll give you this guy and 10 cents for your birthday."
Sometimes, 10 cents became "a cup of coffee." You get the picture.
Carnevale got the big picture, too. When the Bisons were looking for a new affiliate in 1994 after ditching the Pittsburgh Pirates, Carnevale got wind that Charlotte was foolishly booting the Indians.
He was one of the main people that got word to Bob and Mindy Rich that the talent-laden Tribe was available. The Riches drove to Jacobs Field the first day the rules allowed and set up the affiliation that's been probably the best in the game the last 12 seasons.
You want a Buffalo ambassador? I ran into Carnevale and his wife at the 1997 All-Star Game gala at the Flats in Cleveland and it was like he was a pied piper with the number of big-league officials following them around the room to say hello.
One day during the 1996 season, I arrived at the ballpark and found Cincinnati personnel honcho Jack McKeon sitting alone in the press box. Best known at the time for being "Trader Jack" while building the San Diego Padres into a World Series team in 1984, McKeon introduced himself and said simply, "Where's Danny? He still comes, right?"
Yep. Carnevale walked in and the pair, who coached together in Kansas City in the early '70s, spent an entire four-game series commiserating about the games, their families and trivialities down to the food in the press box.
Seven years later, of course, the 72-year-old McKeon managed the Florida Marlins to a World Series title. I called Carnevale from Yankee Stadium early in that series and he was loving watching his old friend take young players and get the job done.
"He's the manager of the team and he lets everybody know it," Carnevale said. "It doesn't matter if he's 72 or 22 or 92. He's a shrewd man. Good for him."
Carnevale often talked about his friendship with longtime Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. In 1972, they were both managers in the Pacific Coast League (Carnevale with Portland in the Athletics chain and Lasorda with the powerful Dodgers farm club in Albuquerque).
"I would take him out to dinner in Portland after our games and he would do the same for me in Albuquerque," Carnevale told me a few days after Lasorda's 1996 retirement. "We had great times. I remember a game against them I told the fellas there were no signs. If they wanted to steal a base, they stole. If they wanted to swing at a 3-0 pitch, they swung. We won and Lasorda nearly fell off his seat on the bench."
Until he stopped going to spring training a couple years ago, Carnevale made it a point to try to run into Lasorda either at Dodgertown in Vero Beach or at some other camp or restaurant on Florida's East Coast.
"I'd see him all the time - and I'd remind him I knew when he didn't have 10 cents," Carnevale said.
It's those kind of cracks from the gravelly voice in the second row that we'll really miss.
Every so often you'll hear Bison radio analyst Duke McGuire spout that a ball was blasted into "Carnevale Country" - the area in the service parking lot behind the right-field foul pole. If Carnevale wasn't looking, he'd want to know exactly - and I mean exactly - where the ball cleared the bleachers and the fence.
"Aw jeez, my Cadillac, my Cadillac," he'd rail from behind reporters covering the game. He was serious but there was no way to contain your laughter.
I walk through that parking lot every day during the season to enter Dunn Tire Park. It's forever going to be Carnevale Country in my mind.
His acceptance speech at the 1996 Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner was classic Carnevale. It was a rambling tale of motels and highways in far-off locales that he talked about as if you had been there. But you had to remember, he had been. And he had spent much of his time spreading the word about his beloved hometown.
So a big tip of the fedora to you, Buffalo Dan. I'll think about you on my birthday - and every other day I sit in that press box. The top row just got too quiet.
Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Dan Carnevale Passes Away at Age 87
The only man to
ever play for, manage, and serve as general manager of the Buffalo Bisons,
Dan Carnevale, died on December 29 after a short illness. He was 87.