Results tagged ‘ Brian Kingman ’
Fastball John is an Amazing Book!
You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that
it was the other way around all the time ~Jim Bouton
Perhaps the best description of life as a professional baseball player from a players perspective since
Ball Four. John D’Acquisto and Dave Jordan have done a wonderful job of bringing the remarkable events of John’s career to life. A career in professional baseball is a journey, and the path to the major leagues is a precarious one. Obstacles abound. Temptations from all seven of the deadly sins surround you. Only a few of those who are chosen will make it as far a the major leagues.
John’s remarkable story is about his transition from the joyful innocence of high school baseball, to the business of professional baseball, and his return to life as a civilian. Professional baseball is more than just a game–it is a cut throat business. For John it was more than just a career, it was a way of life.
John’s stories are captivating, because they are real life experiences. His involvement in a mafia run restaurant, the fight with Bob Gibson on an elevator after beating him on the mound, betrayal by one of his best friends: The “Count” John Montefusco, and his legal problems after baseball are riveting.
CCA: On page 209 of Nancy Finley’s new book “Finley Ball,” she writes that manager Billy Martin started dating Jill, who he eventually married. (She also was called “the devil” by his children from another marriage by refusing to give them any memorabilia and selling it all after Martin’s death.) Is it true that she was dating a player who asked you “how do you complain to the manager who is hitting on your girlfriend?” Are you comfortable naming this player?
REVISITING 1980 – BILLY MARTIN’S DOG HOUSE & SOAP OPERA
“Billy first laid eyes on Jill Guiver in 1980 before a game against the California Angels. She had a camera on her shoulder. Though she didn’t work for any organization, she was telling everyone she was a free-lance photographer. At one time she had dated one of the Yankee players, Reggie Jackson. According to ball players who knew her at the time, her photography was her way to get to meet them. The way she looked, an introduction was all she needed. She liked to wear tight-fitting clothes and short shorts. She was very sexy. Jill asked Billy if she could take his picture. Billy asked her if he could take her for a drink after the game. They began dating, which threw a scare into at least four of Billy’s players who were also seeing her. These players feared that she would reveal to Billy that they were also going with her and that Billy would take it out on them. They were praying that Billy’s relationship with Jill Guiver would soon end, that she was only a phase, in part because they feared Billy’s wrath and also because as long as Billy was with her, they couldn’t be.” ~ Wild, High and Tight: The Life and Death of Billy Martin
BK:I don’t know if it was the day Billy met Jill, but it had to be close to it. All the players had noticed an attractive woman with a camera near our dugout during batting practice. Billy spent an abnormally long amount of time in the clubhouse during the game that day. This was extremely rare. Billy was always watching the game from the dugout. I wasn’t pitching on this day and happened to be in the clubhouse when I saw Billy emerge from the manager’s office with Jill. Most of the players had noticed Billy’s unusually long absence from the dugout,and a few knew that Billy was interested in the “girl with the camera”. I don’t think any of them knew he was alone with her in the manager’s office during the game.
Well I don’t know about four players on our team dating her, but I had heard of one that was. During the game I mentioned to him that I had seen Jill in Billy’s office. His response was “How do you complain to the manager who is hitting on your girlfriend?” Maybe he was just wondering what those other guys mentioned in Wild High & Tight were going to do about it?
CCA: There was also an instance mentioned in the same book where Martin tells you to walk a guy and the guy reaches out and slaps a single on pitch that was meant to be ball and Martin apparently charged out of the dugout screaming, “you motherfucker…I told you to walk him!”
