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Interview with: Larry Dierker
Interviewed by: Dr. Joseph Pratt
Date: July 14, 2008
JP: We are here today with Larry Dierker in his home in Jersey Village. It is July 14, 2008. We are going to talk some about the City of Houston and how it has affected your life and particularly, of course, to talk about the Houston Astros. So, it might start with your first impressions of the city when you came and what you saw when you got here and Houston and the Astros when you first came on the scene . . .
LD: Well, I came from Los Angeles, so Houston did not seem that big or necessarily civilized compared to Los Angeles. But, of course, I came with a lot of guys that came from the south and from small towns and for them, it seemed like they were in a huge metropolis. But for me, it did not seem that way. My rookie year was the first year of the Dome and at that time, it was surrounded by vacant lots, and the Galleria was not there. It was also open land and there was a small brick building there that was KPRC. Of course, they moved further out the Southwest Freeway now but I guess the first impression that I had was that it was flat. Where I came from, there were a lot of hills and mountains. It was hot. I went down to Galveston. The water was brown instead of blue. My first impression was not all that favorable and I always thought that I would probably move back to California when my career was over but the longer I lived here, the more people that I met and the more things I learned that were available to do. It began to have a positive effect on me and by the time I finally finished playing, I did not want to go back to California anymore. Of course, my mother is still living and she is out there so we still go back but, you know, I tell her in terms of the impression of Houston, you know, they say Los Angeles or New York or Chicago is a nice place to visit but you would not want to live there, and I say, well, Houston may not be such a nice place to visit but you would want to live there.
JP: Where did you live when you first came?
LD: We lived out Bissonnett near the Southwest Freeway and even that, it was a new apartment complex and there were several other new apartment complexes out that way but there was also a lot of open land out there.
JP: How long have you lived here in Jersey Village?
LD: We lived here since 1987. It has been almost 20 years.
JP: So, you have seen a lot of changes here, too, in terms of suburban . . .
LD: Oh, I have, you know, especially here in the part of the village where we are because this was the part that was developed first. Jersey Village was a dairy farm. That is how it got its name. The first houses were built on this lake back here and most of the lots were anywhere from a half an acre to an acre, but the homes were just 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch-style homes. So, it was kind of like living in the country I am sure when it was first developed but now, since it is right at 290 and the Beltway, it is a pivotal location and it is a pretty good location for getting around town. And so, what we have seen in the 20 years or so we have been here is that people are buying these old ranch-style houses and either remodeling as we did or just knocking them down and building a bigger house. And so now, most of the houses along the lake here that were built in the 1950s have either been destroyed with a new house built on a lot or else remodeled, and there are not too many left in their original condition.
JP: It is happening all over the city. Has your commute changed dramatically, getting from here down into the city?
LD: Actually, traffic, you know, being what it is, you can never really predict but to go to the Astrodome, when I was commuting to the Astrodome, generally took a little bit longer just because of getting by the Galleria. But going out to Minute Maid, driving in to town when most people are driving out for a night game was pretty easy. It did not take me as long as getting to the Dome.
JP: All right. Well, speaking of Minute Maid, you have played on all 3 of our major league baseball stadiums -- maybe your observations about the 3 and special things about each one that you remember.
LD: Well, you know, the first thing I remember is the old Colts Stadium, was even before we were in the apartment on Bissonnett. That was when I was just staying at a motel on South Main across from the Astrodome and, of course, the old Colts Stadium was on that same site. And when I went out there, I was surrounded by all these big league players and, you know, taking batting practice and shagging and everything, not knowing they were going to let me pitch a couple of months after that. I was just excited. At that point, I was not really thinking about how hot it was or how big the mosquitoes were. Now, when you talk to older people that used to go to the old Colts Stadium, that is what they talk about - how hot it is outside here and they can't imagine how they went to those games after being in the Dome and Minute Maid where you are never out in the heat, and also the mosquitoes. The mosquitoes are supposedly so big that they could pick you up and carry you away and all that. I don't remember any of that. I don't remember it being that hot. I don't remember the mosquitoes. I think I was just so excited that first September but I did not really form that much of an impression about the ballpark other than it seemed old because I was used to going to Dodger Stadium. So then, I was only with the team for about 3 weeks that September and the next April when we opened the season, it was the first year of the Astrodome. So, I have much stronger impressions of the Astrodome than I have of old Colt's Stadium because I was only in Colt's Stadium for a little while and I only pitched one game there.
The Astrodome, I can still remember, we came back from spring training and we got back at night and when the team bus pulled up to the Astrodome, they had the lights on inside and we were all practically breathless with anticipation. We walked in and walked down across the concourse out into the seats and looked at the field and I remember telling somebody that I felt like I had walked into the next century because it was over and beyond anything that I ever saw Dodger Stadium in terms of just the visual impression you got when you went in there. The thing that is ironic about that is that when we actually did go into the next century, it was the same year that we moved into yet another ball park and the Astrodome was already antiquated. So, a lot of things have happened over the years since I have been here but the last few years in the Astrodome were glorious in the sense that I was managing and we won the Division each one of those years but also a little sad for me and that started even before I managed when the Oilers threatened to move and they demanded that the Houston Sports Association which owned the Astros and had the lease on the Astrodome, that they take down the scoreboard and put up more seats for football, and the scoreboard for me really made it a baseball park because there were the pavilion seats that were low and then went up high for the foul lines and the whole expanse behind the pavilion seats was a gigantic scoreboard, so that if you were sitting behind home plate, it looked like a baseball field even though it was enclosed. Once they took that down and put seats all the way around, it might as well had been Bush Stadium or River Front or Three Rivers. It just looked like all the other multipurpose stadiums. And in addition to that, the team was not drawing all that well throughout a good portion of that time and so the crowds were not that big and, as a result, there was not as much money to operate the stadium. It fell into disrepair and by the time we got to the point of trying to get a new stadium and going through that initiative and referendum or whatever it was with the vote, that was right about when I was named manager which was right after the 1996 season.
