August 16, 2011
One night when the Indians were playing at Boston, Hannahan's agent, Joe Speed, got a call. Hannahan's wife, Jenny, who had been relegated to bed rest back in Ohio, was having birthing contractions. Despite being early in her third trimester, she appeared to be heading into labor months ahead of schedule.
Another problem for Hannahan: There were no available flights home that night.
So even while Hannahan was at bat in the game, Speed booked the first flight in the morning out of Logan airport in Boston back to Cleveland, even knowing that would likely be too late. His next step was calling about private planes. They were available, but they cost $35,000. Even though Hannahan has a contract for $500,000 this year, $35,000 is still seven percent of his annual salary — that's a lot of money on a gamble that it would be the night Jenny gave birth.
Hannahan no doubt lives a wonderful life as a major leaguer, but he's a working man's ballplayer. As a third-round pick 10 years before, it's not like Hannahan and family can live off a big signing bonus. So, with only two-plus years of service time vested in the major leagues and no guarantee that he would be making big league money for much longer, Hannahan couldn't bring himself to charter a jet. He'd just take that first morning flight out of Logan.
Walters recounted the conversation:
"Book it," Masterson told Hannahan.
"I can't. It costs too much," Hannahan replied.
"Book it!" Masterson said.
Then Masterson passed a hat around the clubhouse. Teammates immediately contributed $35,000.
Hannahan took the private plane, arrived in Cleveland about 3 a.m. and reconnected with his wife just 15 minutes before John Joseph Hannahan V was born. Though he weighed just 2 pounds, 11 ounces at birth and hasn't come home from the NICU yet, baby reportedly is doing fine. As are mom and dad.
Even if his team doesn't make the playoffs, Manny Acta probably will win AL Manager of the Year because the Indians are performing way beyond what most expected. But I have to think that the environment in Cleveland's clubhouse that encouraged players to use their own money to help Hannahan is some of his doing.
Though they obviously could afford to band together and rent a jet, the Tribe's roster isn't exactly full of millionaires like it might have been in the Albert Belle era. Heck, Masterson makes less money than Hannahan. But it's this kind of camaraderie that helps get a team through a 162-game season. And it makes you want to root for the Indians if you don't already.
If this story is indicative, they seem like a good bunch of guys. And that counts for a lot in these times when cynicism can dominate.
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