BK:There were actually two games where Billy really surprised me with the way he handled things. The first one is the one you asked about, where Billy came out of the dugout yelling at me. It was against the Cleveland Indians. The second game was about two months later against the Toronto Blue Jays. Both are described below:
THIS IS THE HORSESHIT MOTHERFUCKER GAME AGAINST THE INDIANS (MAY 7, 1980)
On May 7, 1980 I pitched a game against the Cleveland Indians in Oakland. It was a day game and there were maybe 5,000 fans in attendance. I didn’t give up a hit until the 5th inning, but in the 6th I gave up two hits and when Mike Hargrove came to the plate, Billy Martin came to the mound.Billy told me to throw Hargrove four straight pitches high and away. “Maybe we can get him to pop up”. The first two pitches were shoulder-high and a foot outside. The next pitch was a little higher, but maybe only 9 or 10 inches off the plate. Hargrove managed get a hit and Billy came out of the dugout screaming obscenities (“You horse shit motherfucker”) at me. With such a small crowd his voice carried, and could be heard throughout the stadium.
My catcher Jim Essian couldn’t believe that we didn’t just walk Hargrove. Which is the same thing Hargrove told our first baseman.
It turns out Hargrove knew that Billy had told me to throw him high fastballs up and away. He said he had seen it before several times when Billy was his manager in Texas.
THE STUPID PITCHER GAME: JULY 21,1980
In the game above, against the Indians, Billy had called me a horseshit motherfucker. In this game, about two months later, I apparently had progressed enough to just being called stupid, which some may see as an upgrade from horseshit motherfucker.
Toronto Blue Jays 1 Oakland Athletics 0
Pitching IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Brian Kingman, L (5-10) 9 9 1 1 2 8 1 3.41
Billy was a great manager. He knew the game, and all of its nuances, inside out. If he had a weakness as a manager it was in how he treated players. He was especially hard on pitchers, especially LOSING pitchers. The last straw for me was in a game he insisted I throw a fastball to a hitter (Alvis Woods) who hit a home run. I threw a complete game and lost 1-0. When the reporters came up to me after the game, they told me that Billy said I was a stupid pitcher because I threw a fastball hitter a fastball behind in the count. My reply to the reporters was: ‘How stupid can I be if Billy is the one who called the pitch? The next day the headline in the sports section was:
KINGMAN RIPS MARTIN
Well, that might not have been the best thing for my career. The old proverb “The truth shall set you free, suddenly turned into “It may be the truth, but the truth shall make Billy mad” I had no idea that would be the headline! I realize that reporters have to make a living, and headlines sell papers, but after this happened, I knew Billy hated me. He was a very small man in that way – holding grudges, always looking for revenge for things real and imagined.
CCA:Nancy also talks a bit about how you were going to get married but Billy Martin was dead set against it. You lost 9 in a row after the marriage. What was going on there?
Was it a psychological issue? Rebellion?
BK:The short answer is that It wasn’t a rebellion. It was just the cumulative effect of a very toxic situation. The combination of poor run support combined with a manager who unless you were winning, was one of the hardest managers to pitch for. Instead of looking forward to my next start, I began to dread it. For the long answer read on:
The games above preceded my 9 game losing streak. Before the losing streak my record was 7-11 and my ERA was 3.41. I easily could have been 11-7, except for the fact that I was getting less than 3 runs a game in offensive support.
The 2.50 runs per game the A’s scored in my 20 losses are deceptive because 11 of the 50 runs scored were in one game.
If you take out those 11 runs and that one game, I got a whopping 2.05 runs per game in my other 19 losses. If I had been 11-7 with a 3.41 ERA I believe I Billy would have found someone else to pick on. Everyone is happy when they are winning. Losing was like a small piece of death for Billy,and I was losing at an alarming rate.
In order to get married I was going to have to miss a game. I told Art Fowler about my plans and he said “You’d better ask Billy, he usually doesn’t like guys getting married during the season because it’s a distraction” I told Art that I would ask Billy, but I was thinking there could be no bigger distraction for me than Billy. My first goal when I stepped on the mound was to win the game. My second goal, unfortunately had become to avoid incurring Billy’s wrath.
