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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Seamheads: Catching Up With Tom Shopay

“He was spectacular at nothing…” (Cool! This goes directly into my personal headstone epitaph rolodeath)

What was it like to play next to your childhood hero Mantle during your first major league season?: I got called up in 1967 after the Triple-A season. My first start was in Yankee Stadium, the old Yankee Stadium. I was playing left field and Mantle was playing center. At that point in time Mantle came over to me when we were in the outfield when the game was just starting. He yelled at me and I came over to him. He looks at me and he says, ‘Hey Tom, take everything that you can get. Anything close to me that you can get, take it.’ His knees were bad at that time, but that was just a thrill in itself to be able to play alongside him.

If you could do anything differently about your career, what would that be?: When I started off with the Yankees I played for Ralph Houk. Ralph Houk called me into his office in the ’69 season when I was up with the Yankees. He said to me, ‘You’re going to start against all right-handed pitching.’ I said, ‘That’s great! That’s fine! That’s perfect!’

The thing was that it never materialized. He was the type of guy who said something out of one side of his mouth and something out of the other side of his mouth. I was disenchanted. He was a veteran players’ manager. I wish I would have voiced myself a little bit more. I never really did because I was a fringe player and didn’t want to rock the boat. If I had to do it all over again, no matter what the consequences were, I’d voice my opinion.

Earl Weaver was a players’ manager, and honest. Earl didn’t sugarcoat anything. What he told you came true. If he didn’t say it to you, forget it, but if he said it to you, he backed it up.

Repoz Posted: October 23, 2011 at 02:17 PM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, orioles, yankees

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   1. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: October 23, 2011 at 02:40 PM (#3972274)
Earl didn’t sugarcoat anything. What he told you came true


"...for instance, the first time Earl told me to go #### myself, I thought, now that's impossible. But I went back to the clubhouse and, well, let's just say Earl knew exactly what his players were capable of."
   2. vortex of dissipation Posted: October 23, 2011 at 02:42 PM (#3972276)
Mantle never played center when Shopay was in a game for the Yankees; he only played first base in 1967. Steve Whitaker was in center for Shopay's first stsrt in left.
   3. Don Lock Posted: October 23, 2011 at 03:37 PM (#3972310)
It does make a good story. I didn't believe that Mantle would know his name was "Tom". More likely "Rookie, stay out of my booze and I get first crack at all the babes flashing me from the stands, the only nice thing about playing friggin' first base."

In the Seamheads story I was trying to figure out how Shopay played in the Worlds Series while in Baltimore with teammates Reggie Jackson and the Robinsons but he doesn't actually say that.
   4. Howie Menckel Posted: October 23, 2011 at 04:33 PM (#3972341)
Steve Whitaker, Mickey Mantle ..... the point is that Shopay remembers that an iconic baseball figure was there in center for his first start. And that's really all that counts, I say.

Ok, possible that Shopay was in LF and Mantle in CF in spring training 1967? Shopay wound up being promoted from A ball to AAA for that season, and The Mick played 93 G in CF in 1966...
   5. Walt Davis Posted: October 23, 2011 at 08:33 PM (#3972440)
pre-game, 1967

"Hey kid! Yeah, you. What's your name?"
"Tom Shopay, Mr. Mantle."
"Mr. Mantle? Yeah, that's good kid. You're playing left today?"
"Yes, sir."
"Now look, can you believe it, the old man has me playing center."
"Gosh Mr. Mantle."
"Yeah, Houk's a dumbass. Now look son, these legs ain't what they used to be. ####, I have trouble these days running down a sorority girl in a pair of catch me #### mes, y'know what I mean?"
"Gee, sir, I'm not sure I do."
"Well, I'll take you out this weekend and you'll find out."
"That would be swell Mr. Mantle."
"So kid, anything you can get to, you grab right?"
"Yes sir."
"Now go tell Mr. Houk not to worry, that you'll cover for me today. And grab a handful of those little green pills cuz you're gonna need a little extra today."
"Right away Mr. Mantle."