I really thought at that time that we needed to get the downtown stadium not just because the Dome was becoming outdated but also because when we moved from old Colts Stadium into the Astrodome, the team name changed from the Colt 45s to the Astros, and I think that was significant in the sense that the Colt 45s kind of gives you that western image - cowboys and all that sort of thing - but Houston was, at that point, on the forefront of the Space Program with NASA. And so, in one sense, the Colt 45s was the past and the Astros and the Space Program was the present and the future. So, I think, you know, symbolically, that name change probably said a lot for the way the city was changing at that time. And then, by the time we moved to Minute Maid, the Space Program was not quite as exciting as it had been and it kind of became old hat; you know, we were flying people out to the moon and sending up satellites and everything routinely. So, it was not quite as romantic a notion in 2000 as it was in 1965, which was 4 years before we actually sent men to the moon. So, at that time, I was actually thinking, well maybe we need another name change. We did not change the name but we did go back to a stadium that had a history because it was built into the old train station downtown and the architecture would suggest an earlier era and the shape of it was not round like the Astrodome - it more conformed to the foul lines and the shape of the field. It was a far better baseball stadium. I mean, you really have the feeling you are at a ballpark when you go to Minute Maid but once they took that scoreboard down in the Astrodome, you really did not feel like you were in a ballpark. So, you know, I think that both of those moves were probably necessary and a good thing for baseball in Houston. I love the new stadium, even though it is not particularly pitcher friendly and I was a pitcher, I still think it is just a great place to watch a game. And the thing that probably emphasized that more than anything to me was last year in 2007, for the first time, the team was really a below average team with a losing record since 2000, and 2000 was the only bad year since going all the way back to 1996. So, the team had been pretty good but last year, the team was not very good at all and yet, I would go out there in September and make my appearance at Larry's Big Bamboo and the place would be jammed. And part of that was Craig Biggio's last season but I think a big part of it was what some people told me when they were in there. I'd say, "Why are you still coming to the games? The team has been eliminated." They said, "Yes, but, we have had a lot of good years with the team but mostly it is just we like this place. Every time we come here, we have a good time. It is such a great stadium with such a great atmosphere." And so, I think the stadium has had a lot to do with establishing Houston as a good baseball city. You know, the Colt 45s, of course, were a losing team and the Astros in the early years were a losing team but you had the excitement of the Astrodome that kind of gave it a little romance and a little glitter. But then, as the Astrodome novelty started to wane and the team still was not doing that well and they got into financial trouble, it was difficult to build a core of fans that you felt like you could grow into the type of situation with fans of the more traditional American cities where, you know, your dad took you out to see the Cardinals and then when you were an adult, you took your kid and maybe your dad and it became a generational thing. We are from Houston, this is our team, this is our ballpark and we are a baseball city. And I think now, with Minute Maid Park, that Houston is becoming that way -- that the franchise is old enough that you can say I went there with my dad and I took my son or all three generations went. And so, it has been heartening to me that what I was afraid would never happen is finally starting to occur.
JP: Yes, and you were a big part of that over a long career.
LD: I was. I mean, I did not cause any of it to happen but I witnessed it.
JP: Well, you had some pretty memorable moments in all the stadiums. Your 18th birthday is a good story that we should talk about.
LD: Yes, my 18th birthday, I struck out Willie Mays in the first inning and, of course, that is the first bullet point when I send somebody a bio. Of course, I like to joke around that I struck out Willie Mays in my first inning on my 18th birthday and it went straight downhill from there, but it would be hard to go uphill from there. Anyway, that made that one start in Colts Stadium very memorable. And then, in the Astrodome, you know, I became the first 20 game winner in 1969. I made the All-Star team a couple of times. And then, in my last year with the Astros, pitched a no-hitter in the Astrodome. And so, that was the bulk of my playing career. But then, the new stadium came and I was manager. I can remember getting the job in 1997 and people said, "Well, you know, you are going to get fired," and I said, "Well, I know. I mean, all managers get hired and then they get fired and I have never really been fired before but I know going in that is going to happen. I just hope I can last long enough to still be managing when we open the 2000 season in the new ballpark," and because we had success, I was still managing and so I had some memorable moments there, too, winning the Division in 1991 and another playoff series there, seeing it go from Enron with all the turmoil around that. It sort of changed hands in terms of the name of the stadium from Enron to Minute Maid. Gosh, I am feeling old!
JP: Me, too, because I watched all of them. I just realized you were at the first exhibition games of the Yankees when they opened the stadium.
LD: I was.
JP: When did you pitch your first game in the Dome?
LD: I don't remember because I was in the bullpen. The first year that I played in 1965, I didn't get into the starting rotation until about mid summer and I know I pitched a few games in the Dome in the early part of that year but I can't remember which one was the first one.
JP: What was that Yankees series like to you as an 18-year-old?
LD: Well, the whole thing was . . . it wasn't just the fact that it was the Yankees and they had Mickey Mantle, but the fact that we had a new stadium and for those early games, a lot of dignitaries came out: LBJ, John Connally, the mayor, the astronauts. It was certainly a magnet for everybody that was anybody in the Texas area - you've got to come see the Astrodome. So, what I remember about the early days, the Yankees series and the opening series with the Phillies more than anything was just the glory of it all. Of course, once you get into the season and you are a month or two down the road, those people stop coming to the ballpark. It just becomes your home ballpark and it wasn't quite as romantic as it was at the very beginning. But at the beginning, it was something to see and experience; I mean, not just seeing it but being a part of the gatherings with all of the prominent people.
JP: We forget in Houston, I think, what a strange park it was until other people built Astroturf. Did that seem an advantage or a disadvantage as a pitcher - the whole package, the big fences and the Astroturf put together?
