David Bruce: Baseball Anecdotes

When Stan Musial was a minor-league pitcher (and hitter) with Daytona Beach in the Florida State League, he was newly married. The team manager, Dickie Kerr, and his wife, Corinne, befriended Mr. Musial and his wife. Much later, Mr. Musial said, “Dickie and his wife treated us like their own children. He was wonderful. What he did for my morale, I’ll never be able to repay.” Stan and his wife showed their respect for the manager by naming their first-born child after him: Richard. Another way that Mr. Musial showed his respect for Dickie and Corinne was by buying them a house after he became well paid when he became a star in the major leagues as a St. Louis Cardinal, although he was not paid nearly as much as today’s stars. Of course, every player has slumps, and in 1956, Mr. Musial experienced a bad one. Some fans once booed him when he came to bat, but the following day many Cardinals fans paid for a large newspaper ad in which they apologized for the way that those fans had acted. Of course, Mr. Musial bounced back from the slump and resumed his hard-hitting ways. Knowing his worth, he asked to be made the highest-paid player in the league for the 1958 season. The team general manager, Bing Devine, thought that this request was fair and offered him a contract for $91,000. However, the team owner, Gussie Busch, vetoed this contract—and offered Mr. Musial more money. Mr. Devine told Mr. Musial: “I’ve got pleasant news for you, Stan. Mr. Busch wants you not only to become the highest-salaried player in National League history, but the first to receive $100,000.” By the way, Dodger pitcher Preacher Roe once said, “I know how to get Musial out. Walk him on four pitches and pick him off first.”

When Roger Clemens was a small boy, his grandmother lived near him. A strict disciplinarian, she would order him when he misbehaved to bring her a tree branch so she could switch him with it. Young Roger would hunt for a very small branch to bring to her. As a baseball player, he wore the number 21, which he and his family considered a lucky number. When he played for the Boston Red Sox, he got a personalized car license plate: SOX-21. When he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, Carlos Delgado wore number 21, but when Mr. Clemens asked for the number, Mr. Delgado willingly and quickly gave it up. Mr. Clemens rewarded Mr. Delgado with the gift of an expensive Rolex watch, and teammate Paul Quantrill joked, “Do you want my number 48, too?” As a pitcher, Mr. Clemens won numerous Cy Young awards. Originally, his goal was to win four Cy Young awards, one for each of his children (all sons). When he won his fifth Cy Young award, his sons told him, “Now, Dad, you have one for yourself.” By the way, when son Kobe was nine years old, he brought some friends to his house to see his father. Mr. Clemens was eating cereal when his son and approximately 20 of the kids in the neighborhood came into his house and stared at him. Kobe told the kids, “OK, guys, there he is. I told you my dad was Roger Clemens. Now let’s go play.”

Satchel Paige was an interesting conversationalist who used words well and who told stories well. When he was flush with money, he bought a big new car. According to Satchel, the new car “was so long that when I parked it at the curb I had to walk three houses back to see if the taillight was on.” When Satchel met his first wife, Janet Howard, a waitress, he said that he fell immediately in love: “From the minute she first set a plate of asparagus in front of me, I began to feel paralyzed.” When he was not flush with money, he paid many visits to pawnshops to sell his possessions. He said, “Mr. Pawnshop must have thought I was a burglar the way I kept back to see him with another shotgun or another suit of clothes. But I had to. A man’s got a way of getting used to eating, and eating takes money.” According to one of his stories, another pitcher on his team had a 1-0 lead in the 9th inning, but three opposing players were on base with no outs. The team manager called on Satchel to take over the pitching duties. Satchel took a baseball with him when he went to the pitcher’s mound, and then he got the game baseball from the pitcher he was relieving, so now he had two baseballs. Then, he said, “I just threw those two balls at the same time, one to first and one to third. I picked off both runners, and my motion was so good the batter fanned. That was three outs.”

Reggie Jackson learned from his father, Martinez. When Reggie was a child, the two were shopping at a market, and Reggie stole a candy bar. Outside the market, Reggie started eating the candy bar. His father realized that the candy bar was stolen, so he made his son go with him back into the market and confess the theft to the owner of the market. After that, the only thing that Reggie stole was bases. Martinez also gave Reggie good advice: “Don’t whine and don’t complain. Go out and do your job and earn the money they’re paying you.” Surprisingly, Reggie preferred football to baseball, and he went out for the Arizona State baseball team only because he made a bet of $5 with two friends who said he would not make the team. After hitting the baseball over the fence several times, he made both the team and $5. By the way, Reggie was booed at various times during his major-league career, but often the booing did not bother him. After all, he believed, “Fans don’t boo nobodies.”

While in the midst of a hitting slump in Chicago, Pete Rose boarded the Cincinnati Reds team bus only to run into a non-player who was disembarking after finding out that he had boarded the wrong bus. Mr. Rose told him, “If you can hit, stay on the bus.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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