Glenn Mickens a fine player, a good friend

  • Nick Celario / The Garden Island file

    Glenn Mickens

In my office is a picture of a young man wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers baseball hat and uniform. He is smiling, absolutely beaming with delight.

The name of the young man is Glenn Mickens.

On that picture, he wrote this inscription: “To Bill Buley – A friend and a fine editor.” — Glenn Mickens, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1953.

It is a prized possession that I am proud to display, and one that will remind me of one good man I came to know on Kauai after moving here in April 2013, and a man I will miss.

Glenn Mickens passed away Tuesday night. He was 88.

Glenn had a short Major League Baseball career, but imagine pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers at the age of 22. He did. He played with Jackie Robinson and some of the game’s greats in the one season he was with the Dodgers and the seasons he spent in the minors. Glenn sometimes downplayed his MLB career, but I reminded him, “You have to be a great player just to reach the big leagues. Very few actually get there. You did.”

I think he appreciated that.

We exchanged emails about baseball, about the Seattle Mariners and my hero Ken Griffey, and about the Los Angeles Dodgers, his favorite team. Glenn knew baseball and he understood the importance of pitching, that it was the key to winning.

But Glenn was about more than baseball. In his time on Kauai (he moved here about 30 years ago), he became a government watchdog and frequent letter-writer to TGI. He kept close tabs on the County Council. Little annoyed him more than county officials talking about expanding bike and walking paths and the bus system to alleviate traffic. In his view, people were not going to give up their cars so they could bike, walk or bus. The only viable long-term solution to ease traffic, he said, was to build more roads. That was it. Build more roads. All this stuff about biking and walking and buses was just putting off what needed to be done. It aggravated him to no end. I told him I agreed. He appreciated that.

His other issue was that AJA (Americans of Japanese Ancestry) baseball on Kauai was restricted to those having Japanese blood. Remember, Glenn was there when Jackie Robinson, a black man, played for the Dodgers in the early ‘50s when the game was dominated by white players. He witnessed the discrimination that Robinson faced and he never forgot it. His long-running argument with AJA was to open the league “to any person, male or female, black, white or yellow, who has the ability to compete in their league.”

“My point is that our AJA baseball league could only be stronger by opening their doors to everyone; to possibly give some kid a chance of sharpening his talents in the high school off-season so he can go to a major college, even with a possible scholarship. Let us never forget that two brothers, Tyler and Kirby Yates from Kauai, reached the big leagues, defying odds in the millions against them to get there,” he wrote.

Every year, Mickens wrote a letter to TGI calling for just that. Every year, it didn’t happen. I once wrote an opinion in TGI calling politely for what Mickens said, to open AJA to all. Perhaps one day it will. He would be pleased.

Glenn Mickens did what few in this world will ever do, play Major League Baseball.

But that wasn’t his biggest or best achievement.

For that, look at his circle of family and friends. They loved him not because he played baseball, sat at council meetings or wrote letters to the local newspaper.

They loved him because he was a man with a good heart who cared about people and tried, in his own way, to make the world a better place. He had a quick smile and genuine laugh and a wonderful sense of humor. He was not an old guy complaining. He was the man who wanted to help, who saw things could be better and said so, was firm about right and wrong and standing up for those who needed it. He’s the kind of man we need in this world.

And as for that inscription Glenn wrote on the picture he gave me, I’ll say this: I don’t know about being a fine editor, but I am proud to be his friend.

•••

Bill Buley is editor-in-chief of The Garden Island. He can be reached at bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

9 Comments
  1. Uncleaina July 12, 2019 2:28 am Reply

    Glenn was someone who cared about Kauai. He hated seeing the traffic when adding a single lane to the highway could fix it. He wanted to see everyone able to play in any league- hard to fault him for that. I’m sure heaven will run a bit more efficiently now. RIP Mr Mickens.


  2. Need More July 12, 2019 3:18 am Reply

    Kauai need more people like Glenn. Government watchdogs are needed for a county government that has gone wrong as is a total failure.

    I wrote a more detailed account but someone erases my comments with cyber stalking like what that kpd officer did.

    They don’t want the truth to be heard.


  3. Steven McMacken July 12, 2019 6:59 am Reply

    I did not know Mr. Mickens. But he wrote with intelligence and passion and for that alone I will miss him.


  4. mike July 12, 2019 9:23 am Reply

    He took part in historic events, playing on one of the great baseball teams of all time with the man who broke the color barrier. I was always impressed by his interest and passion for public issues. Wish I had met him.


  5. gordon oswald July 12, 2019 9:52 am Reply

    Thank you Bill for such a wonderful message about a wonderful man! Glenn was a person who personified class and grace. He will be missed very much by those of us who knew him, and worked with him. His family is very fortunate to have the DNA that created this remarkable Kauai Treasure!


  6. Rev Dr. Malama July 12, 2019 2:14 pm Reply

    I am sorry for your loss, friends, family and foe…. We were all better for knowing and/or reading Glenn’s point of view!
    Thank you for the picture and lovely tribute to another Kauai Character. RIP


  7. manongindashadow0711 July 12, 2019 4:26 pm Reply

    I have never met Mr. Mickens. However, I enjoyed reading his TGI letters. I think he, a handful of people, and I wrote about building more roads or opening up some old cane haul roads.
    Even tho I understood what Mr. Mickens reasons for opening up the AJA League to others. I could never agree.
    M. Mickens, “RIP!”


  8. Wil Welsh July 13, 2019 2:49 pm Reply

    Fine commentary, Bill Buley. I hadn’t heard of Glenn’s passing. He and Ruth were neighbors of ours, fine people, salt of the earth, caring. Coming or going from our home I’d sometimes pass Glenn on one of his long walks and invariably, stopping to say hello, we’d get into civic and political discussions. Glenn was always up on local issues, had a definite opinion, and kept pen ready not just to complain, but to pursue solutions. Some years he spent more time at Council meetings than some councilmen! We’re glad we knew him and send our most heart-felt condolences to the family and to the larger Kauai family who benefited from his civic attention and share a loss with his passing. Aloha, Glenn Mickens.


  9. Jose Bulatao, Jr. August 19, 2019 10:04 am Reply

    The world would be a better place, indeed, if that quality of fair-mindedness,,,,genuine respect….sincere concern….and positive attitude epitomized by Glenn Mickens could be more prevalent within ALL of us, as well! He exemplified these qualities so naturally and so consistently! Sincerely, Jose Bulatao, Jr., Kekaha


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