The Legend of Champ Summers
Back in the early 1990's, it was a tradition for Trever, Brian, and Peter to make an annual pilgrimage to Torrey Pines Golf Course - back when it cost about $30 to play - just for the chance to play a PGA tour course every year. In 1992, we didn't have a 4th person to go with us, so when we were called by the starter to check in we heard our threesome "and Champ single" to check in.
So we met this guy named "Champ" and started talking to him casually as we played the first few holes. He was a local in La Jolla, who played golf 4-5 times a week. He was wearing a Yankees polo-style shirt, but we didn't hold it against him. After a while, someone asked him if he was from New York, and he said no, but he used to "work in the Yankees organization." So we asked him what he did, thinking he was maybe in security or ticket sales or something, and he said, "I was the hitting coach."
Okay ... so the lights start to go on. Peter notices this big ring he's wearing, and reluctantly Champ shows us that it is a 1984 NL Championship ring ... as he was an outfielder on the San Diego Padres that season. So we talk a bit about the 1984 Padres, with Steve Garvey and Dave Winfield, and about the '84 Tigers that were so dominant, and soon the round was over. We ended the round in great spirits, shook hands with Champ, and parted ways, only later to realize ... we never found out Champ's real name!!
Well, several years later, Trever did a search on baseball-reference.com for "champ" and discovered Champ Summers. As you by now know if you looked at the link, Champ not only played for the 1984 Padres, but broke into the league with the 1974 Oakland A's ... World Series champs with Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson, etc., and he played a couple years for Cincinatti during the famous "Big Red Machine" era. He played for several different teams, and had some good seasons. Champ was a throwback - a Viet Nam vet who missed out on college, thus was discovered in his mid 20's by a scout at a fastpitch softball tournament - and is perhaps best known for his role in a brawl with the Atlanta Braves.
Champ could have started telling us stories about his baseball career, and we would definitely have eaten it up, but instead he just modestly showed us his ring, and talked about how good Kirk Gibson was in his prime.
After that one round in 1992, none of us every spoke to Champ again. On October 11, 2012, Champ died too young in Ocala, Florida, after a long battle with liver cancer. In his obituary printed in the local paper, his widow Joy said of the reason her and Champ had moved to Florida, "my husband wanted to live on a golf course, to get up in the morning and go play golf." That is exactly how we have always remembered him.
Champ Summers was a class guy, and we honor his memory as an honorary member of the Western Golf Alliance.
John Junior "Champ" Summers
6/15/1946 - 10/11/2012
.255 career batting average
54 career home runs
0-for-1 in 1984 World Series
THE WESTERN GOLF ALLIANCE
Keeping It Long and Straight Since 2002™