LD: Well, the big advantage to the pitcher was it was really hard to hit a homerun there. The dimensions were not that much different than they were in other parts, but the ball did not carry that well. And so, from that standpoint, it was an advantage to the pitcher. From the standpoint of the grass, what happened there was that the Lucite panels on top of the roof would allow light to come through which would ostensibly allow grass to grow. But what they found out in short order was that if a pop fly was hit during a day game, you'd look up into all those windows and you could not see the ball. And so, then they had to paint a pie section of those windows to prevent the light from coming through so that the fielders could see the fly balls as they left the bat and make the plays. But once they did that, it got just a little bit darker in there and the grass stopped growing. And then, as outfielders would be running around in the outfield, they would just be tearing up big clumps of sod. It was not a month before it was practically unplayable. And so, some genius came up with Astroturf and that was the beginning of leading the entire National League down the primrose path because the other owners noticed that and they thought, well, if we had a stadium like this, we could rent it to the football team and we could put down Astroturf so we would not have to have much of a ground crew, we would not have to worry about rain delays and we could just shift the bottom section of seats around either to a rectangle for football or to a right angle for baseball. This is the perfect stadium. So, they built one in St. Louis and they built one in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and Atlanta, and outside of Atlanta, they all went to Astroturf. And then, after a number of years of Astroturf, especially with football, they realized that it was hard on your body and guys were breaking down, knees were getting sore and ankles were getting sore even just playing the outfield but in football, even worse than that - getting slammed into it. And then, they began to realize that the sidelines were not ideal either, that because the lower deck had to sweep out and then shift around, the sections that were above that lower deck were pretty far back from the field. And so, your view of the game wasn't as good and you didn't have that sense of being close to the action that you had in some of the old ballparks. I played in some of them, in Crosley Field and Forbes Field and Connie Mack Stadium, Sportsmen's Park - all those stadiums were eventually demolished and in all of those cities, they built a big Astrodome-like stadium near downtown and laid down Astroturf, so everybody copied us. It wasn't too long after that that, well, you know, this Astroturf isn't such a good idea. Everybody is getting hurt. And also, you know, the fans aren't really as close to the game as they would like to be. Well then, the new stadium starting with Camden Yards and then Jacobs Field, all the new stadiums were built for baseball only. Well, they tore down all of these multiuse stadiums and built a baseball only stadium that conformed to the foul lines so that the fans would get closer to the field and with Camden Yards, they built it into this warehouse where Babe Ruth's father was a saloon keeper way back when and so that had some charm to it, and the other stadiums that followed seemed to follow just like they followed the Astrodome, they followed Camden Yards in the sense of trying to make use of downtown buildings or historic sites like Union Station and Minute Maid Park to kind of bring the history of the city and the present of the baseball team together. I think in almost every case, that has really been a great idea, and following along with that idea has been a lot better than following the Astrodome. But, you know, we learn these things in retrospect. So, you know, it is good, in my opinion, that it has evolved in the way that it has. I do not expect any time in the foreseeable future, that people are going to change their attitude about what a good baseball stadium looks like. And one of the things that, for me at least, is unique to baseball is the fact that a lot of fans will want to go to a game in all these different cities because they want to see the ballpark. The same thing is true of golf. People that love to play golf, they want to play this famous course and that famous course and they travel around the country to play different golf courses because every one of them is different. And now, when you travel around the National League, every one of these ballparks is different. Architecturally, you know, they may be similar in the sense that they tried to use architecture that would hearken to the past and traditional forms of architecture that you might see at Yankee Stadium or Wrigley Field, something like that. I think it is charming. I don't think it is going to change. I think they finally got it right. Yet, you don't see people travel all around the country to go to all the football stadiums. And, you know, tennis, it is rectangle. If I told you I went to San Francisco and played the Olympic Club, you would not ask me if I played golf or tennis because they have tennis courts there but they are just like the tennis courts everywhere else, but they hold the U.S. Open at their golf course every 10 years or so. So, people collect ballparks like they collect golf courses, but they don't collect tennis courts and basketball and football courts or stadiums. I find that interesting. I also think it is probably the reason that, at least in my opinion, the best literature there is in sports is primarily books about baseball and golf and not the books that are written about games that are played where you are pushing back and fort across a rectangle.
JP: This would be a good chance to talk about how you became a writer, including the whole college education and the writing with the Chronicle. Would you classify yourself as a baseball historian almost or a baseball writer . . .
LD: Oh, yes, I would say an amateur baseball historian. I am not really spending a lot of time anymore trying to go through the past. I did quite a bit of that when I was announcing. When I signed, I signed out of high school and I had scholarship offers from UCLA and Stanford. Back then, my dad estimated that those scholarships would be worth about $30,000 so he said, "I know the scouting end, they are going to offer you some money but unless they offer you more than that, I am not going to sign with you. You are a minor and you cannot sign a contract unless I sign, too, but if they offer you more than that and you want to play, I will sign it but only if you promise me that you will take the off-season and go to college." So, that is what I did. They offered me more money, I signed the contract and then each off-season, I spent a semester in college and the first couple were out in Santa Barbara in California and then I moved here year round and started going to the University of Houston. My one semester at a time, I was not quite able to play long enough to finish but my major was English and I found that I could do a lot better in classes where the tests were essay tests rather than objective tests. I think the main reason for that was I had some native talent for writing and also that the season did not end until October but school started in September, so whenever I started going back to school, I was usually 3 weeks to 1 month late. If it was history or political science or philosophy or English, any classes where you had to read books and then be tested where you would write an essay about what you had learned, it was easy for me to catch up in those classes. But I took some classes like calculus and accounting that only lasted about 2 weeks because I got there 3 weeks late, I was hopelessly lost and I did not see that I could ever catch up. So, I could have accidentally ended up in English but now that I look back, I don't think it was really an accident because I think that is where I probably had more natural talent. And so, then I got into broadcasting. That was communication. It was not writing but it was certainly communication. And then, I thought I might like to do some writing and I was able to work with the Chronicle for 8 or 10 years running a column once a week during the baseball season and I enjoyed writing the columns and learned a little bit about the newspaper business and got some positive feedback from fans. Then, I developed a radio show which was called the Baseball Library that we used to play on the pregame and that was also a part of a broadcast, so it wasn't writing except it was writing because I had to write scripts for each one of those shows and I had to collect sound bytes from guys that were a part of whatever moment that was in baseball history and try to get some play by play from the game if I could get it and put all those together in the scripts and go on to the studio and read them. And so, that also really augmented my knowledge of baseball history because it was all based on this day in baseball history. So, I had to go back and find things that happened that were significant on all the days of the baseball season. And after a few years of that, I had about 500 shows. I still have those shows, trying to figure out what to do with them. But all of those things led me in a direction where I think I would have been inclined to go anyway, all other things being equal. One of the reasons I stopped going to U of H and started taking some of those business classes was I hurt my arm and I thought, well, I don't want to be an English teacher. I did not really think I could make a living as a writer. So, I started to go to real estate school and I got a broker's license for real estate and actually, after I played, I did that for 1 year before I got the broadcast job with the team. Once I got back, I was right back into communications and I did not do that well in real estate anyway, so I kind of thought, maybe I should not have even taken this detour in my career to go a different direction. I should have just kept going to school and taking English because of the things I am doing now, that has been the most valuable training. You know, a lot of things that seem coincidental do not turn out to be that way in the end. My wife was an English teacher and now, my daughter has just graduated from U of H a couple of years ago and her major was English. And now, her son just graduated a couple of months ago and his major was English. So maybe it was as much genetic as anything else.
JP: What did your dad do for a living? What did your own parents do for a living?
