07/17/2002 7:48 pm ET
Spirit of Indians baseball takes a hit
Jimmy Warfield’s death shakes fans and ballplayers
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- The world is short one first-rate person today, because Jimmy Warfield is dead.
By all accounts, the 60-year-old Warfield, the longtime trainer for the Indians, touched everybody who met him. He was more than a man who just dispensed Ace bandages and Bayer aspirins. He was a man who dispensed good cheer and friendship.
He spread both freely, seeming never to make a class or racial distinction. For in Jimmy Warfield’s world, people were people, and he treated them all the same: like dear friends.
Those friends remember Warfield warmly today, for they find giant holes in their lives because the man who they had called a “friend” was not among them.
His death left people everywhere in shock. They didn’t believe that somebody as kind and as compassionate as Warfield had left this earth. But they also knew this: He didn’t leave without putting his footprint on this planet.
“The only thing greater than his strength of character ... was the tribute that he left to Linda, Jordan and the rest of his family and friends,” a friend of the Warfield family wrote in an e-mail.
Another person who had come to value Warfield’s character wrote: “Cleveland fans like me grew up seeing Jimmy smiling on the bench, always right in the middle of things. He was as much an Indian as anybody to wear the uniform, and the fans knew it. So many years a revolving door, but he was always right there.”
And then there was this e-mail, from a man who had first met Warfield through a mutual friend: “I met Jimmy through his college roommate. ... When Jimmy found out that I was a longtime Tribe fan, he invited me up to the old stadium for a locker room tour and to meet the players. A thrill I will never forget. We stayed in touch, and it was always a highlight of spring to shake his hand in Winter Haven. He was a great man in the sense of what truly makes a man great -- he took care of those around him.”
None of these e-mails came from anybody who played a single inning in an Indians uniform, and their e-mails were just a sampling of the two dozen or so e-mails that have come my way since Warfield’s death Tuesday.
Those e-mails all seemed tightly wrapped in utter sincerity, which was the same precious material that Kenny Lofton, Sandy Alomar Jr., Travis Fryman, Omar Vizquel, Jim Thome, Gaylord Perry, Mike Jackson, Mike Hargrove, Paul Shuey and the 500-plus other players in this Indians fraternity of Warfield admirers used to wrap their tear-drenched testimonials in.
As tough as it was for them to accept Warfield’s death, they all reflected fondly on the special memories of Warfield that they will carry with them like a precious keepsake.
“This was a guy who never missed a day of work in his life,” said Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, who announce the team will hold a tribute to Warfield at the game Thursday afternoon. “Every day he came to work with a smile on his face.”
And every day that broad smile and a handshake were at the ready for anybody who crossed Warfield’s path. It is a path that Warfield walked with pride for 32 years, and it will take 10 times that number for people to forget the man who cared more about others than he did about himself.
In these times, Warfield and his character were as rare as a .400 hitter. In life and in death, he was much more than what he seemed to be, except to his friends.
They all knew the kind of man Jimmy Warfield was.
Justice B. Hill, a senior writer, covers the Indians for MLB.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.