Billy “granted” me permission to miss a game and get married. When I returned I threw 3 straight complete games, but lost all three by the scores of 3 -2, 4 -3 & 4 -2. I pitched well in those games. I think my era was around 3.5, yet my record now stood at 7-14. The main reason I was losing once again was a lack of offensive support. One of the most devastating factors to a pitchers won-loss record is a lack of offensive support. It the difference between winning 5-4 instead of losing 3-2.
“As for Kingman’s run support, it was literally historically bad. I’ve gone through the game logs at retrosheet & figured out the run support (adjusted for park & league)for 1096 different seasons in which a pitcher started at least 25 games. Kingman’s 1980 is the 13th worst of that bunch. His run support was only 68% of league average when adjusted for park & league.”
I read this about 10-12 years ago on line. It was written by a blogger called Dag Nabbit. It was from one of those baseball Sabermetric sites that are often a challenge to read, but he did a good job of translating my misery and explaining it numerically. I have always want to thank Dag Nabbit, so maybe he will read this. I am positive that very, very few fans, or even players pay attention to a pitcher’s long term lack of offensive support, and even fewer appreciate how utterly devastating it can be.
In the remaining six games of my losing streak, I pitched less effectively than I had up to that point in the season. There is no doubt that the psychological burden of losing was becoming more and more of a factor. Constant, long term losing erodes confidence, which is crucial to success in all sports.The lethal combination of poor offensive support and playing for a manager who hated to lose perhaps more than any manager in baseball history took it’s toll on me. There was an increasingly pervasive sense of futility that you think you can overcome by being mentally tough, and to a certain degree you can. However it is still a burden, an additional obstacle, for which the only remedy is to win. It felt like I was the only one losing, since all the other starters were winning. After losing nine consecutive games my record stood at 7-20.
“Brian Kingman was a pitcher who was very frustrating to Billy because Billy could see he was probably the most talented of the five of us as far as stuff went. Brian was a very intellectual guy. If Brian and Billy had a problem, it was because Brian would not talk to Billy about things that bothered him or about personal things” ~Matt Keough Wild, High and Tight: The Life and Death of Billy Martin
If you look at the history of 20 game losers you’ll see that virtually all of them were on teams that lost at least 90 games, and quite often 100 games or more. On those teams with 20 game losers almost all the starters have losing records.They say misery loves company, well I was all alone in 1980. In fact the last time a pitcher lost 20 games on a winning team was in 1922. His name
was Dolf Luque. Ironically I was a winning pitcher in 1979 (8-7) with a team that lost 108 games.
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.
I recently e-mailed ex-Athletics pitcher Brian Kingman– informing him that the first player on the 1981 team that he had played for had passed. Kelvin Moore, who had played parts of 3 seasons in the majors had died on November 9th, 2014 from cardiac arrest. He was 57.
Brian, being insightful and clever as always sent me back this interesting e-mail that ponders life after death and the infinite intricacies that perhaps may await us. I hope C.C.A. readers enjoy this special, one of a kind look into a former ballplayers deepest, most personal thoughts:I am so very sorry to hear about Kelvin.
He was a great teammate – easy-going nice guy and powerful hitter. What do you think happens when you die? The short answer of course is that no one knows. For all we know dying might be an awesome experience. Unfortunately no one has managed to report back from the dead to let us know. It remains a mystery. In fact you could say our entire existence is full of uncertainty. Man still debates the origins of our beginnings, questions the meaning of life, and has no knowledge of what happens after death. The Souls Search For Salvation aka Coping Mechanism The fact that life is full of mysteries and unexplainable events, such as death, has been a source of angst since the beginning of time. What is a coping mechanism? It is a term used by psychologists
to describe an adaptation to environmental stress that is based on conscious or unconscious choice, and that enhances control over behavior or gives psychological comfort. It has also been used by 20 game losers to make themselves believe that other people actually understand how they lost 20 games (trying to remember this is a baseball blog!)The emergence of religion (some might say the invention of religion) gave Man an explanation for suffering, evil and the unknown in the world. It also gave man the hope for life after death. The essence of all religions are basically the same: A life does not begin at birth or end at death. Some religions believe in a Heaven or Hell, while others believe in reincarnation. Religion grew to become a huge part of an individuals life from birth to death, and helped to diminish the despair of meaninglessness.