LD: Well, my mother was in college at University of Southern California when she met my dad which was during the war and he was in Long Beach, not too far away, in the service. So, they met and then they had a whirlwind courtship and quick marriage within about 3 months. And so, they traveled around a bit as he got transferred and ended up back in Los Angeles after the war. And then, I was born shortly after that in the very first wave of the Baby Boom era. My dad had been an engineer by training and ended up in the utilities business, gas company in Pacific Lighting. He worked his way all the way up to the board of directors and was very successful. My mother, who was in school when they got married, after I was born and then my brother and my sister . . . then once my sister got into school, so now we are probably talking 15-20 years, she went back and finished. And then, she started teaching. She was a coach. She was pretty good, too. She had 2 LA city championship teams, one in swimming and one in gymnastics, and then she also was a guidance counselor. So, for both of them, education and having a professional career was important. And so, all of us, my brother and my sister and I were all encouraged to do well in school and to prepare ourselves to have a professional career. My brother did not do English and my sister is a teacher. One of her subjects is English but that is not all she does. For whatever reason, I gravitated towards English and married a lady that was English and, you know, it just worked out that way. But I honestly think, you know, just from what I know about my mother, that had she started off in that direction, that she would have been pretty talented in that way, too. And so, I would guess that I got more of the right brain attitude from my mother and the left brain training of my father.
JP: I am curious about the U of H experience. How long did you go and all to get a degree?
LD: How long did I lack . . . one of the things I did not do because of starting late was take a foreign language and you had to have a foreign language to get an English degree so I got to the point where I had foreign language classes I had to take and about 3 or 4 more English classes to take and then, I would have graduated but I never took those classes.
JP: How did the other students treat you in the classroom? Did they know who you were?
LD: Yes, kind of but you know how young kids are. I don't know if it was deference or whether it was just apathy or not a fan or something. I don't remember being treated that much differently. I was about the same age as the other students until maybe the last couple of semesters, I might have been a little older than most of them, but I don't remember really too much special treatment. On the other hand, one thing about Houston in general and comparing it to other cities and baseball is that in some of the newer cities like Houston and San Diego, the fans did not seem to be in awe of the players, and I have talked to players that played most of their careers with the Rockets and the Oilers as well, and they say the same thing. You know, you can go on the road and you can have a big mob of fans wanting autographs and you come back to Houston and if you were having dinner, nobody would come up and ask for an autograph and they would wait maybe on the way out. The people were more respectful and less intrusive in Houston or San Diego than they were, especially in the eastern cities.
JP: Nolan Ryan used to come to our high school and watch his son play basketball.
LD: People would not bother him?
JP: People did not even say hello to him. Very interesting. Were there particular writers or books that influenced the way you wrote and the way you thought about writing?
LD: Well, probably. I would not say that there was anybody that influenced my writing so much as William Faulkner influenced Tony Morrison, you know, where you have somebody and they are a mentor - you just really are fascinated by their work and try to emulate it but I read a lot of books, baseball and otherwise, and in the beginning of my announcing career, I tried to learn a little bit more about baseball history than I knew as a player or as a kid and I guess probably the books that were most memorable to me were probably the seminal book on baseball history, was The Glory of Their Times, which was written by Lawrence Ritter. That had a strong influence upon me. And the other writers, I think that wrote about baseball, at least, that I admired were Cancella who wrote mostly fiction and Roger Angel and Thomas Boswell who wrote mostly nonfiction. And also Roger ________ was a summer . . . there were some gifted writers that chose baseball as their medium and so I think by educating myself on baseball history, I was also educating myself on writing because some of these people were pretty good at it!
JP: Are there writers today that are still out there of that quality that you look forward to reading?
LD: You know, a guy that wrote for Sports Illustrated a lot of years, Frank DeFord, is a gifted writer, too, and I did not read him as much because he really did not write about baseball or history that much but I read a novel of his recently where baseball was part of the theme. I would say of things that I have read recently, he would be the guy that comes to mind.
JP: If you think about . . . what is your favorite thing you have ever written? If you had 1 or 2 of those columns that stand out your book?
MA: Yes, t here were a few columns. One, in particular, taught me a lot about the newspaper business. We had an exhibition game in Quad Cities and we were not going to broadcast and this is when I was broadcasting so I ran to the car and went with one of the other broadcasters and one of the writers and we drove up to where they filmed Field of Dreams. We borrowed buckets of balls and we would toss the ball around out there. So, I came back and wrote a column about it and I probably spent about 8 or 10 hours writing it until I thought I had every single word just right because I got pretty emotional about it and what happened to that column, I still regret because I talked about borrowing a ball and some gloves from these people in the beginning of the column and at the end, you know, I said that I would sheepishly returned the ball to the people that loaned it to us, all scuffed up and grass stained but they edited out the part about borrowing the ball from them so returning it to them did not make any sense. The column was a little too long and somebody was in a hurry to edit it and just spent all that time on . . . it just wiped it clean. Some guy that probably had 10 minutes to get this done . . . after that, I said, "You know, I am not going to invest this much time in these columns anymore. You know, you put your heart and soul into it and there were several that I would get a little emotional just writing it. But after that first one, I never really took as much painstaking effort. I did not put quite as much into any of the ones after that. Of the two books, I enjoyed writing the first one more. It was kind of a "life and times" and got to tell a lot of stories. It was mostly Astros-related. I think brain surgery was the title of that one. The second one was my team which was an attempt to formulate a team, an all-time team out of the 40 years that I was on the scene. It was kind of a challenge in terms of analyzing players and trying to cut the 150 or so that I considered down to a 25 man team. And that was kind of hard because, you know I knew a lot of these people. I hated to leave them off the team if they were a friend and put somebody else I did not know on the team instead, so I kind of agonized over that a little bit. In the end, I was able to work some stories into it but I do not think it was quite as entertaining, especially for a Houston fan is the first book so I probably would say that the first one is the one that I would enjoy reading as a reader more than the second one and the one that I am probably a little more proud of but I like to think the best is still to come.
JP: The columns, to those of us who like baseball and all, for a time, it seemed it was the best thing in the Houston Chronicle and it disappeared. What happened?
LD: Tell them that! I have not been able to write for them for a few years. The newspaper business is not too good right now so they are not publishing much work from freelance writers. It is just another expense.
JP: All right, so about 10 years you'd say?
LD: Yes, about 10 years.
JP: When you were announcing or when you were playing?
LD: I was announcing.
JP: We will put of your books with the interviews, a lot of the baseball careers and people are covered there but you have said several places that one of your real highlights of your life was the last game in the Dome and you saw the first one and almost every game in between. The last one, you had the all-domed team.
