Alvin Dark was fired by owner Charles O. Finley in 1967 and here he was taking his grief, again, in 1974. The Oakland ball-club had just lost to the Sox, 3-2, and Charlie O. was throwing a tantrum of epic proportion in the manger’s office. Dark knew that the players had heard some of the one-sided conversation and hoped that his embarrassment would light a fire under their asses.
“I’m playing to win!” screamed Charlie, veins protruding from his neck and eyes popped out as if he was being squeezed by an anaconda. This was, after all, the jungle.
“If you don’t start playing aggressive baseball I’ll kick your fucking ass out of here!” “We won the World Series two years in a row without you and we can win again without you!”
Al understood what was going on– Charlie was from Chicago and hated losing to the Sox more than getting a root canal or a coat that wasn’t plaid. Dark was a Christian so he didn’t raise his voice or even curse. He just sat there, eyes staring directly ahead in an omnipresent out-of-body experience that lasted about 30 seconds until he snapped out of it.
“We’re not wrestling with the mysteries of the universe here, Charlie, it’s just a goddamn….”
Dark stopped himself in mid-sentence and privately scolded himself for the blaspheme.
Mr. Alvin Dark walked the parking lot of the Coliseum alone, the primordial universe spread before him. He slowly lowered himself into a green ’74 Mercury Cougar and started flipping through radio stations with impunity. Thoughts began to develop and unfold as he forgave Charlie for his paradigm of curmudgeon behavior. The song “Thankful for what you’ve got” poured out of the speakers as Dark thought, ” It’s not that the celebration becomes less fun as we get older, it’s more purposeful. Our intentions adjust with the weight of responsibilities and existential dread….and the slow erosion of joint cartilage.”
Dark put key to ignition and foot to pedal as he drove away, leaving an empty parking lot…and the primordial stars to themselves.
I’m smoking a cigarette; a Camel non filter– the tiny object representing American ingenuity by the label being printed on the lit end. The Viet-Cong couldn’t identify the U.S. onslaught by a simple identification…blown away in the stressed out breeze.
Spring training is boring.
Cut and dry. I’d rather give a shout out to fellow bloggers that I enjoy:
1. Let’s start at the beginning- you were drafted by the Cleveland Indians but opted to go to Arizona St. instead. What prompted this decision?
I had a great high school senior season; but I only had three college scholarship offers – ASU, USC, and UCLA. UCLA didn’t have a very good program, but I really enjoyed meeting assistant coach Glen Mickens (who is now retired in Hawaii keeping baseball score books). I almost signed with USC, but I had sent a letter to Bobby Winkles (later the A’s manager in 77), who had assistant coach Fred Nelson do some research on me, and they offered me a full ride. I had read the Sports Illustrated article in 1967 about the ASU national championship and knew that’s where I wanted to go.
The Dodgers had called and spoke with my mom the week before the draft and told her if I’m still available by their first pick (20th) they’ll take me; but their Florida scout convinced them to pick Rick Rhoden.
Before the draft the sports editor of our school paper asked me who I’d like to be drafted by, and my reply was, “Anyone but the Braves and Indians.” Both were terrible at the time. The day of the draft I was in chemistry class when I good friend peeked through the door window signaling two fingers for the second round and mimicking four fingers over her mouth, the Woo-Woo. My heart sank – a double-whammy of not being in the first round, and by Cleveland. When their scout called to want to meet with me I told him don’t bother, I was going to college. But he came to visit and they offered me $20,000. and $8,000. for college; a joke. My third/last season at ASU my foot got cut very badly and I didn’t have my high velocity, so the Rangers picked me in the 16th round (I think 356). But Harley Anderson, their scout, had watched me for five years and knew I would get better. I signed for $15,000. plus $7,500. incentive. My foot healed, I pitched great at AA Pittsfield and got it all a year later.
2. You made your ML debut with the Texas Rangers in 1975… with the first batter faced being future HOFer Rod Carew. Can you take us through the gamut of emotions you must have been feeling?
I remember it very vividly; opening night at home, 28,000 at Arlington Stadium; my dad flew in from L.A. (it was near his birthday). We were losing 7-1 with one out and a runner on first in the seventh. Naturally I was quite nervous. I went into my stretch position and my left knee wouldn’t stop shaking (I thought sure I’d get a balk call). First pitch, perfect curve right on the corner, but the ump (Bill Haller) calls it a ball. Second pitch, exact same thing… right on the corner, ball two. I’m thinking this is a tough league and if they’re not going to call those pitches strikes than I’ve got no chance. The standard nickname for a curve was “Uncle Charlie” (I don’t know why). Mine was so good that Dave Nelson called mine “Lord Charles”. And Earl Weaver told me at a formal spring event in 81 that Steve Stone, and Blyleven and I had the 3 best in the AL. I would have added Tanana’s curve. Bert’s was the best I ever saw… it would break twice! Tanana made the best transition I ever saw. Throwing across his body so much, it was clear to me his arm would blow out sooner than later, but when it did he learned the discipline to keep it low and change speeds quite well – I wish I was that smart. Anyhow, I throw a fastball inside at the belt and Carew grounds to second for a force-out. Two out, Lyman Bostock is at the plate. I throw the same three pitches – two great curves on the corner that were called balls, and a fastball at the hands for a grounder to second. Inning over, and I get a loud standing ovation as I’m trotting off the field. P.S. – Carew was 3-for-22 and ended up not playing against me.
….And did you have much of a relationship with manager Billy Martin?
Managers don’t usually have close relationships with players – it’s tough to fire/trade/release friends.
Billy was a genius on the field and a maniac off. I recall a few times coming to the clubhouse early and he’d be on the training table with 3 or 4 ice packs on him. Standard Napoleon complex with some momma’s boy/Italian tough guy blended in. But Billy was not afraid of using rookies – Sundberg and Hargrove were prime examples. Our first spring games of 75 we flew to Mexico City to play their two best teams. Opening night I relieved to start the 5th or 6th inning and struck out the first four batters I faced and got the next two out. I had a great spring – 16 innings, 16 K’s, 4 walks. A left-hander with control??? Uh oh, look out. But Ken Holtzman made it look the easiest – 5 or 6 curves, 70-80 tailing fastballs away – the ultimate “pitch to centerfield”. Doubt he ever broke a sweat. Too bad he retired early because of too much travel. Speaking of sweat… one night game in august 76 in Arlington, I lost 14 pounds in two hours, changed my undershirt three times. Right after the season ended, I took a hot date to an all-you-eat high-class steak place in Dallas and ate salad, bread, baked potato, and 6+ t-bones. I only stopped because it was getting late.
But the worst manager I played for was Billy Hunter in 78. My 77 season was awful, but I worked hard that winter lifting weights and drinking protein shakes and came to camp ready to impress. Corbett noticed and he and Hunter made a $100. bet – Corbett that I would make the team, and Hunter (the manager who makes that decision) that I wouldn’t! Opening game at Ft. Lauderdale against the Yankees, I was clocked at 93, and I blew away their starting lineup (Reggie, Rivers, Munson, White, Piniella) for three innings. I continued to have a great spring, and made the team.
3. You were traded to Oakland prior to the 1977 season…did you have any contact with Charlie Finley during this time? What was your experience like in an Athletics uniform and how did you feel when they sent you to the minors that very same season…was it due to battling injuries?
Before I answer I want to state that it was clear to see there were many young talented guys – Mitchell Paige, Wayne Gross, Rob Picciolo, Rick Langford, Mike Norris, Bob Lacey. One of the coolest experiences I ever had was with Richie Allen one Sunday morning sitting in the dugout – he was in a 3-piece suit and talking about his mom. I always remembered him from a quote in the late 60’s, that he loved playing, he just wished the stadium seats were empty. I had strained my elbow tendon at Royals Stadium in May of 76, and it wasn’t fully healed. And unknowingly I had a serious case of depression.
Charlie traded for me because I pitched a great game (losing 1-0 in 11 innings) one night in June 76 in Chicago on local TV. Spring of 77 I was not at my best and there were “trade winds” in the air. I had not signed my contract yet and AL Pres. Lee McPhail came to Pompano to speak with me for some odd reason. Understand that free agency was created in July 76 (I was at the meeting in Philly), I signed that spring for four years and a lot of money, and I invented the bonus money for being traded clause, and two months later received $25,000. Turns out, I was a rent-a-player, Charlie and Brad Corbett had pre-arranged that the Rangers would get me back after the season. I had some discussion with the players association as to whether I should get another 25k for being sold back to Texas, and contractually I probably could have won, but I didn’t want to rock the boat, so we didn’t proceed in that direction. It’s a great game, it’s a tough business.
4. You were involved in the longest professional baseball game (33 innings) in which you pitched 10 scoreless. Can you take the readers through the madness a bit and explain the emotional ups and downs you must have had over those 2 days?
Craziest night ever – full moon, cold wind blowing in from left, scheduled to start at 7:30 but a problem with the lights delays until 8:00. The mound was chewed up, so I pitched all 10 innings out of a stretch, and I had great stuff. I’m nocturnal, so coming into the game at 2am was right up my alley. Two hours and eight minutes later, ten more innings passed and the umps finally said let’s suspend the game (we had a 1pm game 9 hours later). Dave Huppert caught the first 31 innings! (go try squatting for almost eight hours!) In 2006 the Pawtucket club held a 25 year reunion – with limos, nice hotel, big luncheon (with a PowerPoint showing pictures and music from 1981), and a game where they introduced us on the field by positions.