I won my last start of the 1980 season in Chicago 5-1. I always liked pitching in Chicago. I liked the restaurants, the bars, the nightlife, and after winning what I thought was my last game of the season I took advantage of all Chicago had to offer. Our last two games of the season were in
Milwaukee. I planned to catch up on my sleep and watch Mike Norris (22 wins) and Rick Langford (19 wins) close out the season.
around the catwalk that someone from the bullpen had thrown to playfully harass me.
This is part 3 of my Brian Kingman interview…
3) You were best known for being a 20 game loser before Detroit Tigers pitcher Mike Maroth “achieved ” this honor in 2003. Have you spoken to Mr. Maroth about this dubious achievement?
No, I never have spoken to Mike. I didn’t want to distract him during the 2003 season. I think I can safely assume he wasn’t very interested in talking to me
about losing 20 games after the fact. The Tigers were having a horrible year and didn’t appreciate the added media attention regarding the possibility that Maroth
might lose 20 games.
When I lost 20 games in 1980 it wasn’t as uncommon of an occurrence as it was in 2003. There has been a 20 game loser almost every year in baseball history, and some years there were multiple 20 game losers. A list of 20 game losers was established by baseball reference.com because of the media created interest started and fueled mainly by Jayson Stark. In 1991 Stark wrote a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer that mentioned a couple of
pitchers that might lose 20. He noted that no one had lost 20 in over a decade and that “somewhere Brian Kingman was praying for someone to lose 20 games
so he could be relieved of the dubious distinction of being the last 20 game loser”. A friend of mind who lived in Philadelphia mailed me the article. I called the Inquirer and
they gave me Stark’s home phone number. I called him and told him that I wanted to remain the last 20 game loser, basically forever. He of course didn’t believe it was me calling at first. He thought he was being pranked by one of his friends. This was the start of what I call my “Reign as the Last 20 Game Loser” which lasted until 2003. This however is a story in itself and deviates from your question.
Secondly, Brian Kingman was actually a decent pitcher in 1980. He pitched 211 1/3 innings and had a 3.83 ERA. .
So, he pitched for a good team and was right around league-average in preventing runs, yet he went 8-20.
Meanwhile in 1980…
Dan Spillner pitched 194 1/3 innings for a Cleveland ballclub that went 79-83. He had a 5.28 ERA – 29.4% worse than league-average – and he went 16-11.
Oakland’s runs per game when Kingman pitched:
R/G Wins 4.12 Losses 2.50 No-Dec. 2.75
Of the 20 games Kingman lost, 5 of them were games in which the A’s got shutout.
The 2.50 runs per game the A’s scored in Kingman’s 20 losses are even a little inflated because 11 of the 50 runs scored were in one game. If you take out those 11 runs and that one game, Kingman got a whopping 2.05 runs per game in his other 19 losses.
Part 2 of this amazing interview…just some nuances that are the ambrosia of baseball.
2) What was the day like when you took the photo for the Sports Illustrated cover, and how did that come about?
I am going to answer this two part question in reverse order: How it came about…
SI decided to put us on the cover for two reasons. First was our performance during the 1980 season. We went from 54-108 in 1979to 83-79 in 1980. That’s a remarkable 29 game turnaround. We racked up 94 complete games, which I believe is the modern day record. I don’t know though, does 1980 qualify as modern day or does it seem rather ancient to the readers of your blog? It was the most complete games since 1946, and
if you look below at the innings pitched per start, it was quite an aberration from the norm!
The second reason was that we started off the 1981 season 11-0 which was an MLB record at the time.
