We are currently living in a very difficult time, as we seem to be living out an episode of the Twilight Zone in the COVID-19 environment. The loss of life has been unimaginable and the arduous process still continues, although there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel.
Obviously our lives have been altered over the past couple of months. For those of of us who love sports, it’s been unfathomable to not see the NBA and NHL postseason in full bloom, especially when one supports the Milwaukee Bucks and the Tampa Bay Lightning like I do. Both teams are among the favorites, especially the Bucks, to win their respective league titles.
Had things been normal, we would be in the heart of the playoffs for both of those leagues right now. In addition to that, two other things that I really look forward to this year have also been missed. I’m talking about March Madness (the NCAA basketball tournament) and the Masters in golf.
By the way, ESPN in a simulation, had the Wisconsin Badgers winning the NCAA title this year.
We also would be in the second month of the MLB season right now. This is the time of the year when my baseball juices really get going. By June and July, I’m going full-throttle towards baseball.
Come August, the postseason picture is starting to take shape and it gets really exciting. So does the fact that training camp to the NFL gets going around that time and I always get excited around that time, as I love going to watch the Green Bay Packers practice at Ray Nitschke Field. Because of the recent NFL draft, some in the media are building up a soap opera, as Aaron Rodgers had a déjà vu moment when the Packers selected Jordan Love late in the first round. Personally, I don’t see that situation being near as flammable as some in the media believe it is.
But back to baseball now. I’ve been reflecting on the great time I had covering the Milwaukee Brewers from 1980 through 1983. It was a fantastic time for me, as I was basically the same age as many of the players and it was easy to have access to them and the managers.
In those four years covering the Brew Crew, I interviewed just about everyone associated with the team. People like George Bamberger, Buck Rodgers, Harvey Kuenn, Harry Dalton, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Rollie Fingers, Sal Bando, Don Sutton, Ted Simmons, Gorman Thomas, Ben Oglivie, Jim Gantner and Cecil Cooper. I also interviewed “Mr. Baseball”, Bob Uecker.
Speaking of Robin, I recently chatted with him about an upcoming story I’m doing on Bret Saberhagen. I also will be doing another piece on the 50th anniversary of the Brewers in Milwaukee and Yount will be adding some commentary.
I never interviewed owner Bud Selig, but I did have a one hour job interview with him once inside his office in the bowels of County Stadium as I was looking to broaden my future in the media.
In those four years, I had a number of very memorable incidents in the course of interviewing people which were unforgettable, at least for me. I’m going to write about four of them here.
One occurred when Reggie Jackson of the New York Yankees hit the game-winning homer for the Yanks versus the Brewers at County Stadium. I was an intern at WTMJ (Channel 4) at the time and was working with Mike Hegan that night. I called the studio from the press box after the game and Mike wanted to make sure that I interviewed Reggie so we could get it on the 10:00 sports show.
So I go into the clubhouse of the Yankees and I see Reggie talking to a New York sportswriter. I waited until they finished their conversation when I went up to Jackson and introduced myself and asked for a quick interview. Reggie just looked at me and says, “Get the F out of here kid!” I was totally shocked. That had never happened to me before. I mean sometimes some players on the Brewers didn’t want to do an interview on a particular day, but they were always very cordial.
Anyway, I scurried away from Reggie and called Mike from the clubhouse and told him what happened. Mike told me that I should tell Reggie that I’m working him, as they used to be teammates on the Oakland A’s. So like a good little soldier, I approached Reggie again and I told him that I was working with his old teammate Hegan and that he would really appreciate an interview. Reggie agreed.
So when the camera lights came on and I conducted the interview, Reggie acted like he and I were buddies, as he smiled and laughed and gave me a fantastic interview. When the interview was over, I thanked Reggie and he looked at me and then said with a grin, “Now get the F out of here!”
But I was happy and so was Mike, as we were able to run that interview on the sports on Channel 4 later that night.
Another time the Brewers were playing the California Angels and after the game I went into the Angel clubhouse to do a few interviews. One of the first people I saw was Rod Carew. I once again introduced myself and asked Rod for an interview. Carew didn’t say a thing and just glared at me for about a minute and then just walked away. Needless to say, I was shocked once again. I just stood there for a moment in total disbelief.
But Bobby Grich of the Angels came to my rescue. He came up to me and put his arm around me and said that Rod doesn’t do interviews and he treats just about everyone in the media like that. To help out even further, Grich agreed to do an interview with me, as I talked to him and Brian Downing.
Talking and interviewing players was an awesome experience for me. So was doing that with managers. Two of my favorite interviews were with Ralph Houk of the Boston Red Sox and Sparky Anderson of the Detroit Tigers. Two of the all-time greats.
In terms of the managers of the Brewers, I loved interviewing Bamberger who always had time for me. Just before we would do the interview, Bambi would be cussing like a sailor talking about this or that, but once the interview started, he was on his best behavior.
Rodgers always gave me time as well, as did Kuenn. But there was one incident with Harvey that I’ll never forget. One time our cameraman was late getting to County Stadium and so I wasn’t able to do some of the pre-game interviews that I liked to do. Finally he shows up with about a half hour before game time. I see Harvey and asked him for a quick interview. Kuenn read me the riot act about asking him for an interview so close to game time.
Harvey had to see the pained look on my face as I walked away. I was just about ready to head to the press box for the game when there was a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and it was Harvey with a chaw of tobacco in his cheek. He said to me as he smiled, “Let’s do that interview kid, but make it quick!”
Speaking of managers, I was covering the 1983 MLB All-Star game at old Comiskey Park in Chicago. Talk about a great time. The Brewers were represented by Yount, Cooper, Oglive and Simmons in the game, plus Kuenn was the manager for the American League team.
The opposing manager was Whitey Herzog of the St. Louis Cardinals. So I see Whitey talking with one of his coaches in the game, Tommy Lasorda of the Los Angeles Dodgers. So I approach them and introduce myself and ask for an interview. They said sure.
But the interview quickly became a Joe Pesci parody, as F bombs were flying from every direction as Herzog and Lasorda answered my questions. When they were finished, Lasorda asked me what I thought of the interview. I told him that it was great. It would never get on the air, but the folks at the studio will love it! Herzog then looks at Lasorda while smiling and says, “Let’s give the kid a real interview.” And they did!
Those are just some of the interview stories that I will never forget covering baseball back in the day.