5. Finally… what was life like for Jim Umbarger after baseball? Aren’t you a bit of a golf nut?
Yes, very much so; though the appropriate term may be fanatic or addict. I’ve played in over 400 charity celebrity tourneys (the best were hosted by Frank Quilici in Minneapolis). Next year will be our 30th annual tourney here in Phoenix that Lou Klimchock and I initiated way back when. I was fortunate enough to eventually get real with myself and achieved the steps to becoming a full-time teaching professional. And in 2009-10 I wrote a 280-page book about some of the horrible golf instruction that is prevalent. In 2013 I wrote a 150-page autobiography (just for my own amusement).
In case any of the readers have ever wondered why so many pitchers are drawn to playing golf, here’s my take. Baseball is great, pitching is great. But pitchers are frustrated from depending on the defense and offense and umpires and managers to determine their fate. Golf is a game of personal responsibility, each shot and each score is up to the individual, which pitchers enjoy.
In 2014 I watched a lot of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (and Geoff).This next take is from him and doesn’t apply to the readers who have made it this far, but in case they have any friends who have a short attention span, here’s some recommended readings… Of Mouse and Man, Five Shades of Grey, A Tale of One City, and my personal favorite – The Grape of Wrath.
Former MLB guys on the Arizona alumni committee who put some effort into our annual golf tourney – Ethan Blackaby, Cisco Carlos, Jack Heidemann, aforementioned Lou Klimchock, Leon Brown, Kevin Kobel, Ken Rudolph, Bart Zeller.
Nowadays, retired and having turned 62, my life is all about Maggie, my 16+ yo Australian herder collie, the smartest, most sensible, loving, quickest, best being I have ever known. I play some celeb tourneys, watch a ton of true life crime shows, and yell at the stupid politicians. To keep my mind sharp I solve expert level Sudoku.
A major highlight of my life I will excerpt from my personal autobiography. “The highest compliment I have ever received occurred in late-May that year. For you baseball fans, pay attention here; if you are not a baseball fan, you may skip the rest of this paragraph. In 1970 and 71, I was a very good high school baseball pitcher. During my senior year in 71, I had the honor of Casey Stengel coming to watch me pitch three different games. I happened to pitch well those games (and most of the others), and I was usually informed afterwards that Casey was there in attendance. Unfortunately, my team, the U. S. Grant High School Lancers (in Van Nuys, California), lost our semi-final playoff game in the Los Angeles City playoffs in mid-May. At the time, I was being recruited to play college baseball at UCLA and USC (Southern Cal for you southerners). I attended the championship game that was being played at Dodger Stadium and during the third inning, my date, Kathy Brigham, and I started walking up the aisle to visit the concession stand. As it turned out, Justin Dedeaux and Casey were sitting a few rows higher up from where we were sitting. Justin was the USC recruiter and had been contacting me to play for them. So Justin sees me and says, “Hi Jim, there’s someone here I’d like you to meet. Jim, this is Casey Stengel. Casey, this is Jim Umbarger. Casey, we’ve been talking with Jim about playing for USC and we think he’s going to be a fine pitcher someday”. Casey’s simple and immediate response was, “He already is.” I was flabbergasted then, and I still am today. When Casey died in October 1975, I cried. And nothing anyone has ever said, or will ever say to me, could top Casey’s off-the-cuff, from the heart, comment. Thank you “Ol’ Perfessor”. I have cried a few times at different times of my life at the wonderful compliment and memory from a great guy.”
Mark Ellis quietly retired last week as one of the best defensive second baseman of all time. (5th best all time fielding percentage.) Mark not only was a solid player on both sides of the ball, but he was refreshing as a stoic gamer in an era of clowns and sideshow men who hang on because of beards, salaries, tattoos, bobble heads and other assorted bric-a-brac. Mark was a real throw-back with a refreshing demeanor…play the game well without the nonsense.
I first encountered Mark in 2001. I was living in Sacramento at the time and the AAA River Cats were brand-spanking-new and the talk of the town. I, being a Oakland fan, thought I was dreaming as I lived mere blocks from their newly opened ballpark. I would walk or bike to the games after work more often than not with my girlfriend at the time, and he was one of our favorite players.
One of my favorite ballpark moments happened with Ellis–a simple moment, yet mere months before he was traded and never to be seen in an Athletics uniform again. It was Opening Day 2011 at the Coliseum. My girlfriend and I had long since taken separate paths…and I was by the dugout when I saw Mark and gave him but he sharpest nod as I threw him a baseball with all the zeal I could from 30 feet away. He caught it with one hand, signed it, and as fast as he has received it he fired it back to me as I caught it with one hand as well in a quickly forgotten moment of Zen mastery. The triangle was complete.
It’s easy to choose your baseball heroes…yet sometimes the universe chooses them for you in an act of randomness, justification, existentialism, stupefied vocation or something unspoken and equally nonsensical. Mine just happened to be one of the greatest second baseman of all time.
Most of the Athletics sights in internet-land played the typical baseball writing game of follow the leader and were frothing at the mouth at the signing of Barry Zito. We here at the ‘Fro, however, felt a keen sense of bafflement and confusion. Zito, A) didn’t play last year and B) had ERA’s of 4.03, 4.15, 5.87, 4.15 and 5.74 his last 5 seasons. To put it bluntly–he sucked.
And as much as we admire Charlie O. Finley and Bill Veeck for their “circus like” candor, I just didn’t see Billy Beane, the paradigm of rational thought, as nostalgic, a clown-enabler or the type to give into Zito’s sense of entitlement to waste a Spring Training spot that a young player could desperately need to further his career. Zito, although once an Athletic, had erased any positive emotion from my mind when he signed with the Giants–all but stoking provincial animosities and spitting in Oakland’s face. Due to popular belief, emotions still exist in baseball, although the numbers-crunchers would tell you otherwise. They try to rationalize the signing with “low risk-medium return” hyperbole to the point of vomit inducing fervor, all but erasing the “gut feeling” that made Earl Weaver so successful. Perhaps the Athletics would have been better off using the 1 million they gave Zito to hire some people who actually NEEDED the money to help promote and to get “fringe fans” to buy tickets. It is common knowledge that their promotional representation in the Bay Area is a mockery to the fan base that is consistently criticized in the media for lack of support….
Jason Giambi retired, finally ending his reign as a PED user, MVP, lovable lug, Yankee, douchbag, party boy, laughing stock of New York and finally, grizzled, useless DH. (The above sentence bringing to light Tina Turner’s “We don’t need another hero” in my synapse hell.) Oddly enough, Giambi was quoted as saying, “I’ve done everything I can in my career.” Touche, Jason. In the end Giambi was seen as sort of a rascal despite his Yankee short-comings…and I’ve always had a soft spot for rascals…what would life be without them? Now Giambi can finally experience what other baseball retirees had to go through– the life of an Average (albeit wealthy) Joe, where no one knows who you are and no one cares until you show up at a fan-fest or baseball card show in a lonely, trash strewn strip mall. Good luck, Jason.
Charles O. Finley. Genius. Rabble-Rouser. Inventor. Millionaire. Cheapskate. Many things have been said about the man who was the principal owner of the Oakland Athletics during their World Series championships of 1972, 1973 and 1974, yet one thing is missing in this man’s resume– The Hall of Fame.
Dad’s goal was to work in the Texas State Dept. of Education.
Regarding Charlie’s 1975 TIME magazine cover shoot–
7.) What mistake was made on the 1974 World Series trophy?
Bruce Robinson only had 84 at bats as an Oakland Athletic, but what he has given to the game and life in general is something that you can’t find on the back of a bubblegum card. Baseball gives you a direct path into the formlessness of being and an entry point into the chaotic structures of the universe, but it also brings you more humanistic qualities like laughter, friendships and passion…
1.Let’s start at the beginning. You grew up in La Jolla, a quiet, beachfront San Diego suburb. How did you get interested in playing baseball and were you a Padres fan? (I believe they were a PCL team back then.)
I WAS BORN IN LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA INTO A FAMILY OF BASEBALL LOVERS. MY TWO OLDER BROTHERS, SKIP AND DAVE ARE 10 AND 8 YEARS OLDER THAN ME. THEY WERE PLAYING ON A CHAMPIONSHIP LITTLE LEAGUE TEAM BY THE TIME I THREW A BALL THROUGH OUR LIVING ROOM WINDOW FROM MY CRIB AT AGE TWO. SUFFICE TO SAY, I WAS AT QUITE A FEW BASEBALL GAMES BY THE TIME I WAS 4 WHEN I STARTED TAKING GROUND BALLS WITH MY BROTHER’S TEAMS.
MY DAD PLAYED SUMMER BASEBALL IN MINNESOTA UNTIL HE WENT TO COLLEGE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA. IT WAS MY DAD WHO INTRODUCED THE SPORT TO MY BROTHERS AND ME. MY MIDDLE BROTHER, DAVE, WAS, AND STILL IS, AN AMAZING ATHLETE. HE PLAYED FOR THE SAN DIEGO PADRES AND EVEN HIT A HOME RUN OFF HALL OF FAMER JUAN MARICHAL. HE WAS RECRUITED TO PLAY QUARTERBACK AT SAN DIEGO STATE BY COACHING LEGEND, DON CORYELL. HE SET AGE GROUP WORLD RECORDS IN THE DECATHLON, AND AT AGE 37 ALMOST QUALIFIED FOR THE OLYMPIC TRIALS IN THE DECATHLON. HE WAS RUNNING A SUB 3 HOUR MARATHON, 11 SECOND 100 YD DASH, POLE VAULTING 15 FEET…….INCREDIBLE………STILL LOOKS LIKE HE IS A BUFF 25 YR OLD FROM THE NECK DOWN……AT AGE 68!