Only 20 teams in modern history (since 1901) have produced a season in which five players logged at least 200 innings. All but three of those seasons occurred before 1930.
1. 1980 Oakland Athletics (Matt Keough, Brian Kingman, Rick Langford, Steve McCatty, Mike Norris)
Finish: 2nd in AL West
Runs scored: 686
Runs allowed: 642
2. 1977 Los Angeles Dodgers (Burt Hooton, Tommy John, Doug Rau, Rick Rhoden, Don Sutton)
Finish: Lost World Series (4-2) to Yankees
Runs scored: 769
Runs allowed: 582
3. 1957 Detroit Tigers (Jim Bunning, Paul Foytack, Billy Hoeft, Frank Lary, Duke Maas)
Finish: 4th in American League
Runs scored: 614
Runs allowed: 614
So, how do the 1980 A’s fair when compared to the teams from long ago? Well, incredibly, Oakland’s 1,261.1 innings logged by their starters stills tops the field. Ye, gods.
That isn’t really fair because the season is longer now. Besides, I already noted IP/GS is a better way than raw IP. When you look at innings per start, a handful of teams do nose out Martin’s bunch, as the chart below reveals:
Year Team IP/GS
1923 NYY 8.03
1922 NYY 7.99
1920 CWS 7.96
1920 BRVS 7.90
1920 PIT 7.81
1932 NYY 7.81
1920 CIN 7.81
1920 BRK 7.81
1980 OAK 7.78
Notice something there? They are almost entirely made up of teams from the early 1920s. That’s interesting. There have been three periods in baseball history when workloads for starting pitchers declined noticeably: 1) In the 1890s when the pitchers were pushed back to 60 feet, 6 inches; 2) In the early 1920s when the lively ball came out; and 3) In the 1990s when pitch counts became all the rage. In each instance, the game changed in a few years, causing managers to adapt to how they used pitchers.
So how did Martin run the 1980 A’s? Like someone who hadn’t fully realized the Dead Ball era had ended.
Who was the last rookie starting pitcher with a minimum of 15 decisions to have a winning record on a team with at least 100 losses?
This is the first part of what will eventually be a 4 or 5 part series interview with former Athletics pitcher Brian Kingman. I know this is the part where I usually talk incessantly about nothing, but I’ll let the man speak for himself. I will, however, add that Brian was gracious enough to give me some in -depth answers that read like a book. This is good stuff readers! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
My first full season in the minor leagues was spent in the Southern League. The Athletics double A team was the Chattanooga Lookouts.
“Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player
You used to say that it was so easy
But you’re trying, you’re trying now
Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re crying, you’re crying now
I attended my first game at the age of 8 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Dodger Stadium was not in existence yet. The Dodgers were playing the much hated Giants, and Don Drysdale was pitching. Attending that game made a tremendous impression on me. It wasn’t just the game itself, it was being in the middle of
30-40,000 cheering people, mostly adults, who were invested in the outcome of the game. It was at that point I began to see baseball as more than just ‘a game’.
My parents made me attend church every Sunday, but by the age of 9 or 10 I decided that baseball was my religion. Koufax and Drysdale might as well have been gods, and Vin Scully, the Dodgers radio voice the High Priest. Each game was like a sermon. You learned about baseball, the players, and the history of the game.
One day in the 5th grade, my best friend found out that Sandy Koufax was going to be speaking at
a $100 a plate luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It was about a four mile bike ride from where we
lived, and it was in the middle of the week, so we would have to figure out how to miss school.
When we arrived at the Hilton, we searched until we found the banquet room where Sandy was the guest of honor. We asked the doorman if we could just look in and actually see Koufax. When he opened the door we saw Sandy sitting at a podium at the front of a large banquet room with at least 300 people having lunch and listening to various speakers. We both waved at Sandy, much to our surprise, he waved back.
It made our day!
