Monday, January 03, 2005

In Memory of Doug Ault

Doug Ault is dead, by his own hand.

Doug Ault earned his place in Baseball one snowy April day by hitting two home runs in the Toronto Blue Jays initial MLB game. He earned a place in my fond memories as one of the first baseball players I ever saw play, a tall first baseman who always had a smile and a quick "Hi" for the fans sitting behind the Syracuse Chiefs dugout before the game started. His was one of the first baseball cards I ever got, back when minor league cards were a brand new novelty.

Eventually Doug became a coach and manager within the Blue Jays' organization, managing in Syracuse for a few years, years when I was a self-exiled ex-patriate from Baseball, so I never saw him manage.

When Doug played for the Chiefs, it was in the dark days of minor league baseball, back before the minors' renaissance, when teams played in WPA built, or older, ballparks, and traveled everywhere in crummy old buses with sprung shocks.

Doug's playing days were at the turning point of baseball, right after the Messersmith-McNalley decision, before even marginal players made good money in the majors, long before the pension plan included every player who suited up even once in the majors.

Players today have it better. Oh, minor league players still earn a pittance in salary, but the parks they play in are new or refurbished, and the buses are luxurious and some teams travel by plane. Players today have a huge financial carrot before them in the form of the MLPA collective agreement, benefits and money that for some overshadow the honor and thrill that come, or should come, from being a big leaguer.

Players today usually don't have to find a second, off-season job just to get by, working for a liquor distributor or a tire dealer.

Doug was one of those players, whose major league experience never translated into much money. He spent his last years as a representative for a pre-owned luxury automobile agency, as a used car salesman. His future didn't measure up to the dreams and potential of his past, nor did his present. Glory days appear to have done him in.

He never became a big deal in the Show but for a while he made some fans very happy, and memories of him still bring a smile to at least a few fans all these many years later.

Rest in peace, Doug Ault.