I WAS NEVER A REAL FAN OF ANY MAJOR LEAGUE TEAM GROWING UP, EXCEPT POSSIBLY THE REDS AND THAT WOULD BE DUE TO JOHNNY BENCH! I STILL REMEMBER THE SPORTS ILLUSTRATED COVER WITH BENCH HOLDING 7 BASEBALLS IN ONE OF HIS LARGE HANDS. AS FOR THE PCL PADRES, YES, I DID FOLLOW THEM AND ATTEND SOME OF THEIR GAMES AT WESTGATE PARK IN MISSION VALLEY, NOW THE SITE OF THE FASHION VALLEY SHOPPING MALL.
I PLAYED LITTLE LEAGUE (8-12), PONY LEAGUE (13-14), COLT LEAGUE (15-16), AMERICAN LEGION (15-16-17) AND HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL AT LA JOLLA HIGH. AFTER HIGH SCHOOL, I HEADED NORTH TO ALASKA TO PLAY FOR THE BEST AMATEUR BASEBALL PROGRAM IN HISTORY, THE FAIRBANKS ALASKA GOLDPANNERS:
http://www.goldpanners.com/ (CHECK OUT THE GOLDPANNER WEB SITE……..PRETTY AMAZING WHAT THE PROGRAM HAS ACCOMPLISHED UNDER GENERAL MGR DON DENNIS!
THE GOLDPANNERS HAVE PLACED OVER 200 OF THEIR PLAYERS INTO THE MAJOR LEAGUES. GOLDPANNERS HAVE BEEN DRAFTED IN THE 1ST ROUND OF THE MAJOR LEAGUE DRAFT 125 TIMES. 19 TIMES GOLDPANERS HAVE BEEN SELECTED WITH THE FIRST OR SECOND CHOICE IN THE MAJOR LEAGUE DRAFT…….RICK MONDAY, TOM SEAVER, DAVE WINFIELD, BOB BOONE, BARRY BONDS, JASON GIAMBI……….THE LIST GOES ON AND ON AND EVEN INCLUDES 4 YEAR GOLDPANNER…….ME! LOL! THOSE STATS I JUST MENTIONED ARE PROBABLY EVEN BETTER THAN I STATED! WHAT A GREAT EXPERIENCE! THE PLAYERS LIVED WITH FAMILIES IN THE FAIRBANKS COMMUNITY, HAD JOBS DURING THE DAYTIME AND PLAYED BASEBALL IN FAIRBANKS FOR ABOUT 7 WEEKS DURING THE SUMMER AGAINST TEAMS FROM ANCHORAGE, KENAI AND FROM THE “OUTSIDE” (WHAT THE LOWER 48 STATES ARE REFERRED TO AS).
THERE ARE GOLDPANNER TEAMS THAT HAVE HAD 10 PLAYERS GET TO THE MAJOR LEAGUES. I PLAYED ON TWO OF THEM. I WAS FORTUNATE TO HAVE BEEN A PART OF 3 STRAIGHT NBC (NATIONAL BASEBALL CONGRESS) CHAMPIONSHIPS IN WICHITA, KANSAS. WICHITA WAS THE CULIMINATION OF SUMMER AMATEUR BASEBALL. WE WON IN 1972-73-74. GET THIS, MY SON, SCOTT (NOW 31 AND A FORMER 8 YEAR PRO PLAYER) WENT TO FAIRBANKS AFTER HIS JUNIOR YEAR IN HIGH SCHOOL. I BELIEVE HE IS THE FIRST TO HAVE DONE SO. HE WENT BACK TO FAIRBANKS AFTER HIS SENIOR YEAR, WHEN HE COULDN’T COME TO AGREEMENT WITH THE HOUSTON ASTROS FOLLOWING THE 2002 BASEBALL DRAFT. HE PROCEDED TO LEAD THE TEAM IN HITTING, GET NAMED THE TEAM MVP AND WAS 2ND IN VOTING FOR LEAGUE MVP. SCOTT LED THE GOLDPANNERS TO THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP IN WICHITA IN 2002, 30 YEARS AFTER MY FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP! PRETTY COOL!
2. You were involved in a car accident with great closer and current Giants pitching coach Dave “Rags” Righetti that essentially ruined your career. (He needed reconstructive shoulder surgery) Can you talk a bit about the moments that lead to this life changing event?
FORTUNATELY, DAVE CAME AWAY FROM THE ACCIDENT UNINJURED. WE WERE ROOMMATES WITH THE YANKEES AAA TEAM IN COLUMBUS, OHIO (INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE) IN 1980. DAVE WAS PROBABLY 20 YRS OLD, DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO WRITE A CHECK, NOR TAKE REAL GOOD CARE OF HIMSELF. OF COURSE, HE OWES EVERYTHING TO ME!
DAVE AND I WERE RETURNING TO OUR COLUMBUS APARTMENT AFTER A NIGHT GAME. WE WERE STOPPED AT A SIGNALIZED INTERSECTION, IN A LEFT TURN LANE, WHEN A VEHICLE SLAMMED INTO THE REAR END OF MY CHEVY VAN. MY SEAT WAS BENT BACK TO A 45 DEGREE ANGLE BY THE FORCE OF THE IMPACT. DAVE’S SEAT REMAINED IN ITS PROPER VERTICAL POSITION, ALLOWING THE SEAT BELT AND SEAT TO DO THEIR JOBS PROPERLY. MY NECK, BACK AND SHOULDER WERE VERY SORE IN THE FOLLOWING DAYS.
MY THROWING ARM SLOWLY DETERIORATED TO THE POINT I WOULD WINCE WHEN THROWING. WE WERE ABOUT DONE WITH THE AAA SEASON AND ABOUT TO BE CALLED UP TO JOIN THE YANKEES FOR SEPTEMBER. THE YANKEES HAD A FEW CATCHERS AND WERE IN A PENNANT RACE IN 1980 UNDER MANAGER DICK HOWSER. HENCE, THE RECENTLY CALLED UP PLAYERS WOULDN’T SEE MUCH ACTION. I COULD GET AWAY WITH NOT TAKING INFIELD (EASIER TO DO TODAY SINCE TEAMS NO LONGER TAKE INFIELD PRACTICE BEFORE A GAME). I JUST WANTED TO GET THE SEASON OVER AND REST MY ARM……………I, INCORRECTLY, ASSUMED MY ARM WAS TIRED AND ONLY NEEDED THE OFF SEASON TO GET BACK TO FULL STRENGTH.
I HAD THE STARTING JOB IN 1981, ON A PLATOON BASIS, WITH RICK CERONE. THE PROBLEM WAS MY ARM NEVER GOT BETTER OVER THE WINTER. I WENT, UNKNOWN TO THE YANKEES, TO ORTHOPEDIC SPECIALISTS, AN ACUPUNCTURE DOCTOR, A DOCTOR OF OSTEOPATHY, MASSEURS………..ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING TO TRY AND GET MY ARM HEALED DURING THE OFF SEASON.
I WENT INTO SPRING TRAINING IN 1981 KNOWING MY ARM WAS INJURED. I COULDN’T SOAP UNDER MY ARM OR PUSH BUTTONS ON THE CAR RADIO WITHOUT A LOT OF PAIN, AND HERE I WAS TRYING TO PLAY BASEBALL AT ITS PINNACLE WITH NONE OTHER THAN THE NEW YORK YANKEES. I FAKED AND DODGED MY WAY THROUGH THE FIRST FEW WEEKS OF SPRING TRAINING. AFTER THE FIRST GAME OF SPRING TRAINING, AN AWAY GAME IN VERO BEACH AGAINST THE DODGERS, I SPOKE WITH MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER’S UNION SECOND IN COMMAND, DON FEHR. HE HAPPENED TO BE ATTENDING THE GAME AND HAD ADDRESSED OUR TEAM PRIOR TO THE GAME. I TOLD DON ABOUT MY ARM. HE ADVISED ME TO TELL THE YANKEES THAT DAY THAT I WAS HURT.
THOSE WORDS OF WISDOM FROM DON FEHR (WHO WENT ON TO REPLACE MARVIN MILLER AS THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE BASEBALL PLAYER’S UNION) WAS THE BEST ADVICE I COULD HAVE RECEIVED. I DID SO AND WAS PUT ON THE DISABLE LIST FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS, ALLOWING ME TO RECEIVE MY MAJOR LEAGUE SALARY.
THE YANKEES KEPT TRYING TO GET ME TO SAY I WAS OK WHEN I WASN’T. I REMEMBER TEAM DOCTOR AND ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON, DAN KANELL, TRYING REGULARLY TO GET ME TO PLAY. BY THE TIME THE REGULAR SEASON HAD STARTED, THE YANKEES WANTED ME TO SAY I WAS OK SO THEY COULD TAKE ME OFF THE MAJOR LEAGUE ROSTER. I WASN’T OKAY AND KANELL, THE YANKEES AND I KNEW IT. I STAYED BACK IN OUR SPRING TRAINING HEADQUARTERS IN FORT LAUDERDALE WHERE THE YANKEES CLASS A TEAM WAS LOCATED.
BECAUSE I WAS ON THE DISABLED LIST, THE YANKEES HAD TO EMPLOY A RETIRED CATCHER, JOHNNY OATES, AS THE BACKUP CATCHER TO CERONE. OWNER GEORGE STEINBRENNER WAS FURIOUS THAT I WAS HURT. THE YANKEES ACTED LIKE IT WAS MY FAULT AND WANTED TO BE HURT.
THE YANKEES WANTED ME TO PLAY A FEW GAMES WITH THE CLASS A FORT LAUDERDALE MINOR LEAGUE TEAM. I AGREED TO DO SO, BUT ONLY ON A REHABILITATION OPTION, TO SEE HOW MY INJURED SHOULDER WOULD REACT. BY BEING ON A REHABILITATION OPTION, THAT MEANT I WAS NOT AGREEING TO COME OFF THE MAJOR LEAGUE ROSTER BY PLAYING IN A MINOR LEAGUE GAME.
