Eddie Bane was making the drive north from Pawtucket, R.I., to Portland, Maine. He was making the rounds of Red Sox farm clubs in his role of special assistant to Ben Cherington, Boston’s general manager.
“I go wherever Ben wants me to go,” Bane said. “I did the amateurs this year leading to the draft, and now I’m seeing the minor leaguers. It’s a job that gets you involved in everything. I like that.”
Bane has been in the scouting area of baseball since 1984, when his playing career was over and he was hired by the Cleveland Indians. He has worked for the Dodgers, Tampa Bay and was the scouting director for the Angels from 2004 to 2010.
“I’m a lot better at this than I was at pitching,” he said.
One name can verify that: Mike Trout. He was Bane’s selection with the 25th choice in the first round of the 2009 draft.
The call from Minneapolis to Bane was for the obvious reason: This is the 40th anniversary of the most memorable July 4 moment in Twins history, the night Bane debuted in front of a crowd of 45,890, the largest for a regular-season baseball game at Met Stadium.
It was obvious to most, anyway, but not Bane.
“Forty years,” Bane said. “I hadn’t thought about that. I hadn’t run into a Twins fan for a while, I guess.”
Bane’s post-pitching baseball life could be put in two categories: evaluating players, pro and amateur, and bumping into Minnesotans who claim to have celebrated Independence Day of 1973 at Met Stadium.
“They announced 45,000, but the crowd had to be 250,000, from the conversations I’ve had,” Bane said.
Bane was a 5-9 lefthander and a pitching star for Arizona State. On June 5, the Twins took him with the 11th choice in the draft. Five days later, Bane would beat Dave Winfield and the Gophers 3-0 in the College World Series.
Arizona State lost the title game to Southern Cal on June 13. Three days later, and presumably through tears of agony, Twins owner Calvin Griffith agreed to give Bane a team-record $55,000 signing bonus.
The legend has been Calvin decided to bring Bane immediately to the Twins, after Texas owner Bob Short had done that to attract a sellout crowd to Arlington Stadium for Dave Clyde, a recent high school graduate and the No. 1 overall selection.
The date for Clyde’s debut was June 27. The opponent was the Twins.
“I was in the dugout that night,” Bane said. “I was in uniform and traveling with the Twins on that road trip. It already was set that I would pitch on July 4.”
The tie-in between Clyde and Bane is unmistakable, but the idea to try to recoup Bane’s signing bonus by having him come directly to the big leagues … that belonged to Calvin.
The Twins were talking optimistically of drawing 30,000 for the combination of Bane and fireworks. Big deal? Consider this: The 1973 home opener attracted 13,040.
The holiday fell on Wednesday. A midweek Fourth wasn’t an automatic five-day weekend then. People had to work Thursday. So, on this 80-degree night, the citizens decided to go to the ballgame in such numbers that the start was delayed 15 minutes to get more people through the gates.
“I was well into my warmup when they said the game would be delayed,” Bane said. “I didn’t care, but Kitty [Jim Kaat] went crazy. He was yelling, ‘You can’t do this to the kid. He’s already loose, sweated up.’ ”
The start was pushed back, and Bane didn’t rattle in front of the roaring crowd. He used his curveball and assortment of angles in his delivery for this pitching line: seven innings, three hits, one run, three walks, three strikeouts.
He was trailing 1-0 to the Royals, the Twins took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth, and then Ray Corbin gave up four in the ninth and the Twins lost 5-4.
Bane made five more starts and a total of 23 appearances as a rookie. He got back to the big leagues for four starts in 1975 and 15 in 1976, and then became a journeyman, including a couple of years in the Mexican League.
“The Rangers ruined David Clyde by bringing a high school kid right to the big leagues,” Bane said. “That wasn’t the case with me. I was what I was.”
And he is what he is as a scout. Mike Trout. A fine notation on a résumé.