How often are you asked if there will ever be another 30-game winner? And, will there ever be a 30-game winner?
“Every day. I am asked that question about a dozen times a day. But it’s a good thing to talk about. It’s something we should talk about. It beats the hell out of talking about the war or the economy. And, no, we’ll never see a 30-game winner again. The game is structured differently today. The pitchers just don’t get the number of starts that I did back in my era.”
You pitched 336 innings and had 28 complete games in 1968, statistics that are unheard of today. Today, a team is lucky to have 28 complete games. How much longer would you have been able to play if you hadn’t thrown so many pitches in a season?
“I don’t know. But they make a whole lot of money today. Back when I played, you had to win to get a raise. Today, all you have to do is play two or three years and you’re making $4 million a year. The pay scale today is much more dramatic. In the three years prior to winning 31 games, I won 16, 20 and 17 games. What would that be worth? I don’t know what it would be worth. But if I won 31 games today, that would put me on the other side of 20 (million dollars year.)”
People might not remember that you once struck out the first seven batters you faced, which is a record for a relief pitcher. You must have been in control of your pitches that day. What was it like?
“It was in 1965 and I was on the edge of going back to the minor leagues. I was hurt most of the 1964 season and that sort of put me on the map. The starting pitcher was getting his brain beat out that day, and I came in and they couldn’t hit me. The one thing that stood out in my mind was that I threw one curveball. Everything else was fastballs. I threw one breaking ball.”
What are you up to today?
“Well, I am doing a book tour and am working on a reality show. I’m also involved in the steel business. I am dealing with chaos in my life because I tend to overload my plate. But life is good and I have fun. That’s the way it should be. Enjoy life.”
“You were on tour in Charleston to promote your autobiography “I Told You I Wasn’t Perfect” (and threw out the first pitch at a recent Charleston RiverDogs game at Riley Park; photo left). What’s the one thing readers should take from this book?
“I think readers will be impressed by the honesty and candidness of the book. I talk about my rise and fall, the great players of my era. We had a lot of great players and there were a lot of great characters. We deal with everything. Nothing is scared.
“The death of my 26-year-old daughter, Kristin. She lived in Florida. I spent a year trying to talk her into moving back to Michigan, and she did. She was killed in an accident involving a drunk driver. I regret that I talked her into moving back home. Maybe if she had not moved, she would still be alive. It’s something I will never get over. It never goes away. In my life, there’s a 50/50 chance of being right. I’m always wrong.”
Compiled by Philip M. Bowman