LD: Well, the last one was special in a number of ways. First of all, I already knew that they were going to be honoring me along with 3 other starting pitchers, a position player at each position as the Astros all time team of honor, Astrodome team of honor - not Colts Stadium but they wanted to cover the years of the Astrodome. And so, they chose me as one of the starting pitchers and before the game even started, I knew that they were going to make a presentation and have a ceremony on the field after the game but I also knew that we had to win the game to win the Division. And so, first things first as they say. I kind of felt like we didn't win the game and the Reds did win that day, that it would not be much fun going out there afterwards for the ceremony. But we did win that day. And so, everything came together. The team of players that they chose were a couple of guys who were from my generation, a couple were from the years where I served as broadcaster and a couple of them like Biggio and Bagwell were still on the team and active players at the time. So, you know, to see all those guys come together as one hypothetical, all time Astrodome team on the say day that you just won the Division with confetti coming down from the ceiling of the Astrodome and champagne corks popping and guys smoking cigars and the bandstand in the seats and cheering and cheering on and on. I would say that for me, that was even a more satisfying feeling than I had pitching a no-hitter because the no-hitter was one game but this was an accumulation of all these years. It was an honor to be selected to the team to begin with but to have it happen on that particular day, it seemed to magnify everything.
JP: Yes, and Division titles weren't particularly common occurrences in those 3 years for the Astros.
EAC: Well, as I say now, we won the Division in 1980 and we won the Division in 1986. Then, we won in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2001 and we have not won it since. So, 4 out of the 6, we are doing the 5 years that I was the manager and it was not just because I was managing, it was because that was probably the year where we had the best players any of the years that the Astros played. So, I had great timing to sign with the Colt 45s because it was an expansion team with not that much in the farm system and I was able to race right through and get into the big leagues almost immediately, but then the flip side of that was we never had a good team when I was a player so we never got even close to winning a championship. And then, when I came back down, I had the good timing of coming down there and inheriting guys with a lot of talent and we made a couple of changes, a couple of trades and the team got better while I was managing. And so, I had the good fortune of being able to participate in those championship seasons in the dugout and in uniform, and it was qualitatively different than being the announcer in 1980 and 1987 when we won the Division. Of course, I was excited then but it wasn't nearly as fulfilling as actually being in the dugout.
JP: It makes you a good person to mull over the more difficult questions. How come it was so hard for the Astros to win all those years? What do you think?
LD: Well, I think, and this is just an opinion but my opinion is that in the very early days of the Astrodome or of the Astros franchise and the Colt 45 years, the team had two owners: Judge Roy Hofheinz and R.E. Bob Smith who was in real estate and an oil man, and the two of them found after a couple of years that they really were not getting along that well. And so, the judge made a deal with Bob Smith that he would pay them a certain amount of money to become sole owner. And they agreed on the amount of money and when it was supposed to be paid and part of the deal was if he could not come up with the money by that date, then Bob Smith would give him the money and he would be the sole owner. So, kind of a buy-sell agreement. Well, the judge did come up with the money. The judge did not get along with Paul Richards and he was the general manager. I thought he was an outstanding baseball man. Of course, naturally I would since he signed me but, I mean, he also signed Rusty Staub and Joe Morgan and Jimmy Wynn and Sonny Jackson, Doug Rader, Bob Watson, Tom Griffin - all of these guys within a period of about 3-4 years. We had more good young talent, I think, than any franchise in the National League but we weren't quite mature. When the judge got the franchise, he let Paul Richards go and he hired another general manager and that general manager started trading away the young players to get older players, and so we were never able to reach maturity as a group of young players and win a championship. And it just seemed like once we made a couple of those bad deals and tried to make up for them, we continued to make deals that were not fruitful and we just never caught up until 1980. So, I think it was a people thing. Just like in most industries, sometimes you are affected, I guess, by macroeconomic forces that you cannot control but in most cases, over a long period of time, any industry will be in flush times, in times when their business is good and when that happens, if you have the right people, you take advantage of it and if you don't have the right people, you don't. I think it was a people thing, really. I think we got off to a pretty good start but then we stumbled and we did not get back up for a long time.
JP: Was that era before the draft as we now know it?
LD: The year that I signed was, which was 1964. Paul Richards had signed me and Morgan and Jackson, Wynn, Don Wilson, Tom Griffin - all prior to the draft. And then, in 1965, which was the next year . . . I signed in 1964 . . . then, that was the first year of the amateur draft. Actually, we did not make that many good draft picks in the early going either, but those first several years, he had accumulated so many good young players that even the fact that we made a couple of mistakes on first round draft picks in the late 1960s, we still were a team that was making progress towards being an excellent ball club until we started making those trades.
JP: When you look at the Astros history, on that one issue and many others, you see the big change from when you were a baseball player and today and the status of the players and the free agency and the salaries. How have you watched that over a lifetime? Is that necessarily a good thing or is it only good for the players?
LD: Well, I think, you know, we have finally come to a point where it is a good thing although I suspect that the fans are paying for it one way or another, either by watching TV and sponsorship money or by internet, getting on websites, but mostly the thing you think about with the team financially is what they do at the gate; you know, what is the attendance like? And attendance throughout Major League Baseball has mostly grown. It actually was getting better up until the strike in 1994 and then for a couple of years, it dropped off and now, it has come back on them and attendance is good again. And that has happened even though the prices have gone up, up, up, up, up. I noticed something that really brought a smile to my face last fall because it did not appear until the fourth or fifth page of the sports section and it was only about a 2 paragraph article, and it said players and owners sign new basic agreement. Well, every single time that basic agreement came up for negotiation, from the time I was a rookie up until last fall, there was some sort of work stoppage or a threat of a work stoppage; that the union was making demands, whether it was pensions, free agency arbitration - all the things that transpired to put the players in a position to have more leverage - those things also forced the owners to seek new streams of revenue, and merchandising, selling team gear became a lot bigger part of the business after the owners got desperate to find ways to make more money to keep up with the free agent arbitration, kind of ratcheting of salaries that occurred for about 15 or 20 years, and I think finally, with the new stadiums and with all the different forms of revenue -- I think the internet is a big part of that now, too -- the owners apparently have been able to generate enough revenue to pay the players the extraordinary salaries that they now make and so both sides just disagreed. Let's go on - business as usual. The players were happy with the system. They are all are making millions of dollars. The owners were happy with the system. They are drawing well, they are making money. The sport seems to be pretty healthy from a business standpoint. And the agreement got signed with no acrimony. I doubt if very many people noticed that but I did.