"Mick, you shouldn't #### with the rookies like that, man. Houk's more likely to put me in center than you."
"C'mon Ellie, put three greenies in that kid and he'll be a puppy dog chasing his own tail out there, it'll be hilarious."
   6. Don Lock Posted: October 24, 2011 at 02:54 PM (#3973169)
Damn that Ralph Houk. He promised Shopay playing time and then didn't let him play.In 1967 and 1969, in 75 at bats Shopay hit.160. Even for the Yanks of the Horace Clarke era, that is pretty pathetic. Where was Shopay in 1968? No minor or major league stats. Army?
   7. Morty Causa Posted: October 24, 2011 at 03:00 PM (#3973174)
This would be an interesting question: how many players went to Viet Nam? Either before he was in the majors or during his career (presumably, it would have to be early in that career).
   8. simpleton & childlike gef the talking mongoose Posted: October 24, 2011 at 03:13 PM (#3973179)
This would be an interesting question: how many players went to Viet Nam? Either before he was in the majors or during his career (presumably, it would have to be early in that career).


Well, there's Tim Johnson ...
   9. Morty Causa Posted: October 24, 2011 at 03:16 PM (#3973180)
I just read The Last Boy. It's pop psychology and literary air get to me, but, still, there's such a sense of sadness about Mantle's life. In a way, it's like he didn't have control of his life; he didn't understand what was happening to him. The author compares Mantle to Elvis (Hank Williams, Sr., would be good, too), and I think that it tells us something. In a way, they were both passive, even fatalistic. You want Mantle to tell his father, hey, ease up. Hey, I'm not getting married just because you're dying Hey, Merilyn, yeah, I love you, but I just ain't ready for marriage and a family. Hey, Johnny Keane, I hurt, I can't play, let me rest.
   10. SoSH U at work Posted: October 24, 2011 at 03:23 PM (#3973184)
This would be an interesting question: how many players went to Viet Nam? Either before he was in the majors or during his career (presumably, it would have to be early in that career).


Garry Maddox, perhaps most notably.
   11. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 24, 2011 at 03:33 PM (#3973193)
This would be an interesting question: how many players went to Viet Nam? Either before he was in the majors or during his career (presumably, it would have to be early in that career).


Al Bumbry did a stint in 'Nam before his major-league career, I believe (I'm guessing in 1970 since he missed that season in the minors).
   12. Morty Causa Posted: October 24, 2011 at 03:40 PM (#3973197)
Yeah, I remember Maddox and Bumbry. There were not many who went. I wonder if it's because most of those guys were in college and got deferments, then hit good lottery numbers or what. But it says something about a war when the draft for that war seemed to play favorites (not that I'm kicking personally). Not trying to turn this into a political discussion--it just came to mind that I've never read anything in depth on the subject
   13. vortex of dissipation Posted: October 24, 2011 at 04:05 PM (#3973214)
Bruce Markuson's article on the topic. The player who always seems to be overlooked is Chuck Goggin, who served as a Marine in Vietnam for 13 months. He stepped on a landmine there and suffered serious shrapnel wounds, yet made it to the majors after he got back home.
   14. Morty Causa Posted: October 24, 2011 at 04:13 PM (#3973221)
Thanks. I will read that.
   15. just plain joe Posted: October 24, 2011 at 04:14 PM (#3973223)
Yeah, I remember Maddox and Bumbry. There were not many who went. I wonder if it's because most of those guys were in college and got deferments, then hit good lottery numbers or what. But it says something about a war when the draft for that war seemed to play favorites (not that I'm kicking personally). Not trying to turn this into a political discussion--it just came to mind that I've never read anything in depth on the subject


A lot of baseball players (and other pro athletes for that matter) ended up in Reserve/National Guard units. I don't know if that was the case for Shopay or not. There was a lot of speculation at the time that teams were able to pull some strings and get players moved to the head of the line, as it were, to get these players into units because for "normal" people there was usually a 24-36 month waiting period to get in. This was due to the political decision not to activate reserve units to serve in SE Asia but to instead rely on the draft to fill vacancies in the active Army and then rotate individual troops through combat tours on a 12 month cycle. This was just one of the things that led to the Vietnam conflict being extremely unpopular with a large segment of the U.S. population.
   16. Morty Causa Posted: October 24, 2011 at 07:44 PM (#3973441)
Yes, I do remember that. That's so true--it was very much a bone of contention.

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