We thanked the doorman and asked if Koufax would be coming out through these doors because we wanted to get his autograph. He told us that he would and we walked off looking for a good place to wait. As we were walking away, the doorman said, “Hey boys come back here”. He told us that Sandy wanted us to come in and join the luncheon. We couldn’t believe it, and we knew no one back at school was going to believe us either.
The waiters actually set up another table for us in the very front of the room, right near the podium. We were surrounded by wealthy businessmen wearing suits, and there we were in our jeans and T-shirts. It’s not everyday you get to meet God, but on that day 50 years ago, we thought we had. Needless to say, Sandy autographed our baseballs for us but it was so
much more than just an autograph he had given us. It was a priceless memory and an act of kindness which showed that Koufax was more than just a great pitcher
Becoming a professional baseball player was a life long goal. Signing a contract to play in the Oakland A’s minor league system was emotionally satisfying, validating years of hard work. However as satisfying as it was there was also a downside to professional baseball. Everyone who has ever played professional baseball learns very quickly, that although the competition is better and the game itself hadn’t changed, we weren’t just playing baseball anymore. We were in the business of playing baseball.
Every minor league player has the same dream and shares a common goal: playing in the big leagues. But for 95% of them, the dream comes to an end in the minor leagues. To see one of your teammates released, and realizing it was the end of a life-long dream was painful. It was almost as if someone had died, in a very real way part of them had. The joyful innocence of a neighborhood pick-up game was a distant memory, replaced by the harsh realities of professional baseball.
Most of the players I have known will tell you that their time in the minor leagues was more enjoyable than the time spent in the major leagues, if for no other reason than minor league players spend more time together. Major league players live with their families at home and have a room to themselves on the road. Minor league players are roommates at home and on the road. They endure 10 hour bus rides, worry about playing time, slumps, injuries, and the possibility of being released. Most of all they share the dream of playing in the big leagues.
I got off to a great start in my second year playing for the 1976 Chattanooga Lookouts, the Double A affiliate for the Oakland A’s.
I was 8-3 half way through the season, had a moving fastball in the mid 90’s, and good command of a sharp breaking slider. If it
wasn’t for the fact that the A’s were a team with several established veteran pitchers, I would likely have been called up to the
In 1976, baseball was in the early years of free agency. By mid-season, A’s owner Charles Finley decided to trade and sell off his star players rather than lose them to free agency. Catfish Hunter had been traded to the Yankees and Reggie Jackson to the Orioles. When Finley attempted to sell Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, and Sal Bando, Bowie Kuhn who was the Commissioner of baseball prohibited the sale, saying that, “It wasn’t in the best interests of baseball”. Well it would have been in my best interests!
There is a very good chance that if those transactions had been allowed, I would have been pitching for the A’s that summer. Unfortunately I tore a tendon in my elbow later that season, eventually underwent elbow surgery, and spent the next two years
rehabbing, trying to get back on the path to the big leagues. I became a different pitcher by necessity. The velocity and movement on my fastball were diminished, and a curveball replaced my slider. The narrow and treacherous path to the big
leagues became even more precarious.
In June of 1979, I finally made it to the promised land, and won my first game in Yankee Stadium in July. I felt privileged to
have competed on the same field as Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio, but even better having beaten the defending World Champions. I ended up with a with a 8-7 record on a team that lost 108 games.
Prior to the 1980 season the A’s hired Billy Martin to manage the team. He turned a horrible (54-108) team into a winning
team (83-79) by maximizing the teams strengths which were starting pitching and speed. Rickey Henderson stole 100 bases.
We led the league in ERA and set a modern-day record with 94 complete games.
1980 was also the year I lost 20 games. Despite pitching well, I suffered from a lack of offensive support. 20 game losers
are almost always found on 90-100 loss teams. However, I managed to lose 20 games on a winning team, something that
hadn’t been done since 1922, and very likely will never happen again. The hardest part of losing 20 games for me was the
fact that I was the only one losing. The twenty game losers on those 100 loss teams had company. They say misery loves
company, well I was all alone!
