One of the pleasures of working the winter meetings - especially when they're relatively quiet – is tlistening to the baseball personalities who attend.
Today, for instance, former manager Jack McKeon was holding court and telling stories. Some of them were R-rated. All were hilarious.
There were former players like Tony Perez, Jim Fregosi, Don Mattingly and Bruce Kison, now filling other jobs within the game.. At 7:30 a.m. here – 4:30 Seattle time – managers Don Wakamatsu and Bobby Cox together talking over coffee.
New Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog was here, answering questions and talking baseball. If he couldn’t make you laugh, you didn’t have a pulse.
Former Mariner Jeff Nelson, working a radio gig, found time to grab Lou Piniella and catch up with him. Piniella, of course, made everyone laugh. Now 66, Piniella said “I might sign a five-year extension to manage. I’ll need a golf cart to go to the mound.”
Bryan Price, the baby-faced Seattle pitching coach now doing that job for Dusty Baker and the Cincinnati Reds, is now sporting a salt-and-pepper goatee.
Former catcher Bob Boone was telling stories about Doug Harvey, the new Hall of Famer who umpired for 31 years and rarely lost his temper.
Umpire Doug Harvey, voted in to the Hall of Fame on Monday, was on hand, and former catcher Bob Boone told this story:
"There was a close play at the plate and he called the runner safe and I was screaming, ‘I blocked him, I tagged him, he’s out!’” Boone said. “And Doug just told me, ‘Now, Bob, I understand how you might think that, and it was a real close play, but I saw him just get his toe in. He was safe.’
“That’s what he was like. He’d explain why he made the call and how, close as it was and much as he understood you being upset, he got it right. How could you argue with that?”
Aaron Sele, a roving instructor with the Dodgers, told this one on Piniella:
"I'm in trouble and Lou comes to the mound and says 'Can you get this guy?' I never wanted to come out of a game, so I said 'Yes!' Lou goes back to the dugout and boom - I give up a double.
"A few starts later, same thing. Lou come out. Can I get the next hitter? Yes, I can - and boom - I give up a hit that scores a run.
"Next start, I'm in trouble and he comes out and before he can speak I said, 'Don't even ask me. It's your decision, not mine!' And he yanked me.
"A day later I went in an apologized for being a little angry out there. He was sitting at his desk in his office in his underwear, smoking a cigarette, with his feet in shower slippers on the desk.
"He said, 'Son, when I was younger I had a reputation for having a temper, too.' "