Garofalo reflects on changes in baseball, 10 years with the Cubs

  • South Elgin High School head trainer Tony Garofalo helps Travis Eubanks loosen up at a 2006 game at Marmion Academy in Aurora. The school opened in August 2005 and Garofalo was trainer the first couple years.

    South Elgin High School head trainer Tony Garofalo helps Travis Eubanks loosen up at a 2006 game at Marmion Academy in Aurora. The school opened in August 2005 and Garofalo was trainer the first couple years. Daily Herald File Photo

  • Former Cubs trainer Tony Garofalo, far right, in 2018 with former Cubs PR director Bob Ibach, left, and Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.

    Former Cubs trainer Tony Garofalo, far right, in 2018 with former Cubs PR director Bob Ibach, left, and Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. COURTESY OF BOB IBACH

 
Updated 6/11/2022 6:14 PM

Part 2 of 2

The role of athletic trainer has evolved since the days when Tony Garofalo was with the Cubs.

 

For one thing, diagnostic tools have made a huge difference.

"They can send somebody for an MRI and know exactly what's going on. We were going blind a lot of times."

Another significant development came with the formation of PBATS (the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society), an organization Garofalo helped create.

Garofalo said MLB had frowned upon athletic trainers exchanging information.

"They were afraid that you would leak things about injuries," he said.

Facing opposition from baseball's establishment, "We tried to explain to them, 'We're not trying to start a union. We're not trying to (leak) information. We're trying to get better as professionals. And it's only going to help the clubs.'"

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MLB eventually came around, and today, "We have made PBATS one of the most respected organizations in athletic training."

Asked about today's apparent rash of baseball injuries, Garofalo said, "There are too many single sport athletes. Talk about Fergie Jenkins. He played hockey, he played basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters. Lee Smith played basketball.

"Now everybody has one sport, and that's what's caused a lot of problems. ... Guys are going to break down."

Garofalo said baseball players need several months off. Playing different sports, they use different muscle groups and stay in condition for when they return to baseball.

Also, he said, today's players are bigger and stronger, "And I think that's probably why a lot of them are breaking down."

He said, "You get a guy like (Dave) Kingman, who hit monstrous home runs. But yet he only weighed maybe 215 pounds."

During Garofalo's time with the Cubs, "(When) guys came to spring training, that's when they perfected their skills. I would tell players, 'Put your gloves away and don't touch them again until spring training, because you need four months off.' And today, they don't do that. They go all year round."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Garofalo -- who was with the Cubs from October 1976 to October 1986 -- toiled for several managers, ranging from old-school Herman Franks to Lee Elia, "One of the best managers I ever worked for."

He said, "I had my conflicts with some of them, because they wanted to do things their way and I wasn't going to jeopardize a player's career just because a manager wanted a guy to play."

Garofalo's stint with the Cubs wasn't all serious business. He fondly recalls the pranks team members would play on each other.

Ryne Sandberg would crawl underneath the bench in the Wrigley Field dugout, give another player a hotfoot, and then crawl back, assuming a look of innocence.

Garofalo remembers Rick Sutcliffe having one rookie hold a cup of Gatorade while he tied his shoe, neglecting to tell the player he was plugging a hole he had put into the cup with his finger. When he took the finger away, the unsuspecting player's white uniform would be instantly dyed the color of the spilled Gatorade.

He also recalled the time when Rick Reuschel borrowed a pair of scissors from Garofalo and cut off one of the legs of a running suit Mike Krukow had received from a shoe company and wore constantly during one road trip.

Krukow blamed Kingman and cut up his clothes.

Kingman, finding out Krukow was the culprit, retaliated in kind.

"So these two were cutting each other's clothes up, and Reuschel's just sitting back in his locker laughing."

Garofalo said he was lucky to work with seven Hall of Famers, including Lee Smith.

"He was a big man. He had hands on him, he could palm a basketball."

Garofalo recalls, "I would wake him up every day in the fourth and fifth inning. 'Come on, Smitty. Time to go to go to work.' "

Smith had a tendency to create a little drama prior to closing out a game by putting on baserunners.

"I put on his glove 1 2 3. So when he would get out to the mound in the ninth inning, I would yell, 'Smitty!' And I would point down to my hand. He would look at his glove and tip his hat to me. To kind of remind him, 1 2 3, let's get out of here."

Today, Garofalo, a member of the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame and the athletic Hall of Fame of his alma mater, Benedictine College (joining former Pirates hurler Bob Veale), can say, "I've had a great career."

Garofalo, of West Dundee, has looked back on that career during appearances with former Cubs PR director Bob Ibach -- they call themselves Frick and Frack.

The players certainly appreciated Garofalo's work.

During the celebration of the NL East clincher in 1984,

"Ron Cey had a bottle of champagne and dumped it over my head and said, 'Thank you for everything that you did for us this year.'

"And then when Bruce Sutter was inducted into the Hall of Fame, he mentioned myself and a couple other athletic trainers and said, 'You guys did more for my career than anybody would ever know.' "

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