JP: What year did you sign your first hundred million dollar contract, do you remember?
LD: My first what?
JP: Hundred million dollar contract!
LD: Yeah, I am still waiting for that one, too!
JP: It seems like that might punish the relatively smaller franchises like Houston was then, that the real good players you develop . . .
LD: There was a lot of talk about the big market, small market disparity, of the Yankees winning all the time, the Braves winning all the time, superstations, revenues, some teams that may have a lot more growth revenue than others but, you know, it just seemed like about every 5 years, a team like the Twins or the Royals would get into the playoffs and the Player's Association would say, see, it is not about who is in the big city, it is about who is the best business man and who has the best scouts and who has the best coaches and manager. It is not just what city you are in. So, we had just enough about every 5 years of an argument that you don't have to be in a big city to be able to fight that claim off. But I thought that there would be a major dislocation in the sport between big market and small market. I never dreamed that it would work out to where the playing field was level enough that most franchises felt like they had a legitimate chance. Now, you know, it seems like there are even more small market teams that are having success. Minnesota, most recently, Oakland. This year, Tampa Bay. I don't know this for a fact but I suspect that the internet has a lot to do with that because, you know, the Royals have a website and the Yankees have a website but the owners agreed to share internet revenue. They never agreed to share local radio and TV revenue and so, you know, the Yankees' broadcast rights might have been worth $80 million and the Mariners broadcast rights may have been worth $2 million, and you could not draw enough fans to make up that difference. I mean, the Mariners could have sold out every night and the Yankees could have locked the doors on their stadium, and just from TV revenue alone, they would have more revenue than the Mariners. So, you know, that is where the big disparity came. I think now that they are sharing the internet, and I don't know for sure but I suspect, that that is a big enough piece of the pie now and it is split evenly between the teams that even the small market teams feel like maybe they do not have the advantage that the Yankees have or the Red Sox or the Dodgers, but at least they have enough to sign some free agents once in a while and try to compete.
JP: And if you are right, that is good for the long-term because that will grow the internet.
LD: It probably will, you know. But, you know, when I thought there was going to be a major dislocation, there wasn't anything called an internet. So, nobody could have foreseen that.
JP: I would like to get your general observations about anything you want to talk about but first, what about just the whole idea of managing pitchers these days versus when you were pitching? I saw on your record 305 innings in 1 year when you were young?
LD: Yes, well, you know, that was the convention. A lot of times, managers will say they are playing the percentages. Well, I would defy the managers to tell you what those percentages are. There aren't any percentages on a lot of these things that managers do. It is like follow the leader. It seemed like in the 1970s, the big red machine had better relief pitchers than starters and so Sparky Anderson started going to the bullpen early. In the 1980s, the Cardinals won some championships, they really had a better bullpen than they had starters, so they started going to the bullpen early. Those two teams won so a few other managers said, well, maybe this is the deal, we've got to get the starter out before he gets tired and bring in a fresh pitcher. And so, I don't think there is really a percentage that anybody could calculate to support or deny that what the managers are doing now is good percentage baseball. I think it is just conventions. Even when I go around and broadcast these Minor League games, the managers are managing the same way. So, you know, now if a guy pitches 200 innings, it is like pitching 300 back when I was pitching. Back then, you know, it was make your best pitchers starters and the relief pitchers are the leftovers. And now, a lot of times, the teams take the guy with the best arm and make him the closer. So, the conventions of the way the game was managed strategically have changed over time and I think it is a good thing for the pitchers. I probably would have lasted a lot longer if I would have been pitching 200 innings a year instead of 230 or 250 or 300, but I was not the only one doing that. A lot of pitchers were doing that. Nolan Ryan was doing that and he pitched until he was 45 years old. So, I don't think you can say just because you limit the number of innings for a starting pitcher, that you are automatically going to allow him to have a longer career. I think generally speaking, that is probably true but there is absolute proof that guys have lasted a long time even with that burden of pitching 300 innings a year. Ferguson Jenkins comes to mind, Gaylord Perry. I mean, these guys were pitching 300 innings more often than I did. They were doing it practically every year.
JP: Yes, Warren Spahn.
LD: Warren Spahn. I mean, the old-time starting pitchers felt like they were the beginning and the end and if they didn't finish the game, they hadn't done their job.
JP: Yes, the year with 305 innings, I think you said you had 20 complete games.
LD: Yes, and I did not leave the League either.
JP: Did you manage pitchers differently than you were managed when you were . . .
LD: I did. You know, I mean, it was old school. They didn't finish as many games as I did or Don Wilson did or Mike Scott did but they pitched more innings when I was managing than they had in the previous seasons under different managers, mostly because I said, "Look, you know, your job is to win the game and if you don't win the game, don't worry about losing the game. If you are content to come out of the game in the 6th inning when it is 2-2 and you are throwing well, you are not going to get any decision but if you keep pitching, you can win the game. Of course, you can also lose the game. But if you keep pitching and I am not going to have to bring in somebody that is the long man in the bullpen to get to the setup man to get to the closer, I am going to bypass." You know, what I was trying to do basically is not have to pitch the weaker pitchers. I wanted the starters to pitch those innings so that when I got down to the 8th and 9th, I had my best relief pitchers available to close it out. And I felt like if I pinch hit for a pitcher with 2 outs and nobody on, when he was down 2-1 in the 6th inning, you know, he was only giving up 2 runs. If he is throwing the ball well, we only need 1 more run to tie -- I didn't want to bring in another pitcher who, it might not be his day. I already had a guy on the mound that was throwing well . . . 2 outs and nobody on, you know, if you are pinch hitting with a guy, you know, you are going to need 2 or 3 hits to get a run unless he hits a homerun. So, I felt like our chances of scoring a run in that inning were probably pretty slim anyway, so I would opt to let the pitcher hit and keep pitching. And most managers wouldn't.
JP: Did your pitchers like that?
