Former San Francisco Giant and Mountain Ranch resident Mike “Sheik” Sadek died Jan. 20 in San Andreas, following a short illness, which was not COVID-19-related. Sadek was 74.
During his major league career, which stretched from 1973 to 1981 and was all spent with the Giants, Sadek hit .226 with five home runs, had 74 RBIs, scored 88 runs, collected 184 hits, with 20 doubles and three triples.
Primarily a backup catcher, Sadek also spent time in the outfield. In eight years, he had a fielding percentage of .985. Sadek played in 383 major league games.
“Mike was a Forever Giant in every sense of the term,” Giants’ CEO Larry Baer said in a statement. “He spent nearly 30 years in the Giants’ organization between his time as a player and his role as a member of the front office. He had a genuine love for the game and was known for getting a laugh out of his teammates when they needed it the most. Our condolences go out to the Sadek family for their loss and we extend our thoughts to his teammates and friends.”
Former teammate and current baseball analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, the TV home of the San Francisco Giants and radio host/personality for KNBR 680 Bill Laskey, wrote on his Facebook page, “Fantasy campers, a sad day today as our good friend Mike ‘Sheik’ Sadek has passed away. A beloved friend, brother and true SF Giant at heart! If you knew him ‘You loved him.’ He would make you laugh and at the same time he loved his kids!! RIP, my heart will always love you, Sheik.”
A life on the diamond
Although he made his home in California, Sadek was from Minnesota. San Francisco originally drafted Sadek in 1966, but he decided to return to the University of Minnesota. He was later drafted by the Minnesota Twins, but the Giants picked him up in late 1969 in the Rule 5 draft.
Once he was a member of the Giants’ organization, Sadek spent time in the minor leagues and made stops in Phoenix and Amarillo before making his major league debut in 1973. Sadek went back and forth between San Francisco and Phoenix between 1973 and 1975. In 1976, he made the roster and stayed on the team until he retired from playing following the 1981 season.
“He never thought he’d get to the big leagues,” said Sadek’s son, who is also named Mike. “He was going to play the game for the love of the game as long as he could. If he was a lifetime minor leaguer and played until his knees were gone, he’d do it. But he had such drive and determination and a passion for the game.”
Not being an everyday player allowed Sadek plenty of time to sit in the dugout and talk with teammates. Those conversations could cover any number of topics. One of those teammates Sadek talked with was pitcher John D’Acquisto.
“It was mostly not about baseball, that’s for darn sure,” laughed D’Acquisto. “We would just talk about life in general. We were always talking about what we were going to do on the road trips and where we were going to go and where we were going to hang out. Then, we’d be watching the game, and he’d ask, ‘What would you have thrown there?’ And he made me think and he taught me a lot.”
Sadek was behind the dish on Sept. 2, 1973, which happened to be D’Acquisto’s first day in the major leagues. Although Sadek wasn’t a full-time catcher, D’Acquisto felt comfortable with him on the receiving end of his pitches.
“His skills were extraordinary,” D’Acquisto said. “His arm was above average. He had a really strong throwing arm. The ball never dipped down; it was always a straight shot from home to second. He had a very quick release. He blocked balls like there was no tomorrow. He could run, and he called a great game.”
The life of a professional baseball player means spending copious amounts of time away from the home. Mike was just a young child during his father’s playing days and didn’t look at him as a baseball player. Rather, he was just dad.
“He retired when I was 10,” Mike said. “Up until that point, baseball was his job and was what took him away from me for weeks at a time. I didn’t truly gain a true appreciation for the game until he retired and I was able to learn from him side-by-side as fellow fans. But he always came back from road trips with a suitcase full of toys. Even when he was on road trips, he was talking to me every day.”
Sadek retired from playing in 1981, but days with the Giants were far from over.
A new role
For Sadek’s entire major league career, Candlestick Park in San Francisco was his home. After retiring in 1981, Sadek hung up the uniform, but the ’Stick remained his place of business. Shortly after retiring, Sadek joined the Giants’ community relations department and remained with the organization until 1999.
Mike may have not have been old enough to fully enjoy what his father did on the diamond, but he got a whole new perspective and love for baseball when his dad started working behind the scenes.
“It was all the perks and advantages of being part of the Giants’ family, without my dad leaving for weeks at a time,” Mike said.
Some of those advantages were being able to interact with players in the clubhouse or in the dugout. When he was older, Mike would drive to Candlestick to watch games and hang out with his dad when he was working. They were also able to collect autographs and not just from baseball players. At one time, the Sadeks had baseballs signed by former presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, along with Pope John Paul II. They tried to get Queen Elizabeth’s autograph, but struck out.
