Maury Z. Levy

Posts Tagged ‘baseball hall of fame’

Pete Rose: The Playboy Interview

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on June 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm

pete-rose-jockey

Twenty-some years ago, Peter Edward Rose was just another tough kid growing up in the river wards of Cincinnati. He was a tough kid who liked girls and fast and fancy cars and baseball. Today, at the age of 38, not much has changed about Pete Rose. The girls have turned to women and fast cars are getting more expensive. But Rose, who makes his living–and a very good one, at that–playing baseball, is still tough. And he is still very much a kid.

Rose may play with different toys now–a $4000 fur coat, an $8000 gold-and-diamond watch and a $44,000 car that goes 130 miles an hour–but he hasn’t really changed. Baseball has. The game has become big business and he has grabbed more than his share of the big bucks that go along with it. At an age when the major decision facing most players is whether to become a car salesman or to open a taproom, Rose was faced with the enviable task of choosing from among a slew of major-league teams offering him millions of dollars for starters. And Rose, who had never played a home baseball game outside Cincinnati, picked the Philadelphia Phillies, who would pay him at least $3,200,000 over four years.

But how, many asked, could Rose be worth the money? Well, he packs ball parks. And while, as a technician, he really can’t be ranked up there with the Dave Parkers, the Rod Carews and the Jim Rices, Rose has one very important thing going for him. He has become perhaps the most famous white sports star in the world.

Just last year, a world far beyond baseball watched as Rose look on the seemingly unbreakable record of Yankee great Joe DiMaggio–who hit safely in 56 straight games. In a streak that started in mid-June, Rose scratched, clawed, hustled and bunted his way to one plateau after another. On July 31, 1978, he set a National League mark of 44 straight games. The streak would stop there, but Pete Rose would go on to a White House visit with Jimmy Carter, a highly heralded tour of Japan and commercial deals that would make him millions. And while Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium was only a line drive away from his boyhood home, Rose had come a long way.

Rose is the son of a bank employee. His father’s passion for sports rubbed off easily on him. Too small to make it as a football player, he concentrated on baseball. He played hard and tough, but he never had a great deal of natural talent. Luckily, he knew somebody in the business. His uncle was a minor-league scout for his hometown team, the Reds. He talked them into giving the kid a tryout. Rose was impressive enough to be signed to a minor-league contract. He spent three years riding the battered buses of thefarm teams. The Reds finally called him up in 1963.

That’s when baseball people really started to take notice of this hard-nosed kid who ran to first on a base on balls, the hustling hot-shot who, instead of sliding, dove headfirst into bases. They noticed him enough to vote him Rookie of the Year. Read the rest of this entry »

The Last Steve Carlton Story

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on January 23, 2011 at 11:44 am

By Maury Z. Levy

THERE WAS NO REAL SENSE in splitting hairs over it. The decision to get rid of the moustache was made by a very distinguished committee. Danny Ozark, the new 
manager of the Phillies, told him he’d rather see him without it. He told him this to his face. He said he just didn’t 
care for moustaches on ballplayers but that, of course, he wouldn’t demand that he shave. It’s hard to demand anything from the best pitcher in baseball, from the man who was voted the professional athlete of the year, from a guy who makes $165,000 to start. You can only suggest.

This is what Paul Owens, the second member of the 
three-man committee for the resolution of the moustache, did in his office at Veterans Stadium while he was packing 
up to go to spring training. Owens is the general manager of the team. Last year he was field manager for a while too, after they finally got rid of the Italian guy. Owens is looking over a pile of publicity pictures to help decide what will be used in this year’s yearbook. There are some with the moustache and some without. He separates them 
into two piles.

“I think we’ll be safest going with these,” he said, holding up the clean-shaven shots. “Now don’t quote me on that. I mean, he doesn’t know about this yet. He’s still 
got the moustache, you know.”

The third and deciding vote came from a 46-year-old 
schoolteacher from Buena Park, California. Larue Harcourt is president of the Athletes Financial Services Inc., a company of some 35 highly trained professionals who help make such momentous decisions. Larue Harcourt would 
like to see him take off the moustache because at this very 
moment he is working on getting him lined up with a big 
sponsor to do a shaving commercial. The marketing men 
have decided that people prefer to buy shave cream and 
razors from people who shave their whole face. There 
are just a couple inches more credibility in it.