I WAS DH THE FIRST GAME OF A DOUBLEHEADER, HAD 3 HITS, HIT A HOMERUN AND FELT OKAY HITTING. I CAUGHT THE SECOND GAME OF THE DOUBLEHEADER IN FORT MYERS AND MY ARM WAS NO WHERE NEAR HEALED. IT WAS CLEARLY DAMAGED. I WANTED TO GO SEE FAMED DOCTORS KERLAN AND JOBE IN LOS ANGELES (OF TOMMY JOHN SURGERY FAME). THE YANKEES WOULDN’T LET ME GO WEST. BY THE CONTRACTUAL CONDITIONS OF THE BASIC AGREEMENT BETWEEN MLB AND THE PLAYER’S UNION, THE YANKEES WERE OBLIGATED TO PAY ONLY FOR ME TO GET A SECOND OPINION WITHIN THE REGION OF MY MAJOR LEAGUE TEAM. THAT MEANT THE EASTERN REGION.
ONE OF MY CHILDHOOD FRIENDS AND TEAMMATES HAD MARRIED DR. KERLAN’S DAUGHTER. I TOLD THE YANKEES I WOULD PAY MY OWN WAY TO SEE DR. KERLAN IN LOS ANGELES. THE YANKEES WANTED ME TO SEE THEIR DOCTOR IN NEW YORK. I SAID NO. THEY THEN SUGGESTED A DOCTOR IN PHILADELPHIA. I DIDN’T TRUST THEIR DOCTORS AFTER LISTENING TO THEIR FLORIDA DOCTOR, KANELL, KEEP TELLING ME I WAS HEALED. THE YANKEES RELENTED AND LET ME PAY MY OWN WAY TO LOS ANGELES.
WHEN I GOT TO DR. KERLAN’S OFFICE, THERE WAS A TELEGRAM WAITING FOR ME FROM THE GENERAL MANAGER OF THE YANKEES, CEDRIC TALLIS. THE TELEGRAM SAID I WAS TO BE EXAMINED BY DR. KERLAN AND EXPECTED TO BE BACK IN FORT LAUDERDALE WITHIN 24 HOURS. YOU SEE, THEY REALLY THOUGHT I WAS FAKING THE INJURY, COLLECTING MY MAJOR LEAGUE SALARY ($45,000……THE MINIMUM SALARY IN 1981 WAS $21,000!) AND HAVING A GOOD OLD TIME. THE YANKEES FRONT OFFICE WAS, SERIOUSLY, DILUSIONAL.
AFTER THE ARTHOGRAM RESULTS WERE REVIEWED, THE YANKEES AND I WERE BOTH TOLD BY DR. KERLAN, THAT I HAD A PROBLEM, AND THAT AN ARTHOSCOPY WAS NECESSARY TO DETERMINE THE EXTENT OF THE DAMAGE. AN ARTHOSCOPY IS A NON INVASIVE SURGERY THAT USES TWO SMALL HOLES TO INSERT A CAMERA INTO ONE HOLE AND TOOLS INTO THE OTHER HOLE. THAT IS HOW MANY SURGERIES ARE PERFORMED THESE DAYS, BUT IN 1981, ONLY DIAGNOSTIC RESULTS COULD BE ATTAINED IN THIS MANNER.
THE ARTHROSCOPY WAS SCHEDULED TWO WEEKS LATER. THE YANKEE BRASS WAS NOW REALLY MAD. THE YANKEES HAD TWO HURT CATCHERS AND THOUGHT I WAS FAKING MY INJURY. THE YANKEE FRONT OFFICE, READ GM TALLIS AND STEINBRENNER, HAD THE PROCEDURE MOVED UP TO TWO DAYS LATER INSTEAD OF TWO WEEKS LATER.
I HAD THE ARTHROSCOPY. IT WAS DETERMINED I HAD A FRACTURE IN MY SHOULDER JOINT, THE GLENOID, AND A LOT OF TISSUE DAMAGE, CAUSED BY PLAYING ON AN INJURED ARM. THE SURGERY WAS TO BE A POSTERIOR RECONSTRUCTION OF MY RIGHT SHOULDER, WITH A LARGE “T” STAPLE ALONG WITH REPAIR OF DAMAGE TO THE LABRUM. WE WERE IN MID TO LATE APRIL. THE SURGERY WAS SET FOR MAY 11, 1981.
WHEN THE YANKEES LEARNED THE EXTENT OF MY INJURIES, YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN THEIR 180 DEGREE REVERSAL. I RECEIVED A TELEGRAM FROM GENERAL MANAGER, CEDRIC TALLIS, SAYING HOW HAPPY THEY WERE THAT I HAD MADE THE DECISION TO COME TO LOS ANGELES (ON MY DIME) AND WERE SO SORRY ABOUT THE NATURE OF MY SHOULDER INJURY. WHEN I HAD THE SURGERY, THE YANKEES MADE CERTAIN I WAS IN A LARGE VIP, PRIVATE SUITE, MADE SURE MY WIFE HAD FLOWERS, STEAK AND LOBSTER, ETC, ETC. AMAZING HOW MUCH THEY NOW LIKED ME!
I MISSED THE 1981 AND 1982 SEASONS ON THE DISABLED LIST. I WENT TO SPRING TRAINING WITH THE AAA COLUMBUS TEAM IN 1983. THE YANKEES TRIED TO TRADE ME DURING SPRING TRAINING AND WERE CLOSE TO A TRADE WITH THE PITTSBURGH PIRATES BUT THAT FELL THROUGH BECAUSE THE PIRATES REALIZED THE YANKEES WOULD PROBABLY RELEASE ME. THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED AND THE PIRATES TURNED RIGHT AROUND AND SIGNED ME TO A CONTRACT TO PLAY IN………….DRUM ROLL,…….HONOLULU, HAWAII WITH THE PIRATES’ AAA TEAM IN THE PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE. NOT A BAD ASSIGNMENT FOR THE MINOR LEAGUES.
I PLAYED OKAY FOR NOT HAVING PLAYED SINCE SEPTEMBER 1980. IT WAS A FUN SEASON. I BECAME A FREE AGENT AFTER THAT SEASON AND SIGNED WITH THE OAKLAND A’S FOR THE 1984 SEASON. WHEN I SIGNED WITH THE A’S DURING THE OFF SEASON, IT APPEARED I WOULD HAVE A GOOD SHOT AT MAKING THE TEAM, IF NOT AS A STARTER OR PLATOON PLAYER, AS THE BACKUP CATCHER. THEY HAD ONLY MIKE HEATH TO RELY UPON AND HE WAS SURE TO BE INJURED, AS WAS HIS HISTORY.
THE PROBLEM WAS THAT THE A’S, SUBSEQUENT TO SIGNING ME, SIGNED VETERAN BACKUP CATCHER, JIM ESSIAN. THEY ALSO SIGNED DAVE KINGMAN, DAVEY LOPES, JEFF BURROGHS……….THAT MEANT WITH KINGMAN, LOPES AND BURROUGHS…..AGED VETERANS WHO REALLY COULD ONLY BE USED AS A DH, THERE WAS NO ROOM FOR 3 CATCHERS. HEATH AND ESSIAN HAD GUARANTEED CONTRACTS SO ROBINSON WAS……………OUT!
ALTHOUGH I WAS ONE OF THE TOP HITTERS IN BATTING AVERAGE THAT SPRING, THERE WAS NO ROOM FOR ME ON THE MAJOR LEAGUE ROSTER. I WAS SHIPPED OFF TO AAA TACOMA IN THE PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE FOR THE 1984 SEASON……….UNTIL MIKE HEATH WOULD GET HURT. I WAS ON MOMENT’S NOTICE AT ONE POINT FOR A FEW DAYS, BUT HEATH GOT BETTER. IF THE A’S CALLED ME UP, I HAD TO STAY THERE ALL YEAR. THEY DIDN’T WANT TO PULL ME UP WHEN HEATH WAS OUT A COUPLE GAMES…………I SHOULD HAVE PAID MIKE (HEATH) TO STAY HURT A FEW MORE DAYS! LOL
DURING THAT SEASON, I WAS APPROACHED BY THE A’S TO SEE IF I WAS OPEN TO STAYING ACTIVE, BUT RELOCATING TO THE A’S CLASS A TEAM IN MODESTO (WHERE I FIRST PLAYED IN 1975 AFTER BEING THE A’S 1ST ROUND DRAFT SELECTION OUT OF STANFORD UNIVERSITY FOLLOWING MY JUNIOR YEAR). THE A’S WANTED ME TO BE A PLAYER/COACH AND WORK WITH 2 PLAYERS, ONE YOUNG MAN WHO HAD TALENT, BUT WASN’T PERFORMING AND ANOTHER THAT WOULD BE JOINING THE MODESTO ROSTER AFTER PLAYING FOR OUR U.S. OLYMPIC TEAM……………..IT LOOKS LIKE I LED YOU RIGHT INTO YOUR NEXT QUESTION!
3. You had a coaching role in class A Modesto in 1984 where your specific task was to help a young Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco become the sluggers that they eventually became. Can you talk a bit about your approach with each one and give the readers a little insight as to their personalities?
JOSE WAS 19 YEARS OLD WHEN I JOINED THE TEAM DURING MID SUMMER OF 1984. I SEEM TO RECALL THAT A’S DIRECTOR OF MINOR LEAGUES, KARL KUEHL, SAID JOSE HAD LOST HIS MOM EARLIER THAT SUMMER. JOSE WAS UNDERPERFORMING…………STRUGGLING IS A BETTER WORD. JOSE WAS SOMEWHAT UNORTHODOX, IN MANY WAYS MUCH LIKE A HUNTER PENCE…………..BUT NOBODY CAN LOOK SO BAD AND GET SUCH GOOD RESULTS.
