Results tagged ‘ Mark McGwire ’

Mark McGwire and heshers from the past.

Now that we know the baseball card craze of the 80’s/90’s was a facade with no chance of anyone (besides the industry itself) making profit, we can laugh at the 100’s of dollars wasted, sleepless nights and tell our stories of woe.

There are many people out there who still think their collections are worth something, yet these bumbling dolts don’t understand supply and demand, and no doubt don’t understand much of anything else either. I recently bought a Mark McGwire 1987 Donruss “rated rookie” for 3 dollars. This is almost unheard of for a guy who once held the single season home run record, and is 10th all time. I felt no nostalgia, and with a “meh” I threw it in a box.

……and then I remembered

I was 12 years old (still a few years away from my first “kegger,” which was with a guy named Kevin Ballard who wore a Metallica shirt everyday. He only broke up the monotony on occasion with a Anthrax t shirt, who I personally thought sucked the bag.) The McGwire card was one of THE hottest properties for a young boy in Northern California, and people wouldn’t trade it for ANYTHING. Eventually, through hours of wheeling and dealing, I had acquired a few of these by the time Jr. High came rolling around. One day in wood shop, a very large, greasy, hispanic rocker type named Billy (who turned out to be a great hitter, but I wouldn’t know that until high school freshman try-outs) offered to trade me a cassette for ONE single, thin cardboard McGwire. I jumped at the chance! I had a large stack of them and welcomed the opportunity to talk to someone “cool” who would take the time and effort out of their exciting heavy metal life to make a tape for a nerd like me. ( I was a freckle faced, Opie looking kid who wouldn’t grow into my 6’2 frame until my sophomore year in high school.) Billy brought me the tape the next day and with a nod says,

“You needed to listen to Slayer.”

I waited with anticipation for school to let out and then popped that fucker into my Kmart cassette player. Best trade I ever made and changed my life forever. Thanks, dude.

The end of the innocence. (not a Don Henley reference!)

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The great Ernie Young

Around 1993-1995 I completely lost interest in baseball. Being in my early 20’s my childhood interests waned, as they tend to do, and in my delusional mind my new interests were a bit more sophisticated and engaging. My interests in music were blossoming into a near obsession as I joined a garage band; and I was also delving into the literary and modern art worlds–doing my duty as a young person trying to “figure it all out.” As much as I loved to scan the box scores, I just didn’t have time anymore with my band-mates, job, and girlfriend needing my immediate and rapt attention.

F. Scott Fitzgerald thought that one of his pals had invested too much time writing about baseball. “A boys game,” Fitzgerald said, “with no more possibilities in it than a boy could master, a game bounded by walls which kept out novelty or danger, change or adventure.”
I couldn’t stomach Fitzgerald’s stuffy writing and disagreed vehemently with this statement. (I valued Descartes opinions much more, and wasn’t his vocation to think about thinking?…the absolute essence of the game) So after reading the classics : Genet, Hemingway, Hesse, Volmann, Fante, Auster, I decided one day through a haze of smoke that baseball was indeed a cerebral sport more suited to a literary rather than pictorial culture and returned to it for the ’96 season. The A’s were still the same pile of dung that i had flushed 3 years earlier finishing 3rd in the West with a 78-84 record, but the game was interesting to me again, even fun.

This was to be Mark McGwire’s last full year with the “Elephants” (his trade the next year was devastating and truly the end of my childhood) and he finished with 52 homers. This was also Jason Giambi’s first full year and he finished with a pathetic (for that time) 20 round-trippers. I attribute this to youth and the lack of steroids–a reputation that would turn out to haunt both players. Terry Steinbach was typically solid behind the dish; and a fan favorite with a funny name, Geronimo Berroa was coming into his own. There was also a curious player, Ernie Young, who hit 19 homers that season, never to hit more than 5 in any other season in his career.
As I enjoyed another season of watching my lovable losers, I had decided that baseball not only doesn’t acknowledge the passage of time, it ignores it. Then began my post-adolescent and lifelong obsession with the game that has taken over my daily existence with mind-boggling statistics and an even stranger anomalistic visual affair. I find that the more I know about this game, the less I know about this game. It keeps unfolding in ways I could never imagine.

Bruce Robinson sounds off about his life, passions and Big League career.

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Stanford grad and modern day renaissance man.

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!

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Bruce in Alaska.

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!

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“Rags” when he was a young buck.

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.

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George Costanza’s boss, George Steinbrenner was furious.

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.tacoma

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…………

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Jose, before he blew off the finger.

…….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…………….

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“Big Mac”

………….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!)

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That’s Bruce on the left and Brian Kingman on the right…with former major leaguer and Oakland A (1977), Jim Umbarger in the middle.

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.

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That’s Bruce’s dad on the left and his son on the right. They are posing next to the original “Robby Pad” in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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.

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Bruce strummin’ on his guitar.

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.

album3BY 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.

Mark McGwire, my childhood, and why he should be in the HOF despite the “Boomers” that keep him out.

1985-mark-mcgwire-rookie-card

Whoa…this card stirs up a lot of emotions.

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!?)

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One of the greatest power hitters of all time.

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.

Streams of consciousness…oh, and Mark McGwire.

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“Big Mac” on the left.

“What passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human […] is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic.”

David Foster Wallace

I’m listening to the birds outside and enjoying the Southern California sun, (it’s 81 degrees at I type this) and doing my typical routine of laughing at people who are freezing their collective asses off in cities where it’s snowing — and life is just generally miserable. (Hello New Jersey!) The vodka tonics have been swallowed, and in heroic fashion, I’m scheming and contemplating how I could possibly live in a disposable culture without having to be a miserable wage slave, when it hits me: whats up with that Mark McGwire guy? I mean, I knew what was UP, but it just seemed to me that the larger than life baseball player was kind of a futz when it came to his interests or personal life.  (C’mon, don’t judge. I mean, entertainment is just the opiate of the masses…or something like that.) After a quick bathroom break and zoning out session, I found out that this guy went to high school in La Verne, Ca. called Damien high.  (I am a child of the 80’s, so the first thing that charges through my cerebrum is the television show Laverne and Shirley, and the brilliant 1976 flick, “The Omen,” where the catalyst is a child of the anti-christ. This McGwire fellow is looking ALOT more interesting now…and wasn’t the culture of those times a bit more tactile than today?)

Movies and sports are ardently disposable, yet they create the most passionate disciples. Science has trumped GOD over and over again, but you don’t see people wearing t-shirts with some random fucking scientist on it, you see people thinking and talking about McGwire because he could do something arbitrary, yet entertaining. I don’t give a shit about the guy doing steroids: my main concern is what music he was listening to in 1981 while a senior in high school. Since he was a suburban jock living in a cultural void, he was probably listening to this:

All in all I was just trying to pull the veneer aside. (while tossing back a few) I was having an imaginary conversation with myself: you want a cigarette? (quaff)  Yes, I prefer menthol these days. (quaff)  Jesus fucking Christ, I hate bad tippers. (quaff) Ever notice how people don’t pay attention to a goddamn thing? (quaff) Acceptance is usually more a matter of fatigue than anything else.(quaff) People who tip bad do this because it isn’t to their immediate and unequivocal satisfaction. (quaff) ZZZZZZZZZZ