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03/22/06 8:26 PM ET

'The chicken runs at midnight'

New coach Donnelly reflects on daughter's impact

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Rich Donnelly got the call 14 Spring Trainings ago. It was 17-year-old daughter Amy.

"Dad, I've got to tell you," she said. "I have a brain tumor. I'm sorry."

"Can you imagine?" Donnelly said. "She was apologizing."

Spring Trainings haven't been the same for Donnelly, entering his 25th season as a Major League coach but debuting in the third-base box for the Dodgers.

Yet, the dawning of another season also allows Donnelly to share the crowning achievement of his baseball career, the 1997 World Series win by the Florida Marlins, and the part he feels that Amy played.

The touching story became a television special aired on the Lifetime network and Donnelly had it replayed during a clubhouse meeting earlier this spring.

Watching the 59-year-old Donnelly coach third base, you'll notice he cups his hands around his mouth as he shouts instructions to runners at second base.

"We're driving in the car in Pittsburgh during the playoffs in 1992 and Amy leans forward from the back seat and asks, 'Dad, what are you telling them? That the chicken runs at midnight, or what?'" recalled Donnelly.

"I don't know where she came up with that. But we had an infielder back then, Jose Lind, and he didn't speak much English. But that line just sort of stuck with me and when I saw Jose, I told him, 'The chicken runs at midnight.'

"He says, 'OK, good.' And he starts repeating it in the dugout and, pretty soon, everybody's chanting it, even though nobody knows what it means. And from then on, those five words became a family motto."

The Pirates lost that series. Three months later, the Donnelly family lost Amy.

"You never think you're going to have to say goodbye to your little girl," said Donnelly. "But we put those words on her tombstone and every time I see it, I chuckle."

Five years later, Donnelly had followed Jim Leyland to the Florida Marlins, a Wild Card team locked in one of the tightest World Series ever. Game 7, two outs in the bottom of the 11th with the Marlins and Cleveland tied.

"We've got Craig Counsell on third base and Edgar Renteria up. Now Counsell, he has the funny batting stance with his elbow up high. My kids always called him 'Chicken Wing.' Well, Renteria singles up the middle and Counsell scores and it's madness. I'm jumping 12 feet in the air. We've won the World Series.

"My sons Tim and Mike, they were bat boys. And Tim comes running toward me and yells at me to look at the clock. It was 12 midnight.

" 'The chicken ran at midnight, Dad,' " he says to me.

"Oh my God," I said. "I was just stunned. Every emotion in my body went limp. Amy knew how much it would mean to me to win a World Series. She had to be there with me, no doubt in my mind. I wanted to call her and tell her the chicken ran at midnight."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.