HUNTER IS JUST PLAIN UGLY TO WATCH, THROWING, HITTING, RUNNING, THE PANTS………..AND HE LOOKS LIKE MARTY FELDMAN………..BUT I’D PICK HIM #1 FOR MY TEAM. MY SON, WHO PLAYED 8 YEARS OF BASEBALL, WAS ON A TEAM WITH HIM IN THE MINOR LEAGUES. I ASKED SCOTT IF THERE WERE ANY MAJOR LEAGUE PROSPECTS ON HIS TEAM. HE SAID THERE WAS ONE PLAYER, HUNTER PENCE, BUT THAT HE WAS THE UGLIEST PLAYER HE HAD EVER SEEN. I COULDN’T EVEN CONCEIVE OF THE PENCE WE WATCH TODAY. HOW HE CAN MAKE UGLY AND WRONG WORK SO WELL IS SIMPLY ASTOUNDING…………
…….BACK TO JOSE CANSECO: JOSE HAD A GOOD ARM, IN FACT A VERY GOOD ARM, A “PLUS” ARM. ERRATIC, YES, BUT STRONG………NO DOUBT. I THINK JOSE WAS HITTING ABOUT .220 FOR MODESTO AT THE TIME I STARTED WORKING WITH HIM. HE WAS SO MESSED UP HITTING. WHEN HIS STRIDE FOOT HIT THE GROUND, THE END OF THE BARREL OF HIS BAT WOULD BE POINTED AT THE PITCHER. THAT IS NOT GOOD. I WOULD WORK WITH HIM, TAKING VIDEO AND THEN WATCHING THE VIDEO THE NEXT MORNING. WE GOT HIM TO A GOOD LAUNCHING POSITION WITH HIS HANDS AND HE STARTED GETTING SOME CONSISTENCY AND SOME BETTER RESULTS. HE WAS ABOUT 190 LBS, VERY SLENDER AT 6’ 3”. HE KEPT TELLING ME, OVER AND OVER, IT WASN’T THE POSITION OF HIS HANDS THAT WAS CAUSING HIS BATTING WOES, BUT INSTEAD THAT HE WAS TOO WEAK………..HE SAID HE HAD TO GET STRONGER………….HAD TO LIFT WEIGHTS…………HE WAS GOING TO LIFT WEIGHTS DURING THE OFF SEASON AND GET STRONGER. I TOLD JOSE, GETTING STRONGER WAS GREAT, BUT THAT HE WOULD NEVER HIT DOING WHAT HE HAD BEEN DOING WITH HIS HANDS.
JOSE WAS REALLY KIND OF FUNNY TO WORK WITH. HE WAS THE TYPE OF INDIVIDUAL YOU WOULD TELL SOMETHING AND THEN HE WOULD COME BACK THE NEXT DAY AND TELL ME THAT HE HAD FIGURED OUT SOMETHING TO HELP HIM………….ONLY IT WOULD BE WHAT I HAD BEEN TRYING TO DRILL INTO HIS HEAD.
I WILL SAY THIS ABOUT JOSE, HE WAS HONEST, POLITE AND RESPECTFUL. HE WAS RAISED PROPERLY BY HIS PARENTS. MAYBE NOT THE SHARPEST TOOL IN THE SHED, BUT HE TOLD THE TRUTH. AND THAT GOES FOR HIS STATEMENT THAT CAUSED SUCH FUROR ABOUT 80% OF PLAYERS BEING ON STEROIDS AT THAT TIME. HE WAS, ACTUALLY, PROBABLY A BIT LOW IN HIS ESTIMATION.
DID ANY OF US HAVE ANY CLUE THAT SKINNY JOSE WOULD BECOME ONE OF THE MOST FEARED HITTERS IN BASEBALL HISTORY? NOT A CHANCE……….BUT HE DID, BECOMING PART OF THE BASH BROTHERS WITH MARK MCGWIRE.
I GUESS THAT SEGUES NICELY INTO MY NEXT SUBJECT, SKINNY MARK MCGWIRE, SON OF A DENTIST, USC PITCHER TURNED HITTER. MARK CAME TO THE A’S VIA THE 1ST ROUND OF THE 1984 MAJOR LEAGUE DRAFT. MARK HAD A STELLAR BASEBALL CAREER AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SPOILED CHILDREN…….NO WAIT, THAT’S THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA! LOL (BEING A STANFORD GRAD, IT WOULD NOT BE RIGHT TO NOT TAKE A STAB AT THE TROJANS! ACTUALLY, HAD I NOT BEEN OFFERED A FULL RIDE TO STANFORD, I WOULD HAVE BEEN A TROJAN AT USC OR A SUNDEVIL AT ARIZONA STATE. THE STANFORD OFFER MADE IT EASY. I DIDN’T HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN THE TROJANS AND SUNDEVILS…………….
………….BACK TO MR. MCGWIRE. MARK SHOWED UP IN MODESTO AFTER THE OLYMPIC GAMES IN 1984 AT 6’5” AND ABOUT 190 LBS, THE SAME WEIGHT AS CANSECO, BUT TWO INCHES TALLER. HE WAS TIRED FROM THE USC SEASON, THE NUMEROUS GAMES AND TRAVEL LEADING UP TO THE OLYMPICS AND THEN THE OLYMPIC GAMES THEMSELVES. HIS BAT WAS SLOW. HE HAD TO MAKE THE SWITCH FROM AN ALUMINUM BAT TO THE WOOD BAT OF PRO BASEBALL. WOOD BATS ARE WEIGHTED DIFFERENTLY AND WEIGH MORE THAN ALUMINUM BATS. MARK WAS A VERY NICE YOUNG MAN, ALSO RAISED WELL BY HIS FOLKS. I ENJOYED SPENDING TIME WORKING WITH HIM AND MEETING HIS FIANCE, ALSO FROM USC.
WITH MARK, HIS SWING WAS SHORT, WHICH WAS GOOD. HE HAD SOME BALANCE ISSUES, AS I RECALL, SO WE WORKED ON THAT BY SPREADING HIM OUT A BIT. HE WAS PRETTY UPRIGHT AND TENDED TO PULL OFF THE BALL SOME. NOTHING TERRIBLE LIKE THE ISSUES WITH CANSECO. MCGWIRE WAS MUCH MORE POLISHED THAN JOSE AT THAT TIME, AND HE WAS ALSO 2 YEARS JOSE’S SENIOR AT 21.
DID ANY OF US HAVE A CLUE THAT SKINNY MARK WOULD BECOME ONE OF THE MOST FEARED HITTERS IN BASEBALL HISTORY? NOT A CHANCE……BUT I THOUGHT HE HAD A CHANCE TO BE A GOOD MAJOR LEAGUER. HE WAS JUST WORN OUT, PHYSICALLY WHEN HE WAS IN MODESTO. HE NEEDED TO GET STRONGER, STRONG ENOUGH TO ENDURE A PRO SEASON OF 140 GAMES IN THE MINORS AND 162 GAMES AT THE MAJOR LEAGUE LEVEL.
LITTLE DID I KNOW THAT FROM THE TIME OUR 1984 MODESTO A’S WON THE CLASS A CALIFORNIA LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP IN MID SEPTEMBER OF 1984, TO THE START OF SPRING TRAINING IN 1985, THAT MY TWO SKINNY HITTING PROJECTS WOULD BLOOM FROM 6’3”/190 LBS AND 6’5” 190 LBS TO BOTH WEIGHING IN AROUND 250 LBS…………..FROM OCT 1, 1984 TO MARCH 1, 1985. NOW THAT, MY FRIENDS IS SOME SERIOUS WEIGHT LIFTING AND GOOD NUTRITION! MY OH MY! LOL AND THE REST IS, AS THEY SAY, HISTORY.
4. Brian Kingman (ex Athletics pitcher) told me that you would have some stories of young baseball players on the road engaging in debauchery. Can you talk a bit about that without incriminating anyone? (specifically Brian!)
WE ALWAYS BEHAVED IN THE MOST EXEMPLARY FASHION, CHOIR BOYS, IF YOU WILL………………..WELL, THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE CASE IF IT WERE NOT FOR MY VERY CLOSE FRIEND AND FORMER TEAMMATE, BRIAN “DISNEYWORLD” KINGMAN (“DIZZ” TO ME). I HAVE A LOT OF BASEBALL STORIES THAT COULD KEEP ME TYPING FOR AN ENTIRE BOOK. I HAVE OFTEN THOUGHT I SHOULD WRITE A BOOK OF MY BEST STORIES, ALONG WITH THE BEST ONES OF MY TEAMMATES. THERE IS PLENTY OF MATERIAL FOR A CLEAN BUT HILARIOUS BOOK AND I GUESS WE COULD WRITE ONE THAT IS A BIT DISPARAGING, NO, A LOT DISPARAGING……………BUT JIM BOUTON BEAT US TO IT WITH “BALL FOUR” SO WHY GO THERE?
