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As I picture it in my mind, right about now Johnny Cash is finishing up an acoustic set. There’s no need for a microphone, because it’s a private concert for The Commish....
After The Man in Black has finished his final note, he’ll stick around to hear The Commish tell a story. The Commish always has a story.
So today, I’m even more envious of Johnny Cash because he’ll be able to enjoy all the jokes and stories The Commish isn’t able to tell me.
The Commish, Jerry Callaghan, a longtime fixture at Brampton Battalion games, died on Sunday following complications from surgery. He was 63.
Almost everyone in the OHL knew “The Commissioner,” but I’m not sure if anyone – or everyone – knew how he got the nickname.
Someone in the league once told me it was because he was the baseball commissioner of one of the local leagues in Bolton, Ont. I don’t know if that was true. It didn’t really matter, because if you asked anyone in the OHL about The Commish, they knew who you were talking about.
Truth be told, I’m not exactly sure what he did for the Battalion, except for anything and everything that was asked of him. He was that kind of guy.
For the first few years I covered the league, I had no idea The Commish even had a “real name.” He would sit there at the sign-in table for the media and scouts and crack wise with everyone who came to get a lineup package. He knew everyone.
He’d always make jokes about my infrequent trips to the Powerade Centre. And I’d get e-mails out of the blue from him like this one:
"...Seems you can go all the way to Peterborough but not to Commissionerville. You have some nerve ignoring me like this!”
Of course, when I would show up in Brampton, he’d always autograph my lineup, "Love, Jerry the Commish."
Where else in the OHL are you going to that kind of attention to detail?
The Commish was all about detail. When my boyfriend and I were in the South and planning a trip to Tennessee, The Commish suggested visiting the one-time home of his favourite, the late great Johnny Cash, in Hendersonville, Tenn. Before the night was over, we had detailed directions to get right up to the front door of Cash’s rural retreat.
As legend has it, The Commish had met Johnny Cash enough times at concerts that they were on a first name basis. He had once told me that he’d been at the show in London, Ont., where the late June Carter Cash had finally agreed to marry Johnny after asking her on stage. After the show, The Commish said he was one of the first to congratulate them.
If you had heard the same story about someone else, you might have taken it with a grain of salt, but not The Commish. He was a character, but he was legit.
When I heard The Commish was ill, I’d send him the occasional e-mail to see how he was doing and to let him know I was thinking of him. I went back and re-read a few of the replies he sent me because I miss him. Each one of his messages ends the same way, with this quote:
"It's not whether you win or lose, it's who you meet along the way that really matters."
Even though I feel like I’ve lost today, The Commish is still making me smile. And somewhere I know Johnny Cash is getting ready for an encore.
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