WASHINGTON – You don’t expect to wake up in the morning to learn that a friend, colleague and fellow co-conspirator – 15 years your junior – has died.
It’s just not right.
That’s the news I got today about Andrew Breitbart, someone I have known and admired for nearly 15 years.
I still can’t believe it. All who knew him were hoping that someone had hacked into his website this morning and posted the news as a cruel joke. That would be just like Andrew’s enemies. But, alas, the unbelievably tragic announcement was confirmed.
I first met Andrew when he was about 28 or 29. He was working from his Santa Monica home as a backup editor for Matt Drudge. Over the years we chatted – more on Instant Messenger – than in person or on the phone. We both worked around the clock. We bounced ideas around. He was very generous with his ideas.
In fact, I can tell you Andrew, on more than one occasion, suggested I do everything he later did with his site – aggregating the wires, creating a series of sites on different topics, the whole nine yards. It’s no trade secret that he also assisted Arianna Huffington create the Huffington Post, which made a fortune through its sale to AOL.
I had talked to Andrew about coming to work for WND on more than one occasion. It was his news judgment, which mirrored Drudge’s so well, that was his gift.
Andrew’s Instant Message handle was Bo Diaz. As a baseball fan, I knew who Bo Diaz was. What I didn’t know was why Andrew selected that as his moniker. So I asked him. He went on to tell me what I already knew.
Diaz was a great catcher toward the latter part of his career. But he kicked around in the minors for seven years. He got his chance as a backup catcher for the Cleveland Indians in 1978 – when Andrew was 9. In 1982, when Andrew was only 13, Diaz came into his own, batting .288 as the starting catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies – having replaced the legendary Bob Boone. He was ranked second among catchers in the National League behind Gary Carter.
In 1983, when Andrew was 14, the Phillies won 12 of their last games to win the national League Eastern Division title. Diaz hit .360 in the final week, including a 5 for 5 game in which he hit two home runs. The Phillies lost the World Series that year, but Diaz was the leading hitter for the team.
Later in his career, the consensus among sports fans is, Diaz was overworked. He had some great seasons, but injuries forced him to retire at 36 in 1989, when Andrew was 20.
Like Andrew, Bo Diaz died an untimely death – at just 37. It was a freak accident. A satellite dish he was adjusting on his roof fell on him.
I don’t know exactly why Andrew identified with Bo Diaz. But today it seems to make sense – if death at such tender ages ever makes sense.
Though Andrew and I quarreled over politics and news judgment in recent years, I brushed our disagreements off to the fact that he was still young, a work in progress, if you will.
Andrew toiled in obscurity for a long time. When he made it to the big leagues, he did so with a splash. He worked very hard – maybe too hard. And he died much too young.
As I write this, Andrew is still there on IM – with an away message. Following his name, it says “(bodiaz).”