I WILL TELL YOU ONE KINGMAN STORY………..PROBABLY THE ONLY ONE THAT CANT SEND US TO JAIL………….AND THAT IS TAKING INTO ACCOUNT STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS! LOL
OK, DOUBLE A CHATTANOOGA………..13 HOUR BUS RIDE FROM CHATTANOOGA TO ORLANDO. WE LEAVE AFTER A SUNDAY DAY GAME FROM ENGLE STADIUM IN “NOOGA”. KINGMAN AND I HAD FASHIONED A PLYWOOD SHEET OF WOOD TO CONFORM TO THE CONTOUR OF THE BACK TWO ROWS OF SEATS ACROSS FROM THE BUS RESTROOM. WE GOT COMPLAINTS FROM OUR TEAMMATES BECAUSE WE WERE GETTING SPECIAL TREATMENT GETTING TO TAKE UP 2 ROWS (4 SEATS) FOR TWO PLAYERS. AND, THE “BED”, AS THE PLANK WAS CALLED, ALLOWED DIZZ AND I TO STRETCH OUT AND SLEEP, RATHER THAN BE FORCED TO TRY TO SLEEP UPRIGHT IN A BUS SEAT. (YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER THIS WAS 1976, THE BUSSES WERE REALLY AWFUL AND BEING WITH THE A’S MEANT THEY WERE EVEN WORSE THAN AWFUL BECAUSE OUR ORGANIZATION, OWNED BY FERVENT CHEAPSKATE, CHARLES O. FINLEY, WAS RIFE WITH THRIFTYNESS UP AND DOWN THE ENTIRE ORGANIZATION. IN FACT WE WERE SO NEEDY THAT OUR DIRECTOR OF MINOR LEAGUES WAS, SERIOUSLY, SID THRIFT! YOU CAN’T MAKE THAT STUFF UP!)………….BOTTOM LINE, THE OTHER PLAYERS WERE JEALOUS THEY HAD NOT THOUGHT OF “THE BED”……AND I HAD AN AILING LOWER BACK WHICH GAVE ME A REASON TO NEED TO STRETCH OUT…………..AND BEING THAT KINGMAN AND I WERE THE STARS (LOL), WE COULD GET AWAY WITH IT…………THAT’S JUST HOW IT IS………RIGHT? YEP!
CONTINUING…………WE HAVE TO STOP AND CHANGE BUSSES IN ATLANTA………GREAT, ALL LOADED UP WITH OUR PERSONAL STUFF, SUITCASES, BASEBALL BAGS, TEAM GEAR, TRAINER’S EQUIPMENT, WE HAVE TO STOP AND CHANGE BUSSES. WELCOME TO THE “ SID THRIFTY” OAKLAND A’S MINOR LEAGUES. WE GET THE GEAR SWAPPED OUT AND ARE GIVEN 1 HOUR TO GET SOMETHING TO EAT AND BE BACK ON THE BUS. SO IS THE EDICT FROM OUR MANAGER, RENE LACHEMAN (BY THE WAY….ONE OF MY FAVORITE PEOPLE ALL TIME IN PRO BASEBALL………..LACH WAS AND IS A GREAT GUY AND I AM STILL IN TOUCH WITH HIM AND ONE OF HIS SONS WHO WAS ABOUT 7 AT THE TIME). YOU SEE, WHAT LACH SAID WAS THE LAW. WHEN THE BUS LEAVES AT 7:30PM, THE BUS LEAVES AT 7:30PM. BE ON IT OR GET YOURSELF TO THE NEXT CITY, EVEN IF THE DOORS CLOSE AND YOU ARE STANDING OUTSIDE TALKING OR RUNNING TO IT IN PLAIN SIGHT WITH FOOD FALLING FROM YOUR GRASP. TOUGH LUCK CHIEF! LACH TAUGHT A FEW PLAYERS ABOUT THE MEANING AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE WORD, “PUNCTUALITY”.
CONTINUING……….WE HAVE ONE HOUR TO GET OUR FOOD AND BEVERAGES OF CHOICE. KINGMAN DECIDES HE SHOULD LEAD A GROUP OF US TO PEACHTREE PLAZA TO ASCEND THE NEW 80 STORY BUILDING. SOUNDS LIKE FUN. WE HAVE PLENTY OF TIME AS IT IS ALMOST ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE BUS STATION. WE CAN GRAB A QUICK COUPLE OF BURGERS, FRIES AND A SHAKE RIGHT BEFORE GETTING ON THE BUS.
OUR GANG OF ABOUT 10 CHATTANOOGA LOOKOUT BALLPLAYERS, INCLUDING OUR FEARLESS LEADER, DISNEYWORLD KINGMAN, GET IN THE ELEVATOR AND GO TO THE TOP OF THE NEW SKYSCRAPER. GREAT VIEWS, NOW LET’S GET BACK, GET SOME FOOD AND GET ON THE BUS. SIMPLE. WE PILE ON THE ELEVATOR, HIT “1” OR “L” FOR LOBBY AND BEGIN PICKING UP SPEED ON OUR DESCENT OF OVER 900 FEET. ABOUT 20 FLOORS FROM THE TOP, KINGMAN DECIDES HE WOULD PULL THE DOORS OF THE ELEVATOR APART TO WATCH THE FLOORS SHOOT BY LIKE A CAR DRIVING PAST A PICKET FENCE. MAYBE NOT SUCH A SMART DECISION………GEE BRIAN, DO YOU THINK THAT IS A SMART THING TO DO? (I WAS ASKED THIS ONCE BY A HOTEL MANAGER AS I WASHED MY CAR IN HIS PARKING LOT………WITH BRIAN IN MY PRESENCE DURING OUR VERY FIRST SPRING TRAINING (WITH RICKEY HENDERSON). SEEMS THE HOTEL MANAGER DIDN’T WANT ME GETTING HIS ASPHALT WET…..REALLY, THAT’S WHAT HE TOLD ME.) THE ELEVATOR CAME TO A SCREECHING HALT AT ABOUT THE 54TH FLOOR OF THE PEACHTREE PLAZA. STUCK, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE 54TH AND 53RD FLOORS, WE PULLED THE DOORS APART AND, ONE BY ONE, CLIMBED OUT OF THE ELEVATOR, HOPING IT WOULDN’T START BACK UP AND SEVER ONE OF US IN HALF. WE FOUND THE STAIRWAY AND RAN DOWN 53 FLIGHTS OF STAIRS, ACROSS THE STREET, AND DOWN TWO BLOCKS, LAUGHING AND SWEARING AT KINGMAN THE ENTIRE WAY.
IT WAS A LONG 11 HOURS TO ORLANDO WITHOUT FOOD…………WE DIDN’T HAVE TIME, THANKS TO OUR TEAMMATE, DISNEYWORLD KINGMAN………..BUT, WE DID MAKE THE BUS.
5. Your legacy will be sealed forever because you invented the ” Robby Pad” in 1980. (for those of you that don’t know, the Robby Pad is a hinged flap on the Right/catchers throwing shoulder of the catchers chest protector. Almost every catcher in MLB uses this today.) Talk a bit about how that came about and the ensuing lawsuit.
ALTHOUGH I HAD NEVER BEEN HIT BY A FOUL BALL ON THE EXPOSED RIGHT SHOULDER WHILE CATCHING, I HAD SEEN A COUPLE CATCHERS GET HIT THERE…….AND HAVE TO MISS 3 TO 5 GAMES. BALL ON BONE AT 90 MPH IS NOT FUN, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE TO THROW WITH THOSE BONES. FOR THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL, A CATCHER’S CHEST PROTECTOR PROTECTED THE NON THROWING SHOULDER BUT LEFT THE THROWING SHOULDER EXPOSED. THE RATIONALE FOR THIS DESIGN FLAW WAS THAT THE CATCHER NEEDED TO HAVE HIS THROWING SHOULDER FREE FROM PADDING TO BE ABLE TO THROW WITHOUT INTERFERENCE.
AFTER SEEING ANOTHER CATCHER TAKE A FOUL BALL TO THE THROWING SHOULDER, I THOUGHT THAT A HINGED FLAP WOULD BE A GOOD SOLUTION. I CUT UP A CHEST PROTECTOR TO MAKE A FEW FLAPS, PUT THREE HOLES ON THE FLAT EDGE AND TIED ONE ON TO EACH OF OUR TEAM’S CHEST PROTECTORS WITH SHOESTRING. PLAYERS ON MY TEAM CALLED IT A ROBBYPAD. CATCHERS FROM OTHER TEAMS LIKED MY INNOVATION. I MADE SOME FOR THEM FROM MY CUT UP PROTECTOR AND THE ROBBY PAD WAS BOTH BORN AND IMMEDIATELY ACCEPTED.
DURING SPRING TRAINING OF 1981, WILSON SPORTING GOODS APPROACHED ME, TOOK PHOTOS OF MY ROBBY PAD OUTSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM, SENT ME LETTERS ABOUT WORKING WITH ME……….COOL……….THIS MIGHT LEAD TO SOMETHING. I HAD A PATENT ATTORNEY AND MY PATENT WAS APPLIED FOR WITH THE U.S. PATENT OFFICE. THEY DENIED MY APPLICATION, STATING THERE WAS SOME PREVIOUS APPARATUS FROM THE LATE 1800’S THAT WOULD PRECLUDE THEM GRANTING ME A PATENT. THIS 1890’S DEVICE HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH BASEBALL GEAR.
WHEN WILSON LEARNED OF MY INABILITY TO GET A PATENT, THEY WENT TO WORK AND PRODUCED IT, LEAVING ME IN THE DUST. WE WENT AFTER THEM, BUT THEIR ATTORNIES LIED, SAID THEY HAD BEEN DEVELOPING THE HINGED FLAP PRIOR TO ME AND BESIDES I DIDN’T HAVE A PATENT.
6. What are your thoughts on new commissioner Rob Manfred trying to ban the infield shift? (personally I think it’s ridiculous). STUPID………THEY SHOULD WORRY MORE ABOUT DEFLATED BASEBALLS, THE ADVENT OF THE LEFT HANDED RAKE AND MOVING THE MOUND BACK TO 70 FEET…………….AND TALK TO KINGMAN AND I WHEN NEW STADIUMS ARE DESIGNED…………HARD TO BELIEVE THE STUPID DECISIONS MADE BY NON BASEBALL PEOPLE INJECTING THEIR “WISDOM AND EXPERIENCE” INTO THE GAME.