LD: Well, I'd say in the beginning, Darrel Collins (sp?) and Mike Hampton liked it but they really were frustrated by being taking out of games in previous years and wanted to try to pitch out of their own trouble late in the game, and when I let them, you know, they responded to the challenge pretty well. They had some of their best seasons. Shane Reynolds, on the other hand, who was also an excellent pitcher, did not warm up to the idea right away. He felt like about 100 pitches, that was his job. And to redefine his job made him a little uncomfortable because he was more routine-oriented and more preparation-oriented than the other guys and he really had a strong idea of what he was going to do each game and what his job was, and to take him out of that comfort zone was not easy. But I think towards the end of the second year, there was a game that he was pitching in San Diego, it was close and they had men on and it was the 8th inning and they brought up John Vanderwald to hit against him and I looked down, I saw John Vanderwald was 6 for 9 off him or something like that with 2 homeruns and I had a left-handed pitcher warming up in the bullpen but instead of sending the pitching coach out there, Shane was pitching so well, I wanted to just go out there and talk to him myself to see how he felt. As soon as I got there, he said, "What are you doing here?" I said, "Well, I just want to know if you want to face this guy," and he said, "Yes, I do." I said, "O.K.," and I just turned around and went back to the dugout and he got him out. I said, ah, we got Shane beat. He has finally bought into it, too, now.
JP: It is a good pitching staff.
JP: End up with whatever you want to talk about. Memorable people from the Astros or from the city that you encountered? Hofheinz, Smith. Did you know them?
LD: Well, the interesting thing about Hofheinz is that he was brilliant. He probably would have been a genius IQ-wise. I think he was the youngest mayor that Houston ever had, and he was a great extemporaneous speaker and a great promoter. I do not think Bob Smith thought that Judge Hofheinz could come up with that money when they made that deal but he underestimated Hofheinz's ability to promote. And, you know, he didn't have enough money to buy him out, he had to go out there and get people to loan him the money. He ended up going bankrupt on some of those loans. But, you know, he created Astroworld. He was a dreamer. He was very creative. We would have never had the Astrodome. There might not be a covered stadium anywhere in the world today if he hadn't built the Astrodome. I think a lot of people were telling him, "You can't do that. It won't work." So, you know, he was a more dynamic figure really than R.E. Bob Smith. R.E. Bob Smith was more conservative and traditional and probably would not have built the Astrodome. So, you know, the Judge, still, you know, from the standpoint of Houston baseball, I think, would be a more pivotal figure, just simply because of the Astrodome alone but it wasn't just that -- there was a time in the early days where, and it happens in most places now, too, is if you have to interview a player before the game or after the game, you give him a little gift for doing the interview, and there was a time when we could not get that sponsored so they said we are not going to give out any gifts for doing these interviews anymore and, of course, as players, we were getting gifts from all the other teams and we had gotten gifts the year before and so everybody got together and said we are not going to do these interviews if you don't give us something. Well, the Judge came down the next day and made an eloquent speech and when he was finished, everybody was lining up to do interviews. He had that kind of power of persuasion. He was able to promote in ways that would just get people really fired up and excited about doing what he dreamed. His dreams were big and they became reality.
JP: Any players stand out in your mind? That is kind of an unfair question.
LD: Well, you know, probably the biggest character we ever had was a guy that I played with a lot - Doug Rader. He did so many things. Just one innocent example is they interviewed him at spring training one year and said, well, you know, you have been playing 3rd base in the Major Leagues now for 6 or 7 years, is there any advice you would give youngsters out there that want to play in the Major Leagues? And Doug, with a straight face, said, "Well, I would advise them to eat a lot of baseball cards." He said, "You know, when I was young, Eddie Matthews was my favorite 3rd baseman so I used to eat a lot of his cards." He went out one time . . . the Houston Open was in town and they had a couple of golfers go out to Center Field and put down some balls and we were supposed to hit the ball and see who could get closest to home plate. And so, Doug and I went out there with a team and a couple of golfers and Lawrence Welk was in town and Lawrence Welk went out there and hit some balls, too. Well, Doug immediately started calling him Larry. "I wanted to meet . . . I can't believe . . . my mother." He said, "Larry Welk, I can't believe this!" He did the same thing to Hubert Humphrey. We passed him in the airport in St. Louis and he started jumping up and down and going, "Huey! Huey! Do you know you are our next president?" He had no respect for anything. He was very intelligent and also crazy and also had almost superhuman strength. And so, among those people that played with him, I would say probably 100% of them would say that Rader was the biggest character they ever played with. He wasn't the greatest player but he was a good player and probably the most memorable character.
And then, you know, of the great players we had, the guy that had a big influence on me just in a half a season was Robin Roberts because he came over at the very end of his career, he was trying to win 300 games and he had 280 some and so, I got to spend a lot of time just watching him prepare and work out and listening to his theories on pitching. That was very helpful to me. And then, Eddie Matthews came through at the very end of his career, had his 500th homerun with the Astros, so, again, it wasn't really an Astros product but you got to see a little piece of history there. Probably before the Biggio and Bagwell era, the guy that played a lot of years with the Astros that was the best player was Joe Morgan. He had his very best seasons with the Reds but he also came back to Houston after that and in 1980, we won the Division again with him playing 2nd base a lot of the time. Those guys are all Hall of Famers. Rader isn't. I also remember Casey Candell. I mean, he was not big and strong like Rader but he was also just every bit as crazy and even funnier. He could have been a standup comic. I can't do his act or I would because he was special when it came to giving a team a little personality. And that whole '86 team was kind of that way. I mean, I don't know if it is a coincidence or not but Yogi Berra lived in the same town and played golf at the same country club as the guy that owned the team back then, John McMullin. Well, John talked Yogi into coming down and being a coach with the Astros in 1986, so his first year, you know, and he is the guy . . . Joe Garagiola said, "When Yogi was born, God just said Yogi, just keep breathing. I'll take care of the rest." He could fall into a sewer and come out with a gold watch. That was Yogi. Yogi came, we won! That same year, we had Charlie Curfeld who was a rookie, a real big character. Larry Anderson was the same way. Dave Smith was the same way. And we had Yogi. More characters. More personality. One of the things that I think that I regret about the modern era is that with the agents and the multimillion dollar contract, it seems like the players have kind of pulled in their wings and become more conservative. We don't have the great nicknames, we don't have the characters that we had in those early days and I think the nicknames and the characters started way before I ever put on a Big League uniform. I mean, it goes all the way back to the very beginning of the game, and we lost a little bit of that in the last 20 years or so.
JP: It must have been a pleasure as a pitcher to watch 2 or 3 of the really good runs of pitching with Mike Scott and J.R. Richards when he was so good, and then Randy Johnson when you managed. What is that like as a pitcher, to watch a pitcher go out there and just be unhittable regularly?
