They Were There

Ed Attanasio, who splits his time between This Great Game and as current member/former President of the Oral History Committee for SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research), has interviewed nearly 100 ex-ballplayers who give first-hand accounts of the players, places and events that have shaped baseball history for over a century. Below is the growing list of excerpted interviews that appear on This Great Game.


Bushers Book


Bill Renna

Bill Renna “They didn’t want us to lift weights or do activities like swimming. They said those exercises used the wrong muscles, so they frowned on them. They had us doing sit ups and pushups and even the running was limited, because they were afraid of us getting shin splints or turning an ankle.”


Bill Wight

Bill Wight “(Bill Dickey) always called for curveballs when I was on the mound, but I told him I don’t have enough control with breaking balls. So, I started shaking them off and he didn’t like that. He ran out to the mound and said, ‘Don’t ever shake me off ever again, rookie!’ I told him, ‘You don’t sign my paycheck, Dickey.’”


Bob Locker

Bob Locker “Finley was a real character and a lot of people…didn’t care for the man. But, I respected him because he did what he believed in and stood by it while everyone else called him a crazy coot and a bunch of other things I can’t repeat.”


Bobby Doerr

Bobby Doerr “That’s a bunch of baloney. We weren’t cursed. We just didn’t have enough good starting pitchers, that’s all. And we never had a relief pitcher at all. The Yankees always had good relief pitchers and that’s how they beat us late in games.”


Charlie Silvera

Charlie Silvera “I roomed with Joe Collins, and we would police the younger kids; if they got out of line, we told them—you’re messing with our money...if they persisted, we’d tell them, you better get rid of this guy, because he’s not a Yankee.”


Chuck Stevens

Chuck Stevens “Everybody was taken by Satchel and his reputation was awesome. When I got that hit against him, I was never terribly impressed by it, but the people thought that was a great accomplishment. To me, it was just, he was just another pitcher.”


Connie Marrero

Connie Marrero “What’s ‘Premier’? I think it relates to when Manolo de la Reguera once received a telegram from a young student in which he asked about who is the best pitcher in Cuba, and he said it was me. I was happy because he said that I was the top pitcher in this country during that time.”


Herman Franks

Cuno Barragan “Hank Sauer climbed that ladder and was trying to get in the scoreboard. But, I always barricaded myself up there, so that no one could come up and catch me stealing signs. So, Sauer came up the ladder and tried that door, but he could not get in, so he started yelling. ‘I know you’re up there Barragan, you SOB!.”


Dario Lodigiani

Dario Lodigiani “(DiMaggio) came up again in the seventh inning, mad as hell...and he hit another rocket down to me, which I knocked down with my body and threw to first, where I beat him by a hair. But, the umpire called him safe.”


Dick Williams

Dick Williams “Sometimes you can look at an umpire a certain way, and if he didn’t like you and you didn’t care for him, he’d run you. I don’t know how many games I got thrown out of; I know it wasn’t as many as Earl Weaver, but I was probably next in line.”


Duane Pillette

Duane Pillette “Bill Veeck decided that if he could play a midget, and get him up at the proper time to walk wih the bases loaded or put the tying run on—whatever the case may be—we could win a game here and there.”


Ed Bressoud

Ed Bressoud “Willie and I never had a conversation that lasted more than a minute. Mays has always been kind of a loner, in my opinion and I can understand it, actually. The public is always pulling and tugging at him for one thing or another, and I don’t care who you are—that has to get old after awhile”


Ed Mayer

Ed Mayer “We were just enthralled looking at it, and it stayed there silently for about ten or 15 seconds…right above the pitcher’s mound. And then all of a sudden, it went out of sight in about three seconds. With no sound, just pfffft…just like that!”


Eddie Bockman

Eddie Bockman “I got along real well with Bob Feller on that team, even though a lot of other people didn’t like the man. I had no problems with him and he sure could throw a baseball. Feller was very confident of his ability and some folks thought he was cocky, but he had that fastball that made grown men look like babies up there.”


Ernie Broglio

Ernie Broglio “The Cardinals knew. They were keeping it quiet. In 1961, I took 20 cortisone shots in my shoulder—before every other start. They thought they were getting away with something.”


Ernie Fazio

Ernie Fazio “(Charlie Finley) always took care of his players—invested money for them; put down payments on houses for them, that type of stuff. I used to ride the mule for him all the time. I didn’t mind. I said to myself, ‘There's worse things to do.’”


Freddy Schmidt

Freddy Schmidt “You know how many minor leagues I played in? About 35…I always had four, 14, 15 wins and you move up a little bit and then you drop down again, oh my God. It was tough.”


Gus Triandos

Gus Triandos “They just wanted to sign bodies back then. But, even when I was playing minor league ball, every scout that ever came through town and the local sportswriters would ask him and they’d say I didn’t have a chance. But, it never pissed me off, because I thought I didn’t have a chance.”


Gus Zernial

Gus Zernial “Yeah, Philadelphia—they’ll boo ya’. They’re certainly some boo birds there. Announcer told fans I’d broken my shoulder. Took me down this tunnel and I could hear them booing me all the way down to the clubhouse.”


Herman Franks

Herman Franks “They say that I stole Brooklyn’s signs that day and I’ve never admitted to anything. And I never will. There’s been a lot of talk about it since ’51...When Bobby hit that ball it was one of the highlights of my baseball career.”


