Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: Thanks a lot, "Dad"!

1 o’clock, Thursday, July 12, 2012 -- Well. Sparked a conversation with the father. “You look like you might have been a relief pitcher with the Royals or something in the ‘80s.” He laughed. Then he told me about how he played baseball in high school: lefty pitcher who didn’t throw very hard but lost only 1 game as a senior and hit .454. Then went to Elon College but didn’t play much because the head coach was a dick of sorts. He said the head coach later doomed himself out of a job by spitting on a player. I Googled the heck out of that but couldnt find anything. He said Elon beat UNC 13-1 during his one season on the team and that the Fighting Christians (as they were known) also beat Virginia. He said Elon had a pitcher by the name of Booker who went on to pitch for the Padres in the ‘84 World Series. I’m going to check that right now …
… So then, Greg Booker *did* go to Elon. Greg Booker is 52 years old. The father is 54 years old. Their timelines match up. According to, Greg Booker made his MLB debut on September 11, 1983, against the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched 1.2 innings and gave up 3 hits and walked 3 with a strikeout. Did not allow a run. The next season Booker, when he wasn't starting one of the biggest brawls of the decade, pitched one game in the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs. He went 2 innings and gave up 2 hits and a walk while striking out 2. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound righty pitched in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers: in 1 inning he walked 4 of the 7 batters he faced. In his career, Greg Booker pitched 161 games (4 starts) and had a 5-7 record with a 3.89 ERA and 119 strikeouts. The funniest part of Booker’s career is his how his personal and professional lives intertwined. He married a girl by the name of Kristi McKeon, daughter of Jack McKeon, manager of the San Diego Padres. McKeon’s nickname was “Trader Jack”. In 1989, Booker had a 4.26 ERA in 19.1 innings for the Padres before his father-in-law traded him to the Minnesota Twins for Freddie Toliver. In 14 innings for the Padres, Toliver had a 7.07 ERA. Toliver also was part of a 3-player trade that brought Ken Griffey Sr. to the Yankees in 1981. The Yanks sent Toliver and a fella by the name of Brian Ryder to the Cincinnati Reds. Ryder pitched 4 years in the minors and never made it to the majors. McKeon managed the Florida Marlins in 2003 when the won the World Series. These days Greg Booker is the pitching coach for the Syracuse Chiefs. During the college baseball season, McKeon can be found often at his alma mater, Elon College.

The father who sparked this history lesson about Greg Booker and Jack McKeon is from from Virginia and said he coached Brandon Inge at Brookville High in Virginia. I'm not so sure I believe that.