Billy Martin was a great manager. Few could match his knowledge of the game and none could match his willingness
to take risks. He was a master of the element of surprise. Billy was a very intense individual. His intensity was both his
greatest strength and his greatest weakness. The famous Lombardi quote, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”,
is the perfect description of what Billy was like. For Billy, losing was like a small piece of death.
As a player Billy was combative and frequently involved in fights. As a manager Billy could go from a great motivator to a bullying tyrant very quickly. He occasionally became involved in fights on and off the field, several of them with his own pitchers. One night at the hotel bar in Kansas City after a loss Billy decided he wanted to fight me. I didn’t see it as a wise decision for
either of us. Obviously it wouldn’t be a good career move for me, and Billy was sure to get at least a short beating before thecoaches could intervene. We walked outside, me alone, and Billy with his entourage, his coaches as bodyguards, to get it on. When Rickey Henderson noticed everyone headed outside he asked what was going on. He was told to not get involved. To his
credit he thought I looked outnumbered and disobeyed the coaches. Rickey was there for me if I needed help.
Billy began by poking me in the chest with his finger. I grabbed his hand and wouldn’t let him retract it. He tried to swing his other hand at me and I grabbed it too. The coaches rushed in to break it up, no punches landed by either side. Needless to say, 1980 was a very long year for me. Losing 20 games in a season is hard on any pitcher but doing it for Billy Martin made it twice as hard.
Billy could play the nice guy too. One time on a flight after I had pitched well but lost, he told Art Fowler to bring me up to the front
of the plane where Billy and the coaches sat. He told me I had thrown a great game that day and he was proud of me. He said,
“Next year will better. You’re going to win 20 games next year”. I returned to the back of the plane and about 10 minutes later I see Art coming down the aisle again looking straight at me. “Billy wants to see you again” Art said. This time Billy was on his second bottle of wine. He said, “With you’re stuff your going to win 23 games for us next season”. The guys in the back of the plane wanted to know what Billy had told me. I said “The first time he said I was going to be a 20 game winner next year, and
this time I had made it up to 23 wins. If this flight lasts long enough, who knows, I might have had a shot at winning 30!”
The next two years saw us go from a playoff team in 1981 to a 4th place finish in 1982. Our pitching staff that had completed
154 out of 271 games during the 1980 & 1981 seasons began to show symptoms of overuse. Billy’s relationship with the owners deteriorated quickly, and he was fired after the season. I was sold to Boston and ended my career with the Giants.
Baseball comes to an end for everyone who has played the game. The end may come in high school, college, or perhaps
in professional baseball. Very few leave the game on their own terms. The longer you play the game the more it becomes
a part of your life and the harder it is to say goodbye.
Satchel Paige was right when he said, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you”. For a very longtime, that “something” was my baseball career. It was several years before I could enjoy talking about it and revisiting the memories.
The end of a career can be like a divorce when someone you still love has decided to move on without you.
Despite not throwing a baseball for 25 years, teammates from college and high school convinced me to play baseball again in the MSBL World Series. What I discovered playing MSBL was beyond my greatest expectations. I rediscovered the joyful innocence
of playing baseball we all experienced as kids, playing the game because we love it. It was almost a shock to see guys hustling and playing hard because they wanted to and having a great time.
Baseball has always been more than just a game. Playing baseball for me is like going home again. New friends are made, and old friends are reunited. Vin Scully once said “It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between the All-Star Game and an old timer’s game” For some of us it has been five of six decades since our first game as a kid, yet it too seems like a mere moment.
Our time together is magical, but unfortunately comes to an end all too soon.
They say that professional athletes die twice in this life, and the first time is when you stop playing. Thanks to the Mens Senior Baseball League, I am still trying to decide if I have been reincarnated or born again. Either way I consider myself lucky, not everyone gets to die three times. No worries though, old ballplayers never die, they just fade away.