The selling of Steve Carlton will call for a flawless product. There’ll be no trouble selling him locally. But the national picture is too fuzzy. Joe Namath could have a 
moustache because he’s a bachelor who plays for a winning team. On those counts, Carlton has two strikes 
against him.

The only one who had no real say in the moustache matter was Steve Carlton himself, in spite of the fact 
that it was his lip. But Carlton really didn’t care that much. “I don’t like to think about those things,” he said. “I just 
want to go out there and pitch and win. The moustache is only a distraction. I hate distractions. I can always grow a moustache. I can’t always win 30 games.”

Last year, Steve Carlton won 27 games for the Phillies, which came out to almost half of what the whole team won. It is indeed something to win 27 games for a team 
that ends up in dead last place with the worst record in baseball. Steve Carlton came out of last season like a perfectly cut 27-carat diamond in a setting of zircon 
baguettes.

He won the Cy Young Award, which meant he was the 
best pitcher in the league. And he won the Hickok Belt, which meant he was the best athlete in the country. He became quite an item. This shy guy who’d spent the first 
six years of his major league career in St. Louis, piling up 
a not-so-overwhelming 77-62 record, needed only a few weeks after his trade to Philadelphia to show that he was 
going to be the biggest thing to hit this town since Robin 
Roberts. Read the rest of this entry »

Hard Ball: The Business of the Phillies

In Business Philadelphia on September 1, 2009 at 8:22 pm

giles0710THIS ONE BIT THE BIG ONE. WILLIAM YALE GILES, who had finally quit smoking for sure, for good, forever at 10:05 PM on Thursday, February 6, was sitting on the second row of the box next to the radio booth, the box where the owners sit in the dark through the chill of April and the light in August, chomping on an unlit stogie, a tightly-wrapped replica of a Lenny Dykstra chaw. Soon, the butchered bites were bouncing off his blue buttondown, down to the bare boards below.

Outside, over there on the green sponge carpet that poorly of for grass, his team is having a time of it. Looking very new in their bright red uniforms, they are up to the same old stuff. Tommy Greene, a pitcher of some promise, is having trouble doing what he does get paid a measly $255,000 a summer to do for a living. He is putting Cubs on base. If this doesn’t stop soon, the Phillies will have to bring in some help. Eventually, that means Mitch Williams, who earns $3,200,000 for pitching about an inning every other night.

But first, Ryne Sandberg, who used to be a Phillie, Ryne Sandberg, who will make over $7 million a year starting next year, is parking a Tommy Greene fastball over the left field fence for a three-run homer. As Sandberg rounds third, Bill Giles pounds his fist and mutters to no one in particular: “I traded him, you know. All our reports said he couldn’t hit well enough to play third and couldn’t field well enough for second or short. So I traded him.”

He bites down very hard on his cigar, which splinters all over his still-hot dinner of fried mozzarella sticks and shells with marinara sauce. It is not a pretty sight.

“I just get so ticked off,” he says, “I have to bite on something. I went to sunflower seeds after I stopped smoking, but the salt just made my blood pressure go sky high.” He brushes the stogie off his shirt and tries to smile.

THIS ISN’T A GAME ANYMORE, THIS SUMMER sport owned by men and played by boys. This is an industry. This is a business.

“It’s a game, it’s a business, it’s a religion,” Bill Giles says. “But it’s certainly becoming more of a business as time goes on. So many dollars are at stake now, compared to what it used to be. It’s kind of scary sometimes.

“The challenge used to be just trying to put the best team on the field you could. Now the challenge is trying to put the best team on the field and not go broke in the process.”

But are Giles and his management team really running this business like a business? Are they putting out a quality product while keeping their fixed costs down?

“Baseball,” he says, “is more of a people business than it is like other companies that are making nuts and bolts and computers and automobiles. Almost 80 percent of our expense is on people, which makes it more unpredictable. Who could have predicted that Lenny Dykstra would break a bone on the first day of the season? Or that Jose DeJesus would be out for the season?   Read the rest of this entry »

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