7. You are passionate about music and have even played the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! Talk a bit about your music and what are your favorite bands/influences.
THANKS FOR ASKING. MUSIC HAS BEEN A BIG PART OF MY LIFE, EVER SINCE 1962 WHEN I PURCHASED MY FIRST 45 RPM RECORD, “RHYTHM OF THE RAIN”……..AT AGE 8. OF COURSE, WHEN THE BEATLES APPEARED ON THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW IN 1964, MY WORLD AND THE WORLD WAS NEVER THE SAME. I’VE BEEN A BEATLES FAN SINCE THAT EVENING AND OWN EVERY CAPITOL RAINBOW LABEL OF EVERY BEATLES ALBUM PRODUCED IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA. I ALSO OWN EVERY PARLOPHONE LABEL BEATLES ALBUM. 1ST PRINTINGS OF ALL OF THEM. OTHER INFLUENCES WOULD HAVE TO BE JAMES TAYLOR, BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD, JACKSON BROWNE, CAROLE KING, ROBERT JOHNSON, MISSISSIPPI MUDSHARK SEKINS……….SO MANY FROM THE MID TO LATE 1960’S PLUS CURRENT COUNTRY ARTISTS LIKE TIM MCGRAW (SON OF FAMOUS MET’S RELIEF PITCHER, TUG MCGRAW) AND BLAKE SHELTON.
AT THE PRODDING OF CLASSMATES, I BECAME PART OF A MUSICAL GROUP IN THE 6TH GRADE. I SANG AND PLAYED ENOUGH LOW NOTES ON A GUITAR TO PROCLAIM I PLAYED BASS GUITAR. I WAS PROBABLY THE ONLY ONE OF OUR 5 MEMBERS TO HAVE THE GUTS TO SING, SO I WAS THE LEAD SINGER. THE BAND PLAYED AT SCHOOL CARNIVALS AND SOME CHURCH YOUTH GROUP PARTIES BEFORE I DROPPED OUT TO STICK TO MY COMMITMENT TO BECOMING A MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER.
I STARTED PLAYING GUITAR AROUND MY SENIOR YEAR IN HIGH SCHOOL AND KEPT AT IT THROUGH COLLEGE, DURING MY TEN YEARS IN PRO BASEBALL AND INTO MY PROFESSIONAL AND FAMILY LIFE. I ALWAYS PLAYED OTHER ARTIST’S SONGS, NEVER IMAGINING WRITING MY OWN MUSIC.
FAST FORWARD TO IDAHO, WHERE I MAINTAIN A HOME, PERCHED ON THE SNAKE RIVER. I WAS OUT ONE NIGHT IN TWIN FALLS, IDAHO. I MET TWO MUSICIANS WHO WERE PRETTY GOOD. I TALKED WITH THEM DURING A BREAK AND DISCOVERED THEY HOSTED A WEEKLY OPEN MIC NIGHT AT THE RESTAURANT/BAR. THEY, AND OTHERS ENCOURAGED ME INTO PLAYING AN OPEN MIC THE NEXT NIGHT. I SHOWED UP, NERVOUS OUT OF MY MIND (REMEMBER, I HAD PLAYED BASEBALL IN FRONT OF 50,000 PEOPLE AND ON NATIONAL TELEVSION……….AND HERE I WAS NERVOUS IN FRONT OF 25-30 PEOPLE….PRETTY FUNNY). I SANG SEVEN COVER SONGS AND GOT MORE COMFORTABLE WITH EACH ONE, BUT IT ALL SPED BY PRETTY QUICKLY.
I DID A FEW MORE OPEN MICS, THEN ACCOMPANIED MY FRIENDS DURING A COUPLE OF THEIR GIGS, ALWAYS JUST COVER SONGS OR BLUES JAMS. I LEFT TWIN FALLS FOR THE WINTER FOR MY OTHER HOME IN SAN DIEGO. WHEN I RETURNED IN THE SPRING OF 2009 I, ASKED THE RESTAURANT OWNER IF I COULD PLAY ONE NIGHT A WEEK, SOLO, FOR TIPS. HE AGREED AND I BEGAN PLAYING 2 HOURS A NIGHT, EVERY WEEK THAT YEAR INTO THE FALL AND AGAIN IN 2010.
BY THAT TIME, I HAD STARTED WRITING SONGS. I WROTE ONE IN 2008, 2 IN 2009, 3 IN 2010 AND 16 IN 2011. IN JANUARY OF 2011, I HAD MET A GUY WITH A RECORDING STUDIO IN KANSAS CITY. HE WAS A BASEBALL FAN AND OVER THE MONTHS OF OUR COMMUNICATION ABOUT SPORTS AND SUCH, HE OFFERED TO RECORD ME AT HIS STUDIO. IT WAS A PAINFUL EXPERIENCE. I HAD NEVER USED A CLICK TRACK (A METRONOME CLICKING IN MY HEADPHONES) TO KEEP THE TEMPO AND ENDED UP BEING THE RHYTHM GUITAR PLAYER, UKULELE PLAYER, LEAD GUITAR PLAYER (WHICH I DON’T DO), VOCALIST AND HARMONICA PLAYER (WHICH I DO JUST A LITTLE BIT OF). NO PERCUSSION, NO KEYBOARD, NO BASS, NO BACKING VOCALS……..IT WAS FUN, BUT TOUGH AND A GREAT LEARNING EXPERIENCE. I RECORDED 20 ORIGINAL SONGS AND THE CD CASE AND COLLATERAL MATERIAL WERE WAY, WAY, WAY BETTER THAN THE MUSIC!
AS 2011 PROGRESSED, I WAS PLAYING MORE AND MORE GIGS, INCLUDING LAS VEGAS, GIGS IN IDAHO, SAN DIEGO AND THEN RECEIVED THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME. I WAS PRESENTED WITH THE CHANCE TO PLAY A 90 MINUTE SOLO SHOW ON THE BIG STAGE AT THE ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME IN CLEVELAND, OHIO. ME, ARE YOU KIDDING? YEP……….WELL THAT TOOK ABOUT A NANO SECOND TO SAY YES. THE NEW YORK YANKEES WOULD BE IN TOWN THE WEEKEND I WAS ASKED TO PLAY, THE ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME THOUGHT I WOULD BE A GREAT FIT FOR A CROSS PROMOTION. I HAD SO MUCH FUN PLAYING, TOURING THE HALL FOR MY 3RD VISIT, GOING TO THE CLEVELAND INDIANS GAME THE NIGHT I PLAYED AND SITTING IN AN OWNER’S BOX. PRETTY HEADY STUFF.
OK, SO WHO IS THE ONLY PERSON WITH A CONNECTION TO THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME AND THE ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME? THAT WOULD BE BRUCE ROBINSON………AS IN ME…..INVENTOR OF THE ROBBY PAD AND SINGER SONGWRITER. PRETTY FUN!
I WOULD BE REMISS IF I DIDN’T PLUG MY MUSIC. TO DATE, I HAVE WRITTEN AND COPYWRITED 57 SONGS AND PRODUCED 3 CDS, THE MOST RECENT TWO OF WHICH I AM VERY PROUD. THE SECOND CD, “IN GOOD HANDS” IS FULLY PRODUCED WITH PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS BACKING MY VOCALS, GUITAR AND UKULELE PLAYING. IT CAME OUT IN JANUARY 2012 AND HAS ALL 20 OF THE ORIGINAL SONGS FROM MY 1ST CD, “IT’S ABOUT TIME”, PLUS 13 NEW SONGS. IT IS A TWO CD SET WITH 33 ORIGINAL SONGS. TO BE CANDID, IF I WERE REALLY IN THIS FOR THE MONEY, YOUNG AND CARING ABOUT MY IMAGE, I WOULD HAVE ONLY PUT ABOUT 18 OF THE 33 SONGS ON THE 2ND CD. I STILL PLAY ABOUT 21 OF 33 WHEN I PLAY GIGS, BUT THE OTHERS, NOT SO MUCH.
THE 3RD CD, TITLED “3” WAS RELEASED IN JUNE OF 2014 AND IS VERY POLISHED. AS WITH THE SECOND CD, “IN GOOD HANDS”, IT IS FULLY PRODUCED WITH BOTH STUDIO AND TOURING PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS BACKING MY GUITAR PLAYING AND LEAD VOCALS. WE PUT TWICE AS MUCH STUDIO TIME PER SONG INTO “3” AS WE DID INTO “IN GOOD HANDS”. “3” IS VERY POLISHED AND HAS GREAT SONGS. YOU’LL FIND, IN ADDITION TO MY GUITAR, KEYBOARDS, BASS GUITAR, GREAT DRUMS AND PERCUSSION, PEDAL STEEL GUITAR, HARMONICA, BACKING VOCALS, LEAD GUITAR AND EVEN A TROMBONE ON ONE SONG. I HAVE AN AMAZING RECORDING ENGINEER WHO OWNS THE STUDIO WHERE THE MOST RECENT TWO CD’S WERE MADE, BLITZ RECORDING STUDIO IN SAN DIEGO.
