Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Reds saddened by Earnhardt's death

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SARASOTA, Fla. — Though NASCAR is always a source of fun in the Reds clubhouse, Monday was a grim exception.

        The team includes many NASCAR enthusiasts who were shaken by the death of Dale Earnhardt in a last-lap crash in Sunday's Daytona 500. Several Reds planned to pool funds to send flowers in Earnhardt's memory once funeral arrangements are announced.

        “Dale Earnhardt dying in NASCAR is like Michael Jordan dying on the basketball court,” right-hander Scott Williamson said. “Being NASCAR fans like we are, he's one of our favorite drivers of all time.

        “Guys like us don't even know him, but it was a weird feeling, like somebody took something out of your chest. It makes you think about living day-to-day. You never know what's going to happen.”

        Ken Griffey Jr. said he has a boat docked two slips away from one of Earnhardt's fishing boats at an undisclosed location in Florida. The star center fielder said he got a kick out of the proximity.

        “Every time he came down, I was leaving, so I never got a chance to meet him,” Griffey said. “But we'd walk past the boat. It said, "The Intimidator' (Earnhardt's nickname).”

        This helped Griffey feel a sort of kinship with Earnhardt:

        “You see him on TV; his boat's parked at the same spot; I wore Gargoyles (sunglasses) a couple of years ago, and he wore them. I think I have a replica car signed by him ... He was my favorite race-car driver. He and Jeff Gordon were the only two I root for.”


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