Hobie Landrith

Hobie Landrith “When I was 15 years old, a Tiger scout approached me and asked if I would want to come down to Tiger Stadium and catch batting practice while they were trying to get Hank Greenberg into shape...I jumped at the chance.”


Jerry Reuss

Jerry Reuss “When I was with the Cardinals and the Pirates, we would all go out to dinner together on a regular basis. But on that Dodger team, sometimes they’d show by at the same restaurant for whatever reason, but they wouldn’t sit together and even acknowledge each other, like they were complete strangers. That was new to me.”


Jesse Gonder

Jesse Gonder “Only the guys with the thick skin made it. Maybe we weren’t the best athletes, but we had thicker skin. We knew what we had to do to survive. There was really nothing fun about it. Everywhere you ran into racism. Everywhere.”


Jim Davenport

Jim Davenport “There is no question that Candlestick Park took a lot of home runs away from guys like Willie Mays. I have to think that if Willie played in the same park Henry Aaron played in, he would have had just as many home runs as Hank got.”


Jim Gentile

Jim Gentile “They were all nice fellas on the Brooklyn Dodgers. Great guys. Every time I came up to play for the big team, they treated me real nice. Snider, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese—they were all class acts.”


Joey Amalfitano

Joey Amalfitano “So, we had a team meeting the night before the (1954 World Series) and Durocher started reading from this scouting report and going through their lineup. After about the third name, he stopped and said, ‘We beat these guys in the spring and we’ll beat them again’ and that was the end of the meeting.”


Johnnie LeMaster

Johnnie LeMaster “I started getting booed a lot around 1980. So, I was laying in bed one night and my wife sat up and said, ‘You should just change your name to Boo!’.”


Lefty O’Doul

Lefty O’Doul “I know Lefty would be so proud and happy to see all of the great Japanese players in the majors right now...I hope people remember what Lefty did for that country and is baseball. I believe it’s his legacy.”


Lester Rodney

Len Gabrielson “Back then, there weren’t a lot of ancillary activities going on—like all the soccer, the video games, the Internet and skateboarding that goes on today. Baseball was the big thing and every kid pretty much played ball.”


Lennie Merullo

Lennie Merullo “The baby was born at five in the morning and I showed up (to the game) afterwards...I had no business being out there, but I did anyway. And almost immediately I made an error at shortstop. I kicked the ball and then threw it over the first baseman’s head. Then, they hit me another grounder and I did the same thing again!”


Lester Rodney

Lester Rodney “I never met a black player who told me he wanted to stay in the Negro Leagues. That’s ridiculous. If you feel you’re the best violinist in the country and you live in Paducah, you don’t want to stay in Paducah.”


Maury Wills

Maury Wills “I went out there and got something like four hits, stole about three bases, I was running from first to third on ground balls through the infield and my teammates were telling me, ‘Slow down because you’ll hurt yourself. It’s just an exhibition game.’ And I told them, ‘not for me.’”


Mike Sandlock

Mike Sandlock “(Brooklyn) fans were really close to the players and people would yell out stuff that was funny and witty. Now the fans just yell obscenities and anyone can do that. The Brooklyn fans were a lot of fun and I loved playing in front of them.”


Nate Oliver

Nate Oliver “Marichal was having some initial problems getting into the Hall of Fame. And it was Roseboro who made the phone call to the powers-that-be and said ‘are you kidding, this is one of the greatest pitchers the game has ever seen.’”


Rollie Stiles

Rollie Stiles “I had nearly every disease you could have as a kid. I was always sick. I always drank a little bit and I smoked cigarettes during my whole baseball career. So, I can’t tell you why I’ve lived so long.”


Rugger Ardizoia

Rugger Ardizoia “I loved playing in Hollywood. All the big movie stars came to our games. In fact, I met Harry James, Ronald Reagan, the Marx Brothers, George Raft—oh boy, you name it, (Frank) Sinatra came out there and...I got along real good with all of them, but I never worshipped them or anything like that. I treated them like everyone else, and I think they appreciated it.”


Stefan Wever

Stefan Wever “What if Pavarotti ruined his voice on his first night singing as a tenor? That’s how I felt when I hurt my rotator cuff. It might be an egotistical way of looking at it, but that’s how I feel...I could have had a great career, but it didn’t happen.”


Steve Sax

Steve Sax “In 1983, I made an error and then I made another one, and pretty soon I let doubt and fear creep into my psyche. And when that happens, you’re a goner. I just lost my confidence, it’s that simple.”


Tommy John

Tommy John “I ask the parents who is the best pitcher in baseball right now and they say guys like (Justin) Verlander or (Clayton) Kershaw. Then I ask them, do these guys pitch year round? Of course not. So, if they don’t, why should your kid do it? Rest is part of training, I tell them. If you rest your arm, nature will take care of it.”


Tony Malinosky

Tony Malinosky “I tell the guys I was a better than average ball player and that’s all. In my own heart, if I hadn’t gotten banged up, you would never have heard about a guy named Pee Wee Reese.”


Virgil Trucks

Virgil Trucks “I was in the hospital having my gall bladder removed. My wife came up to see me and brought this paper and it said right across the headlines on the front page ‘Tiger Starter Traded to the Browns’, and I had a relapse.”


Wally Westlake

Wally Westlake “I’m the first white player who ever got hit by a pitch from a black player... Everyone kind of hesitated when he hit me, there was almost like a hush. It was like, what’s gonna happen next?”



share this page with a friendShare this page with a friend.

Have a comment, question or request? Contact us at This Great Game.

© 2014 This Great Game.