I ENCOURAGE ALL OF YOU TO VISIT MY WEBSITE AT: WWW.BRUCEROBINSONMUSIC.COM YOU WILL FIND MY HOMEPAGE, BIO, LYRICS & CHORDS TO MY FIRST 50 SONGS (7 NEW ONES HAVE BEEN WRITTEN FOR THE NEXT CD), BLOG, PHOTO GALLERY AND OF COURSE THE STORE WHERE YOU CAN ORDER CD’S AND POSTERS. YOU CAN ALSO ORDER FROM iTunes, CD BABY AND OTHER ON LINE STORES, BUT I GET MORE MONEY (A GOOD THING) IF YOU ORDER FROM ME DIRECTLY OFF OF MY WEBSITE. PLUS, I CAN SIGN THE CD’S AND POSTERS WHICH IS A DROP DOWN MENU OPTION. YOU WANT THE MUSIC DIGITALLY YOU SAY. WELL, JUST ORDER FROM ME AND DOWNLOAD ON TO YOUR COMPUTER INTO YOUR iTunes AND THEN ON TO YOUR I-Pod. GOT IT? THANK YOU! ANY QUESTIONS, CONTACT ME OFF OF THE EMAIL ADDRESS ON MY WEBSITE.
FOR EVEN MORE PROPAGANDA, YOU CAN GO TO: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Robinson_%28baseball%29 OR GOOGLE: BRUCE ROBINSON SINGER SONGWRITER OR BRUCE ROBINSON BASEBALL AND GET TO MY WIKIPEDIA PAGE.
1.) Jim Johnson –This one doesn’t surprise me as it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind. I disagreed with the signing from the very beginning because A) I don’t believe in giving closers big money B) despite having 50 saves in Baltimore the year before, (hands down the most overrated statistic in sports) he still managed to blow 9 games…a horrible percentage. C) He just looked like a creep.
I was spot-on as the fans quickly grew tired of pitches that had zero movement and blown saves in bunches. Eventually he was run out-of-town until signing with Detroit who grew tired of him as well and sent him to AAA Toledo to waste away in the city known for unemployment and the smell of shit in the air…a fitting ending to the season for Johnson and perhaps an omen.
2.) Daric Barton – This guy never had a nickname, yet as far as I was concerned it should have been “The Cockroach.” (He was deemed “Churro Vendor” by this blog because readers thought that it would be a better suited job.) Barton was acquired in the trade with St. Louis for Mark Mulder (Dan Haren was also acquired in the trade supplying 43 wins and an All Star appearance, so the trade worked out pretty well overall.) and was slated to be the Athletics first baseman for years to come. The only problem was that he couldn’t hit a lick, but for some reason stuck around for EIGHT seasons, being shuttled back and forth to Sacramento (AAA) so much that he sort of became their unofficial mascot. The cherry on top of the shit-heap was when he was put on waivers twice in one week and not one team claimed him.
3.) Brian Fuentes/Bob Geren — Yet another closer that didn’t live up to his deemed position. His goofy face, big ears and screwy delivery added to the fire when the blown saves started to add up. Things got so bad that my mother, a neophyte baseball fan, would storm out of the room whenever he came into the game. A reader of this blog summed it up perfectly when she sent this response: I hate Brian Fuentes with a passion. He is a horrible closer. He blew 4 saves in eight days when he was with the Rockies. I cried a little when I had found out we picked him up in 2011. My dad kept trying to say he was good, and he was briefly, but I just told him to wait. It quickly turned into “OH (f-bomb)! Fuentes is coming in. There goes the game.” The only saving grace was when he criticized then manager Bob Geren’s (probably the least liked manager in Oakland history and an ex-Yankee, so who really gives a darn!) “unorthodox managing”, handling of pitchers and “zero communication.” Then ex-closer Huston Street piped in saying of Geren that “he is the least favorite person I have ever encountered in sports.” Ol’ Bob was let go after the 2011 season leading to the signing of another Bob (Melvin) and Fuentes’ career was over soon there-after.
Arthur Rhodes (yet another stinky closer.)
Luis Polonia (not sure about this one as he was busted for raping a woman as a Yankee. Perhaps the reader hated dripping jheri curl mullets.)
Nick Swisher (was sort of a lovable hick/douchbag until he got Yankee-itis and then began thinking he was a much better player than he really was.)
Jon Lester (more Yo hangovers)
Jeremy Giambi (strip clubs, drunkenness, a scolding by Brad Pitt in the locker room and the prancing “non-slide.”)
Bobby Crosby (a high pick that couldn’t do much of anything after his rookie year and even had his dad criticize Billy Beane in the media.)
Buddy Groom (dumb name, psycho looking face, and one of the worst LOOGY’s of all time.)
Mark McGwire, my childhood, and why he should be in the HOF despite the “Boomers” that keep him out.
It’s strange; when most baseball fans talk about iconic cards of their youths they will usually cite a 1952 Mickey Mantle, 1968 Nolan Ryan or even a 1984 Don Mattingly rookie. That is all well and good; I enjoy baseball’s past and have spent countless hours and even days researching it. The most iconic card in my youth, however, was the 1987 Topps Mark McGwire.
You see, he was my favorite player on my favorite team; that’s not much of a stretch for a kid growing up in Northern California. When I look at this funky piece of cardboard with a blurry photo of a young, lanky, hunchbacked McGwire with the tacky, 1970’s Dad’s den border, I feel that it represents a couple of things that my generation encompassed so well–mass production and the willingness to do anything at all costs to achieve economic success in an era of unemployment and despair. (In this case “success” can be translated into “baseball success” through PED’s which equals economic success, my generation didn’t have the leisure of the metaphorical PED in the workforce due to the “Boomers” taking all the corporate sectors that they inherited overseas in order to pay the rabble pennies on the dollar. In effect, fucking over China, Indonesia and El Salvador’s working poor and their own people as well. We are forever destined to bat .260 and never have a set position…so much for the “hippy generation.”)
“Popularity of era” is a part of becoming a HOFer…that is why Mark McGwire should be in there. PED’s or not, he was a HUGE part of those 90’s Athletics teams that people love and will talk about forever. Not to mention the class he showed to Roger Maris’ family when he broke the home run record.. (who was vilified as well by the fascist MLB brass…the asterisk instilled by then commissioner Ford Frick still has not been removed due to Maris breaking the record in the then-newly instilled 162 games. The feeling and overall jealousy of the new generation (now old as dirt or perhaps dead…do you see a running theme here?) was further recognized when HOFer Rogers Hornby said, “It would be a disappointment if Ruth’s home run record were bested by a .270 hitter”. Isn’t it strange how the players in an era with the least talent in an era where they didn’t even have to face black players are the biggest shit talkers!?)
There is a lot of talk about Tim Raines for the HOF..let’s get real…his stats are solid and then as the 90’s become a reality he becomes sort of hanger-on and a non entity. No one cared outside of Montreal. (and then again...they didn’t even care) It’s akin to giving the handicapped kid a pat on the back.
It’s all about IMPACT, era and the impact of that specific era. Just ask Derek Jeter, who was never even close to being the best player on his team, (or Pee Wee Reese for that matter.) yet Jeter will be a first ballot HOFer based on “good looks,” a great interview and a legion of mooks from Brooklyn who think they can be an MLB player because he did it. (Miguel Tejada was infinitely better in his prime.)
Here’s what I remember:
Multi-ethnic “sources” saying over half the players on every team used, and that MLB even tacitly encouraged it. I remember a reporter mentioning McGwire having androstenedione displayed openly in his locker, then said reporter getting raked over the coals by players, other reporters, and even the commissioner of baseball–Bud Selig.
Players linked to steroid use have been resoundingly rejected by Hall of Fame voters in recent years, shunned as synthetically enhanced frauds. But drawing an integrity line in the sand is a tenuous stance at a Hall of Fame with a membership that already includes multiple cheaters. Baseball has always had some form of hypocrisy when it comes to its exalted heroes. In theory, when it comes to these kinds of votes, it’s true that character should matter, but once you’ve already let in those who cheated, how can you exclude anyone else?
Here are a few:
Gaylord Perry (class of 1991) had a disregard for the rules that was far more patent and unashamed than any steroid user. Perry doctored baseballs with spit, Vaseline and other substances to confound hitters. All of baseball knew what Perry was doing even if he never admitted it — until writing a tell-all book after his retirement.
Don Sutton (class of 1998) Late in his career, Sutton was often accused of scuffing. In 1978 he was ejected and suspended 10 days for defacing the ball, but when he threatened to sue the National League, he was let off. Was teammates with Gaylord Perry for a while. “He gave me a tube of Vaseline,” joked Sutton. “I thanked him and gave him a piece of sandpaper.” Umpires took the allegations seriously, and sometimes gave him a good going over. Once, he left a note inside his glove for the men in black. It said, “You’re getting warm, but it’s not here.”
Whitey Ford (Class of 1974)… Ford used his wedding ring to cut the ball, or had catcher Elston Howard put a nice slice in it with a buckle on his shin guard. Ford also planted mud pies around the mound and used them to load the ball. He confessed that when pitching against the Dodgers in the 1963 World Series, “I used enough mud to build a dam.” He also threw a “gunk ball,” which combined a mixture of baby oil, turpentine, and resin. He kept the “gunk” in a roll-on dispenser, which, the story goes, Yogi Berra once mistook for deodorant, gluing his arms to his sides in the process.
Things are becoming a bit strange in the baseball world due to the advent of the internet and the basic human emotion of being a follower in a world of followers. (or they may do it to seem intelligent; I know this blog has been attacked by many lard-ass “experts,” with mustard stains running down their shirts, living in their mom’s basement and if they’re lucky MAY have a book published with a small run that no one will read.) I’m starting to see a lot of followers who have no ideas of their own embrace idiotic “statistics”, nostalgia where there never was any, forced moral platitudes and just overall madness. I would die of shock if anyone had an original idea that was absolutely and irreducibly their own. Let’s hope the future generation/s gets it right when the novelty of being angry about a specific (and fun!) era finally dissolves after the Boomer HOF voter generation is finally dead. I have a feeling that the children of the future, because of their gradual and inevitable loss of civil rights, may find fault in the faceless men in the ivory tower who cashed in their billions and instead find compassion for the men simply trying to please them.