Hall of Fame Manager Dick Williams Shared A Laugh And Autograph With Me!

Posted October 31st, 2012 by Tom Owens and filed in Dick Williams, Hunter Pence, Joe Buck, Johnny Bench, Rollie Fingers, Tim Lincecum, World Series
BOO! Scary airbrushing!
The facsimile autograph
looks haunted:

Happy Halloween!

Today is about how much you get, right? Or, how much you give? As in, so many kids trick-or-treated here, there’s no candy left for me!

Here’s another take on giving and getting.

I’ll never forget sitting on the couch with my dad, watching the Oakland-Cincinnati World Series. He fell off the couch laughing his a– off (yes, it’s hard to sit without one of those!) when Johnny Bench fell for the fake intentional walk.

I wrote to Dick Williams long before he was a Hall of Famer, long before he charged for autographs. I never asked for an autograph. I just wanted him to have another perspective on the classic moment.

I related my dad’s comments. I thanked him for making my dad laugh.

Dick sent back an Expos postcard of himself, thanking ME for a great story. He added a note that Rollie Fingers later told him he hadn’t seen that play work since Little League!

As I watched this World Series with my wife, she saw a close-up of Tim Lincecum.

“He looks like a sad Pee-wee Herman before he pitches.”

As oh-so-dramatic Joe Buck recounted upcoming Giants batters, my wife asked for a clarification.

“His name is Hunter Pence? I thought Joe Buck called him UNDERPANTS.”

Future letters? Hmmm…

All I know is that humor can make a difference!

When Cub Ken Rudolph Bested Johnny Bench

Posted October 5th, 2010 by Tom Owens and filed in Johnny Bench, Ken Rudolph, Randy Hundley

These days, you can find former catcher Ken Rudolph coaching at an Arizona High School.

Once, he outshone a future Hall of Famer in the eyes of the Chicago Cubs. Rudolph was a second-round pick in the 1965 inaugural draft. The Cubbies preferred him over an Oklahoman named Johnny Bench. Rudolph wrote:

“Yes, I was drafted BEFORE Johnny Bench, and so were fifty other players.”

In Chicago, Rudolph was trapped behind ironman Randy Hundley, the catcher who didn’t believe in days off. Waiting his turn, Rudolph was able to witness Hundley’s new receiving style.

“Baseball people are slow to change. Once they noticed how effective catcher was, it then caught on.”

Rudolph operated on Doc Ellis on June 29, 1969, collecting his first career homer. Of course, http://www.retrosheet.org/ captured the moment. Rudolph remembered:

“My first home run put the team either into a tie or put the Cubs ahead in the game. We did win and that ball is one of my prized possessions.

“Because I didn’t hit many home runs, my first one was special.”

Someday, I hope someone coaxes Rudolph into telling how he and the Cubs convinced a fan to give up a home run ball!

Recalling Padre Bob Barton’s Big Blast Of 1971 (Or, The Win That Got Away)

Posted August 31st, 2010 by Tom Owens and filed in Bob Barton, Dick Dietz, Doug Harvey, Johnny Bench, Tom Haller, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey
Grand Salami Time!

Bob Barton may have been one of baseball’s most chatty catchers.

Judging from his awesome letter, the receptive receiver seems capable of engaging any hitter in conversation. I think pitchers would have loved facing distracted batsmen.

Barton noted that some umpires were happy to converse, too. He noted one in particular, writing:

“Had a lot of conversations with Doug Harvey. He was just elected to the Hall of Fame. Great umpire. Good guy. We became friends.”

I discovered that Barton belted a 1971 grand slam. That was only the beginning to an epic story. Barton continued:

“I hit the grand slam against my old teammates, the Giants, in Candlestick Park in the top of the ninth with two outs to put us in front, 9-5, as the score was obviously tied. In the bottom of the ninth, the Giants scored five runs to beat us, 10-9 (I was with the Padres).

“We got 2 guys out in that bottom of the ninth before a dear friend of mine, Dick Dietz, hit a 3-run, 2-out double to clear the bases and drive in the 8th, 9th and 10th runs to beat us. The two hitters we got out before Dick hit the double were a couple of pretty good hitters — their names — Willie Mays and Willie McCovey!

“True Story! Enjoy!”

Barton noted his career potential:

“Nine passed balls in eight years in the M.L. with a throwing-out potential base stealers of 43%. Might be an all-time best of the two together. Proud of that.

“But I got caught behind two all-star catchers, Tom Haller in S.F. and [Johnny] Bench in Cincinnati. Frustrating not getting to play more. Made five all-star teams on my way to the M.L. in the minors.”

Old catchers are sponges. They soak up all the game’s details. The Bob Bartons of baseball history have so much to share. I hope someone keeps asking.

(If you hadn’t guessed, www.retrosheet.org did it again. Barton’s big day brought to life. Thanks, guys!)