A few months ago, Greg Tubbs heard about the heart attack suffered by former Buffalo Bisons play-by-play announcer and fellow Tennessee resident Pete Weber.
Tubbs was worried about Weber and then his phone rang and it was none other than Weber calling. Tubbs expressed his concern, but Weber, who now works for the Nashville Predators, told the ex-Bisons outfielder he was doing well and that he had some even better news – Tubbs had been elected to the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame.
“When I heard Pete’s voice, he kind of spooked me,” a laughing Tubbs said this week by phone from Cookeville. “But then he told me about the hall and it just blew me out of the water. ... I know I put up some pretty good numbers, but you just don’t think about a Hall of Fame honor. You just go out and play. Once your career is over, you kind of look back, so this is really a dream come true for me.”
Tubbs is the lone player selection for this year’s class, which will be inducted prior to Friday night’s game against Durham in Coca-Cola Field. Also earning induction will be former Bisons and Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge and longtime Buffalo scout Bob Miske.
Tubbs turned into the consummate leadoff man and regular center fielder for the Bisons during their days as a Pittsburgh affiliate. He was a standout on the 1991 and 1992 American Association Eastern Division championship teams, and still put up good numbers when he returned in ’94 even though the team endured a miserable 55-89 season in its final year with the Pirates.
Two decades after he left town, he’s still high in the franchise record book. In Buffalo’s modern era, Tubbs is fourth in games played (364), third in hits (370), fifth in runs (198), second in stolen bases (67) and third in triples (19). When he retired after the ’94 season, he was the franchise leader in all of those categories except games.
“I always liked Greg Tubbs,” said Miske, a member of the Hall committee who is in his 50th year as a scout. “He was a great little player. He could run, he was a hustler, he did everything hard. He played so hard. I’ve wanted to see him in the Hall of Fame for a while and I’m really glad he’s getting in.”
Tubbs recalled his days in Buffalo fondly, in large part because of the big crowds that regularly filled then-Pilot Field.
“Those were exciting times to be a player in Triple-A in that setting,” he said. “We had good clubs, but we knew what that ’91 season represented, with the city trying to get the major-league franchise. We felt like the front office and the fans treated us like major leaguers.”
Tubbs is the answer to two major trivia questions in Bisons modern-era lore.
The first is that he caught the final out in center field in both of Buffalo’s division-championship clinchers at Pilot Field, in ’91 against Louisville and in ’92 against Nashville.
“That’s everybody’s dream as a player, especially as part of a championship scenario,” he said. “You want the big hit or the last ball hit to you. I was just fortunate, right guy in the right place.”
The second: He was the batter who drove the apparent game-tying double into the left-field corner of Denver’s Mile High Stadium in the ninth inning of Game Four of the ’91 Association finals. The Bisons, remember, were trailing, 9-0 – and getting no-hit by Greg Mathews – entering the inning.
They scored six runs and loaded the bases before Tubbs’ hit, but pinch-runner Greg Edge was called out at the plate in the most controversial finish in franchise history. The Bisons thus lost, 9-8, and dropped the decisive Game Five the next night.
“I’ve looked and it looks like Edge didn’t get in there, that he was completely blocked,” said Tubbs, who had homered in the first two games of the series in Buffalo. “Sad to say. When I hit the ball, I thought for sure he would score. I hit a missile into that corner. Maybe his turns were too wide. I don’t know. Everything was perfect for them to make their throws. It was crazy.”
Left fielder Mickey Brantley made the first throw and the relay home to catcher Joe Kmak was by Zephyrs shortstop Charlie Montoyo – who will be in town Friday night as Durham’s manager.
Tubbs joined the Bisons as a free agent after seven good years in the Atlanta chain, where he advanced to Triple-A and played with the likes of David Justice, Ron Gant, Mark Lemke and Jeff Blauser and worked with hitting instructors such as longtime MLB outfielder Johnny Grubb and Hall of Famer Luke Appling.
The Braves, however, never gave him a shot in the big leagues and neither did Pittsburgh. That came in 1993 with Cincinnati, who called up Tubbs from Indianapolis and gave him 59 at-bats over 35 games of limited duty. Tubbs hit .186 with one home run.
He re-signed with Pittsburgh and spent all of 1994 in Buffalo. Then came the players strike and offers from many teams to be a scab during spring training of 1995. Tubbs said no, said his fire for the game was going away and never played again.
Tubbs, now 51, runs an indoor hitting academy these days in Cookeville, about an hour from Nashville. He is also the assistant baseball coach at Cookeville High School, which played in the Tennessee state tournament last month for the first time. His two sons, Demond (23) and Darien (19), were both all-state players, and Darien is playing for the University of Memphis.