This is a story that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “take me out to the ballgame."
New Hampshire resident Marty Capodice died in October 2013. In his will, he had stipulated that his ashes be divided into packets and spread at places and events that he would have enjoyed — like baseball games. Capodice had a special connection to baseball. His best friend, Denny Mathews, has been broadcasting Kansas City Royals games since 1969.
So, when Capodice’s wife, talk show host Arnie Arnesen, contacted Matthews about spreading some of the ashes at the World Series, he said yes.
Arnesen and Matthews joined Bill Littlefield on Only A Game.
BL: Arnie, you’ve been the one having family and friends carry out your husband’s wishes for his ashes. Did you know right away that baseball would be part of this plan?
AA: Yes. And let me tell you why. When we had the huge celebration of his life — 600 of his closest friends showed up — and I was handing out his ashes, I decided that I wanted to tell everyone about the perfect table that I would set for my husband and it began with Only A Game's irreverent analyst, Charlie Pierce, and it ended with Stan Musial.
And then, sure enough, all the pieces are falling together, because I get to be on Only A Game with you and Charlie Pierce, and Denny Matthews, his beloved friend, is going to be calling the games in the World Series! Oh, my god.
BL: Denny, when you got that call from Arnie saying, "I would like to send you some of Marty’s ashes to spread at the World Series games," how did you respond?
DM: I told her it was a perfect idea. I thought it was tremendous, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I thought it was a great idea and a great concept.
BL: I understand that you and Marty had been best friends since you were in kindergarten, which is extraordinary. You are in the baseball Hall of Fame, of course, for your career as the voice of the Royals. Marty was a loyal St. Louis Cardinals fan. How much of a role did baseball play in that remarkably long friendship?
DM: Well, it was one of the first common threads. And I can recall we played American Legion junior baseball. You can play from the time — at least in Bloomington-Normal, Ill. where we grew up — 7 years old and on up. And Marty and I played through high school baseball together.
I remember Marty was a catcher when we first started playing and I said, "Marty, you're not a catcher. You just don't look like a catcher or act like a catcher, you're an outfielder." So he played outfield. And he said, "By the way, you're not a pitcher, either," and I played infield, so we had each other pretty well scouted and pegged with regard to our early baseball skills. Great days, great memories in that regard.
BL: Denny, after decades of working in the game, I wonder if you have any thoughts about what makes baseball such a passion for fans that they even want to make it a part of the way they’re remembered after they’re gone.
DM: I think everybody has played baseball in some form or other — softball, fastball, large-pitch softball. It's a generational thing — fathers to sons, sons to their sons and daughters, and on down the line.
And I can recall when I was 3 or 4 years old, my father, by the way — the St. Louis Cardinals' baseball broadcast was always on in our house -- I remember one day, he said, "Do you like living in this house?" And I said, "Well, yeah, Dad. I really like our house." And he said, "Well, good,because if you don't root for the Cardinals you won't live in this house." And he was kidding, obviously, but the point was made. And of course, Marty and I grew up Cardinals fans and and that was another bond between us.
BL: Arnie, I have heard stories before of Chicago Cubs fans who were so devout they wanted their ashes spread over Wrigley Field, or Boston Red Sox fans who wanted to be remembered because of an association with Fenway Park. But it sounds as if, with Marty, this is a case of any baseball field will do — from Little League on up, right?
AA: You nailed it, honey. This is the man who would read me the new Bill James Historical [Baseball] Abstract at night. Understand ... this was our bedtime reading. God help me! But that's what he would do. He has been everywhere! He's been to spring training, he's been to baseball fields, he's been to Australia. But everyone knew that if they could be anywhere near a baseball field, his ashes had to go there. So, I just want to let you know, I think it's magic, and I hope other people can do the same kind of magic.
This segment aired on October 25, 2014.