Although Sadek was still working for the Giants, the money wasn’t quite the same as it was as a player. And as a single father who had full custody of his two children, Sadek did whatever he could to make sure his children were comfortable. From having a paper route in the morning, to working a regular 9-5 at Candlestick, to making cold calls for the Salvation Army in the evening, Sadek always stayed busy.
“He did whatever he had to do to put food on the table for my sister and me,” Mike said.
While working behind the scenes for the Giants, Sadek got the opportunity to be in front of a camera and put on the silver screen. He took on the role as Robert De Niro’s body double in the 1996 movie “The Fan.” Sadek filled in for De Niro in scenes when De Niro’s character had to throw a baseball.
Sadek stayed with the Giants until 1999. That was the year the organization said goodbye to Candlestick Park and got ready to move into its current home, Oracle Park (which was Pacific Bell Park in 2000). Sadek decided to retire with Candlestick and thus, after 32 years, ended his baseball career.
“From the time he was drafted in 1967 by the Twins, until 1999 and his last day as a Giants’ employee, we are talking about 32 years of being all-out for baseball,” Mike said. “I don’t know what else he would have done with his life workwise if baseball wasn’t there.”
Moving to the mountains
Life changed drastically for Sadek once the calendar changed from 1999 to 2000. He was no longer working with the Giants and was trying to adapt to a life without baseball. But in 2000, his world forever changed when his daughter, Nicole, died in an accident in Lodi.
Following the death of Nicole, Sadek moved to Calaveras County and called Mountain Ranch his new home. He remained in Calaveras County until his death.
“When my sister died, that was his impetus to buy a house in Mountain Ranch and get away from the rat race and everyone,” Mike said.
As expected, the loss of his daughter weighed heavily on Sadek. For years he had trouble coping, but light once again shone in his life when, in 2006, his first grandson, Jackson, was born.
“There were some pretty dark times after losing his daughter in 2000,” Mike said. “Between 2000 and 2006, he’s living in the mountains, is introverted, has long hair and kind of looks like the Unabomber. He was just keeping to himself. And once my oldest was born, that was a resurrection for him.”
With the birth of his grandson, and then two more later down the road, the smile returned to Sadek. But for those in the Calaveras County community, it was rare to see Sadek be anything but happy and friendly. The Calaveras County lifestyle fit Sadek like an old glove.
“He liked it up there,” Mike said. “He had friends and nicknames for all the workers at Senders. Being in the public eye for as long as he was, he knew how to turn that switch on and be very personable and open. That goes back to making other people feel good. He was able to turn that on and be the friendly guy. I think he enjoyed Mountain Ranch because he had his privacy and wasn’t bothered too much for a couple of decades. But he knew when public eyes were on him and if someone was wanting to talk baseball or be friendly, he wouldn’t keep to himself at that point.”
Rounding third and heading home
Sadek called Calaveras County home for nearly two decades. However, as time went on, his health started to deteriorate. The catcher who would never quit on his body, eventually had his body start to quit on him.
With his health worsening, in early January Sadek moved into Foothill Village in Angels Camp. He was only able to stay there a short amount of time before he needed more intense medical care. But while he was there, he still did what he could to make others happy, which included being wheeled over to meet with an old Giants’ fan who was also in tough shape.
“He was selfless,” Mike said. “He’s always looking to help others without ever wanting anyone to bother themselves to help him in any way. He’s very stubborn in that regard. He really just wanted to make someone else smile or laugh or just feel good.”
When Sadek died, the news of losing his former teammate hit D’Acquisto hard.
“I cried,” D’Acquisto said. “I’ve been talking to Mike a lot lately and talking about old times. He told me he wasn’t doing real good, but that he was OK. You kinda get a feeling when guys start reaching out to teammates that something may be wrong. So, there was that reach out and it’s hard to take sometimes. He was really a friend. He really did a good job of making me smile and that kind of friendship lasts a long time. Even after 50 years, we were still reaching out to each other and talking.”
Sadek will be buried next to his daughter and his headstone is going to let the world know of the three things he loved being the most: dad, grandpa, teammate.
“To me, he’s the best dad ever,” Mike said. “He’s always going to be remembered as dad. But I know that being a grandpa was big to him. Everything that he did, he did for his kids and by extension, his grandkids. He’s a former major leaguer and a great teammate, but it starts with being dad.”
Sadek is survived by his son, Mike; daughter-in-law, Melanie; and grandchildren, Jackson, Nicholas and Maxwell. Sadek was preceded in death by his daughter, Nicole.