Forty-four former Major League Baseball players reunited Saturday at Fort Lauderdale Stadium to hobble around the field and participate in the 25th and finalJoe DiMaggio Legends Game.
The event, an exhibition that pits former National League players against their American League counterparts, helps raise funds for the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation.
The AL team won the seven-inning game 6-4 behind a three-run second inning and a two-run fourth.
Former Oakland Athletic Bert Campaneris, a Cuban-born seven-time All-Star shortstop who’s now 70 years old, hit leadoff and played short for the AL team. He went 2 for 2, including an RBI single in the second. Ex-Oriole Anthony Telford followed him with a two-run double to set the pace for the American Leaguers.
For the old-timers, the day’s festivities were all about sharing stories from their playing days with former teammates and adversaries, as well as supporting the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation, which aids patients and their families and provides funds for the cost of programs, facilities and equipment at its hospital.
“It’s always good to support the cause, the foundation, and then to see the guys and reminisce on years past,” said Andre Dawson, a Hall of Fame outfielder with the Expos and Cubs who came out of Southwest Miami High School and retired with the Marlins in 1996.
Dawson didn’t get to play in the game as he continues to recover from a recent surgery, but many players came out on Saturday to prove that they “still got it.”
“I was still surprised to see Spaceman [Bill Lee],” said Dawson of the former Red Sox All-Star left-handed pitcher, who was a teammate in Montreal. “He does this for a living. Just to see him come out there and use the big bat that he does and still try to turn on everything. It’s fun.”
Lee pitched two innings on the mound and at the plate belted a double deep into right-center that received what was probably the crowd’s biggest ovation of the day.
In addition to Dawson, several other former Marlins showed up including players Jeff Conine, Orestes Destrade, Alex Arias, Ricky Bones and Bruce Aven and managers Jeff Torborg and Cookie Rojas.
Conine, Destrade and Arias, all original Marlins, reminisced on first bringing South Florida an MLB team in 1993.
“It was 20 years ago April 5, that we opened up with the Marlins,” said Destrade, who went 1 for 3 on the day. “Ironically, Joe DiMaggio threw out the first pitch [Opening Day of 1993], so here we are playing at the Joe DiMaggio event. Three original Marlins were there, and it’s kind of neat.”
Although he didn’t play in the game, Conine, also known as Mr. Marlin, tossed the “first pitch” — albeit in the top of the second.
Arias showed he can still field his position with several nifty plays at short, and Aven made a diving catch in right field in the first inning, robbing Telford of extra bases.
Other notables outside of baseball who participated were local radio personality Sid Rosenberg and five-time NBA champion Ron Harper.
This year’s Legends Game was announced to be the last at a pregame dinner Friday night by Memorial Healthcare System CEO Frank Sacco.