“I don’t want to go to New York,” my wife said, a half-empty glass of Cabernet accentuating her words, “I don’t care how much the Yankees will pay us.”
It’s October 1980. We’re enjoying some wine while standing on a porch in Providence, Rhode Island, a gorgeous Victorian with a wraparound, set against one of those 100-year old homes built by the well-to do of New England in the 1880s, walking distance to the ocean. Six, seven bedrooms. High ceilings. Lovely neighborhood; expansive front lawns, personal tennis courts. The choppy wind and constant drizzle would be the perfect analogy for the conversation my wife and I had at the time, trying to figure out where my career would be taking us.
...Bittersweet post-script to this story, I finished 1982 with the Oakland A’s. Billy Martin was my manager and a great one at that. We had a nice relationship for the few months I played for him. The following spring, April 1983, I found myself the final cut out of A’s camp. Without a team, I called Billy, who was back managing the Yankees. He was happy to hear from me, said there was possibly a spot for me in the back of the bullpen. “Let me check with George and I’ll call ya right back.” Say what you want about Billy Martin, but he called me in 15 minutes. There was a bit of a laugh in his voice, but not funny ha-ha. “Jesus, Johnny,” Billy snorted, “What the hell’d you do to George?” “Whaddya mean?” Of course I knew exactly what he meant. “I dunno, after I mentioned bringing you on board, he said ‘No Fricking Way,’ and slammed the phone down.” I didn’t blame George, either. I was paid 300,000 in 1981 dollars to hear that response. Doesn’t make it any less painful.
I never had the chance to pitch in Yankee Stadium. Never had the chance to hear Bob Sheppard announce me into a 5-4 game in the seventh inning. Never had that chance to bust balls with Goose in the Yankees bullpen or jump on that pile when they clinched the American League championship in 1981.
It remains the greatest regret of my Baseball career.
Posted: December 27, 2012 at 12:17 PM | 9 comment(s)
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