LD: Oh, it is great. Even one of my career highlights I would say was watching Kerry Wood strike out 20 batters against us. I was at Wrigley Field and I was at the front of the dugout so I was only about 50 feet from home plate and then this rookie goes out and pitches a one-hitter that could have been a no-hitter because the hit we got was a play that could have been made. And, you know, to see a guy dominate a game like that is thrilling for a pitcher, and to watch Mike Scott win the Division with a no-hitter, that was an over-the-top experience, too. What a lot of people won't remember about that season was 2 days prior to that, we were playing the Dodgers and Jim Deshaies struck out the first 8 batters. And he set a Major League record in doing that. And he pitched a shutout. I think he pitched a 2 hit shutout. And then, the next day, Nolan Ryan pitched and the Giants came in to town and Nolan had a no-hitter going up until about the 7th inning or something like that, struck out 14 or 15 guys, Dave Smith came in to finish with another shutout, and then, the third shutout is a no-hitter to clench the Division. So, we had 3 shutout, dominating pitching performances in a row on 3 consecutive days to win the Division. And that is about as good as it gets if you like watching good pitchers.
JP: I was working in Chicago and skipped work and went to see the Kerry Wood game from the bleachers. I don't think there has ever been a better pitched game. I am remembering there was a little dribbler that the big fat 3rd baseman took about 1 step and it already rolled on the outfield. The crazy people in the bleachers had brought these K's and they ran out of them so they started painting K's on their naked shirts. I am saying how do you bring paint to a baseball game?
LD: That was really a memorable game. I don't even know where it is now but I went back after the game and wrote a couple of pages about it. I thought I'd like to keep this memory. The fact that I have not looked at what I wrote in 10 years has not diminished the memory at all.
JP: Well, you thought you might be watching the next absolutely great pitcher and that has been a tragedy, although now, he is on the . . .
LD: Well, you know, it was like when Doc Gooden started. His 2nd year of Cy Young, 20-5 or whatever he was, ERA in the low 2's, high 1's, 2 or 3 years, 4 years in a row, at the beginning of his career, strikeouts, he was ahead of Nolan Ryan's pace, and it was just a matter of time before he was going to break all of Nolan Ryan's strikeout records. Well, you know, he probably . . . I don't know how many strikeouts he got in his whole career but it probably was not much more than about 1500 and Nolan's got like 5500. So, you know, there are guys like Kerry Wood that you think, here is the next Nolan Ryan or Sandy Kovacs or somebody comes along like that at the beginning of a career and just dominates like the kid with Cincinnati is doing this year. Most of them are not going to last.
JP: That is a good place to think about the end of the interview. You had the privilege of watching 2 of the really good Astros, Biggio and Bagwell, from the time they were kids coming up. What do you remember about them when they were young? You were announcing then, I would assume.
LD: One of the things that I remember about Biggio was I was announcing at the beginning of his career and the first year that he came to spring training, he really excited a lot of people with the quickness of his bat and his foot speed. He was a catcher at the time. He did not have much experience. I remember towards the end of the spring, standing by the batting cage with Nolan and Nolan said, "I think they ought to keep this kid on the team. He is the best catcher we've got." I said, "I think we should, too. He's definitely got tools that stand out, even among Major League players." But they sent him out and he got back to the Big Leagues about halfway through the year and then had several pretty good years and then became a really big star after a little bit of experience. So, I could say that I could kind of see those Hall of Fame tools right at the beginning. I could not really see that with Bagwell because Bagwell was not a homerun hitter in the Minor Leagues. He was the MVP of the AA team he was on with the Red Sox at the time we traded for him late in the season but he had only hit about 6 or 7 homeruns that year and even in his rookie year, I think he hit about 20 or 25. And so, even though he was a good fielder, I guess the thing that probably as much as anything as I look back could cause you to believe that this is something that makes him special with Biggio was his speed and the quickness of his bat. Bagwell, I think he was a little bit more mental. That first spring, McMullen was selling the team and he let all the high press players go and he was letting all the young guys play. He wanted to put the new owner in a position where he did not have a lot of ongoing obligations salary-wise, so he basically disassembled the team and Bagwell was trying to compete to make the team in his first year as a 3rd baseman. But we had Ken Caminiti back then and Caminiti was a far better fielding 3rd baseman and, at that time, appeared to be a more powerful hitter as well. But Bagwell just kept getting hits that spring and he got so many hits that spring that they finally thought, well, we don't really have a 1st baseman. So, they converted him into a first baseman in the last week of spring training. He had never played 1st base before. And even though a lot of great outfielders like a Stan Musial or Hank Aaron . . . some of them, people tried to move them to 1st base at the end of their career so they would not have to run as much, most of them failed. It is not that easy a position. I mean, you think about balls that skip into the dirt and you have to dig them out of the dirt to get the out but that is not even the beginning of what makes the position tough. There are so many responsibilities on bunt plays and cutoffs and relays. You probably have to have your head in the game and know the situation more at 1st base than any other position other than catcher. So, the fact that he was able to work out before the normal workout, do the workout, get hits in the exhibition game, go back to one of the back fields after the game and work on 1st base more because he knew that was his ticket to making the team. And then, he was able to do that in 1 week and come out of spring training as, at least an average 1st baseman with only 1 week on the job, was pretty impressive. And then, by his second or third year, he was a gold glove caliber 1st baseman, and for the whole rest of his career, he was above average. He did not win that many gold gloves but he was always considered to be a well above average fielder. And the other thing that happened on opening year his first year . . . as we were behind about a run or so, the Reds brought in Rob Dibble to close the game and Dibble was throwing in the upper 90s up towards 100 at that stage of his career and he did not last very long either but at that time, he was about as intimidating as it gets. He was a real big guy and a real hard thrower. Bagwell came up. I do not remember how many outs or how many on or whatever but what I do remember clearly as one of the first couple of pitches was throwing it right at his head about 100 miles an hour and he managed to duck it and he got back up and I am thinking welcome to the National League. This is the very first game in the Big Leagues if some guy is throwing 100 miles an hour at his head. But he got back up and dug in and he never gave an inch. He ran the bat out a few more pitches and finally ended up making it out but it was a line shot right at the short stop. And I thought, this guy might be special. I mean, this is his first Big League game and he gets that kind of treatment and stands in there and hits a line drive anyway against a guy that even if he had not thrown out, it would be hard to hit a ball that hard against. Some of the things you see early may be keys to what you find later and I think with each of those guys, there were a few things early on that might have suggested the kind of career they were going to have.
JP: Oh, yes, kind of like striking out Willie Mays your first time you pitch!
JP: I want to thank you for your time. We will put the two together. We've got quite a big of good material here.