A group of grown men looked more like anxious young baseball fans as they crowded around one corner of the American Legion Richmond Post 63 Thursday night in Augusta. The center of their attention was former Major League Baseball player Darrel Chaney, the featured speaker at the annual American Legion Baseball Reunion Dinner.
Though Chaney, who played American Legion ball in his native Indiana, was a pro for 11 years with the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves, the World Series champion said he felt at home surrounded by former amateur players. More than 100 attended the annual event.
“When you get in a group like this, the common ground is the love of baseball,” he said. “I travel like this now and go around talking baseball. You never know who you’re going to meet.”
Chaney’s playing days included time on the diamond with baseball legends Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Ken Griffey, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Dave Concepcion, who were all part of the Reds’ 1975 World Series championship team.
“I was probably the 25th best player on that 25-man team,” Chaney told the crowd before extending his ring finger. “But I got the same ring Johnny Bench got.”
Chaney was traded to the Atlanta Braves the following year, where he shared an infield with a young Dale Murphy and watched Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro in his later years.
Chaney also played against Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter and said they played golf together in their work with Major League Baseball’s alumni association.
Carter died away Thursday of brain cancer.
“I knew Gary during my playing days and afterwards,” Chaney said. “He was a good man.”
Chaney’s time playing baseball didn’t include the public steroids scandals that has plagued the sport recently, but he told the capacity crowd at American Legion Post 63 that baseball will get through the hard times that have turned away some fans.
“Drugs and alcohol have always been around baseball,” he said. “But one of my heroes, Ernie Banks, once said, ‘If we all learned to tell the truth, you’ll never have to remember what you said.’ We’re all leaders. We’re all role models.”
Former Major League pitcher Lou Brissie, a regular attender at the annual event, was unable to participate in the night’s festivities.
“Lou loves this group, and he would be here,” event coordinator Owen Crickenberger said. “But he’s got a few little sprains and aches that keep him from going places he wants to. So let’s all remember him in our prayers.”