Alumni swap stories at MLBPAA event in San Diego

As a former All-Star and World Series champion who roomed with Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford as a player for the Yankees during the 1950s, Irv Noren has more than enough stories to tell his 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, even though he was far from being the most well-known member of those famed New York dynasties.

As one of the most senior attendees among about 40 players at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association Alumni Day prior to the Padres-Rockies series opener in San Diego on Monday, Noren, 89, found out that many of his fellow former players are familiar with him and his tales. Some players even looked up to him when their own Major League careers were just hopes and dreams.

"You're Irv?" asked Bob Spence, 69, earnestly. "I used to watch you play, left fielder with the Yankees. I'm reading about you in the book on Mantle, 'The Last Boy.'"

"Yep, I'm in there quite a bit," Noren said with a laugh.

Spence and Noren's introduction was one of many on Monday at Petco Park, as former Major Leaguers gathered to make connections and rekindle old ones.

The event was one of 10 Alumni Days put on around the country this season by the non-profit MLBPAA, which was founded in 1982 to help former players transition into life after baseball. The MLBPAA promotes the game and raises money for charity through its membership.

Some alumni, like Noren, have been attending get-togethers like these for years. Others, like Geoff Geary, 37, were making their first appearance after recently retiring from the game.

"To be honest, I left on bad terms in baseball. … I was still looking forward, and it ended," Geary said. "I was very prideful about that, so it hurt me a lot. But what I realized was I spent so long in a family working with people and building relationships, and I was throwing that away by [avoiding baseball]."

Since old-timers such as Noren have retired, professional baseball players' lifestyles have changed dramatically. Noren said he made just $6,800 as a rookie in 1950 -- a fraction of the minimum $500,000 salary Major Leaguers are guaranteed today.

Still, no matter one's age, every alumni in attendance had a commonality to start conversations with and form friendships. And though pension details and charity initiatives were also discussed at the reception, that's all some of these former players are looking for -- someone who knows what they've been through.

"I have a ton of friends here now, but they don't relate to what we did before [we retired]," said Russ McGinnis, 51. "You always want to stay around the game, it's such a big part of you."

That was a sentiment shared by all.

"It's a great game. Everything I have, I owe to it," Noren said. "I still remember how it feels [to play] and all the old, good memories."

Thanks to the MLBPAA, on Monday, Noren could add another baseball memory to his already expansive collection.

Will Laws is an associate reporter for You can follow him at @WillLaws. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.