On my way to a meeting I heard an interview on our local radio station – 1310 The Ticket – with the great Johnny Bench. This is a small local sports station, but they do a good job. They say that they are a sports station but it is really 40% sports and 60% comedy. They do fake interviews with Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks or Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, and then they get real interviews with both of those so you never really know who you’re listening to! But this day was the real Johnny Bench.
As I think back about the older athletes, they just seemed to be very special. There’s something mystical about them. Johnny Bench talked about the TV shows/commercials he used to do with Bob Uecker. Boy, do I remember all those Miller Lite commercials: Tastes Great! Less filling!
But Bench did talk some about sports. He has young children of his own and he’s thinking about the sport of baseball. “Would you like to tell your kid, hey, we’re going to sign you up for baseball. You’re going to stand in the outfield. Every so often, something’s going to happen, but for the most part, you’re going to stand there. Or would you rather me give you this stick and these pads, and you go after somebody and play lacrosse.”
It was really, really funny. Obviously lacrosse is picking up; it’s a great sport. Soccer has certainly made huge inroads here in the United States, but for the most part, American sports are football, baseball and basketball.
We’ve got a lot of other sports – cycling and many others. We say here in the United States that if more of the football, baseball, or basketball players would get into sports like soccer, lacrosse, or cycling, imagine how well we would do on the international stage.
But Johnny Bench was great to hear. I love the old time players. I love the interviews. I love how they talk about what life was like back then. They didn’t make any money. They traveled all the time. They were more like circus characters than the players are today. The players today have many comforts and money and security. Johnny was talking about how in his day, a manager wouldn’t run out if the catcher got hurt or hit by a ball. If a first baseman or an outfielder got hurt, the manager and the trainer, everybody was running out there. He talked about all his broken bones and said he would just play through things and tie his shoes
tighter. When he went in for an x-ray of his foot because it continued to hurt, they found six past breaks that he had never known about. He just played through all those injuries.
He also talked about seven broken cups. Now, most of you know what a cup is – a reinforced athletic supporter that protects the catcher. For a man to go through seven of them from the pitches….yikes! But he is a happy man today. He’s 63 and has a one year old son. Exciting to hear.
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