Current jobs: Motivational speaker (thirty to forty appearances a year) and inventor (Big League Chew, bubble gum made to look like chewing tobacco, and Big League Cards, personalized baseball cards for regular people). "My latest invention is called Table to Go, and it's a combination plate, tray and table. It will allow somebody to hold a meal and a beverage securely in one hand. You can carry it around with you at a party and eat standing up, or you can sit down with it and put it on your lap. That'll be in stores in April and May."
Cool because: Wrote Ball Four, best baseball book ever, about the 1969 season, which he spent as a pitcher with the Seattle Pilots, Hawaii Islanders, and Houston Astros. Now working on a twenty-year update, due to be published next year. Also won 21 games in 1963 for the New York Yankees.
Good dirt on off-the-field spring training high jinks: "I always had my family with me in spring training. I'm not a good source for spring training nightlife."
Philosophy: "Spring training for ballplayers is always a combination of two things. One, it was fun to be playing ball and out in the sunshine and having a good time. It was sort of like being on vacation. You could bring your kids down there and hang around the pool. It was great fun. On the other hand, when you got on the field it was a life-and-death struggle for survival. There was incredible pressure and tension. It's a jungle in spring training."
Most profound memories: "I do motivational speaking for corporations now, and frequently they'll have meetings in Tempe or Scottsdale or Phoenix, so I'll come out there for that. Whenever I come out there, I always drive by the old ballpark at Tempe to bring back memories of what it was like there in 1969. It looks exactly the same. They still have that big rock formation there out behind third base." Spring training with the Pilots: "That particular spring the Pilots had signed a whole bunch of people--all the guys they drafted, plus they invited a bunch of people to spring training. It seemed like they had a hundred guys running around trying to make the team. I counted once that there were fifteen or twenty pitchers trying out for two spots. The other eight spots on the pitching staff had already been committed to guys they had spent a lot of money on in the expansion draft. They had a lot of look-see guys, and I was one of them, all battling for one or two spots on the pitching staff."
Arizona versus Florida: "I think a lot of players felt they could work up a sweat better in Florida. They might have felt they were getting in shape better. It was tough for guys who had stayed out late the night before and had a hangover to sweat it out in Arizona. I think they probably felt they got a better workout in Florida. I think it was just in their heads. Because they were perspiring more, they felt they were getting in shape better. I never felt any difference."
Preference: "I think Arizona is a much more physically beautiful place than Florida, which is pretty flat and uninteresting. Your first time in Arizona was like watching a wild-West movie. The big rock formations, you'd expect cowboys and Indians to come riding out of there and start shooting guns."
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.