Maury Z. Levy

Posts Tagged ‘phillies’

Pete Rose. Part 1: “Who’s the Best? I’m the Best”: The Maury Z. Levy Interview

In The Maury Z. Levy Interview on August 22, 2012 at 10:09 am

There are two things in this world Pete Rose loves most. Baseball and Pete Rose. Not necessarily in that order.

I spent a lot of time with Rose. I first interviewed him in 1979, for Philadelphia Magazine, right after he signed with the Phillies. I would go on that year to do The Playboy Interview, the one that created national headlines, with Rose talking of the easy use of amphetamines in the Phillies’ locker room.

In this first never-before-heard interview, with his pal Larry Bowa in the room, I asked Rose who he thought was the best player in baseball.

To read my full Playboy Interview, click here: http://wp.me/pCUdu-S

Copyright 2012 by Maury Z. Levy. This interview may not be used, in whole or in part, without permission.

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Pete Rose: The Playboy Interview

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

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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 Selling of Mike Schmidt

In Business Philadelphia on September 16, 2009 at 11:44 am

How the Phillies’ all-time home run hero ended up being king of the hoagies.

By Maury Z. Levy

THE CHEERING HAS BEEN OVER FOR OVER A YEAR now. And the booing, that callous cacophony that alternately drove him to his best and drove him to the brink, is but a bitter memory. Now, out here in the real world where fair trade weighs heavier than foul balls, it is time for Mike Schmidt to wake up and smell the onions. Mike Schmidt, one of the best baseball players who ever lived, one of the greatest natural athletes in the history of sport, has had old number 20 retired, thank you very much, and is now selling hoagies in Richboro.

There is something about that that makes Mike Schmidt proud and something that makes him angry. Bo Jackson, who sells Nikes out the
wazoo, will never hit as many home runs as Mike Schmidt, but he’s on television every three minutes. Geez, even Tim McCarver, a nice guy but an average baseball player, beat Mike Schmidt out for a job as a color analyst on network TV. Tim McCarver couldn’t hold Schmidt’s bat when they played together in that championship season, but Tim McCarver, who does shtick, who tells bad jokes, who makes corny puns, is at network now.

And Lenny Dykstra, who’s had a good year or two as a baseball player, but is a pig of a man, will make more than Mike Schmidt ever made. And he will show up on David Letterman. And he will, like former felon Pete Rose, have kids across America sliding head first and getting dirty and learning how to spit and curse and dribble down their shirts.

But what about Mike Schmidt? What about the man with all the Gold Gloves? What about the man who hit more home runs than almost anyone else on the planet? What about everybody’s All-American? Tomorrow, he will be in the Hall of Fame. Today, he is selling hoagies in Richboro. He just doesn’t understand it. Then again, maybe he does.

“I DON’T LIKE COMPARISONS,” SCHMIDT SAYS.
”But I would think that my career speaks for itself. My image speaks for itself. My track record speaks for itself. My honesty, integrity, family life, all the things I’ve ever stood for and accomplished in my career are marketable.

“Occasionally, I get a little jealous that I’m not as easily marketable as an Andre Agassi, because he’s not married, he wears that off-the-wall shit, and he can do whatever he wants. There are a lot of people who can get away with doing things that make me a little jealous, things that I never did or can’t do now to help market myself.

“I’m marketable to Dean Witter and to banks and things like that. I’m marketable for the honest family man in me. And I have the local milk commercials and the Chevy spots. But I’m not a rebel. I’m not a guy who came back from drug addiction. I’m not a guy that people are lined up to write a book about because I spent two years in prison. Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Schmidt: The Phillies Find a Slugger

In Sport magazine on September 12, 2009 at 7:37 pm

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“What this game needs,” the black Philadelphia Phillie was telling the white Philadelphia Phillie, “is some white superstars. And it needs them fast. And that’s just what you could be, kid.”

The white Phillie grinned and stood up in front of his locker. He pushed back his long reddish hair, matted down his mustache and flexed his freckled muscles. “You hear that, America?” he shouted. “Mike Schmidt is the great white hope!”

Then Mike Schmidt, who is white, and Dave Cash, who is black, both laughed.

If anyone had suggested a year ago that Mike Schmidt could be the next white superstar, or the great white anything, the whole baseball world would have laughed. Mike Schmidt had just finished his first full season as a Phillie, and if he had accomplished anything, it was that he had perfectly concealed any superstar potential he might possess. He had batted .196 in 132 games, which is dreadful, and he had struck out 136 times in 367 at‑bats, which is worse.

But in 1974, at the age of 24, Mike Schmidt found a batting groove, and the Phillies found a slugger. Schmidt led the major leagues in home runs with 36, fin­ished second in the National League in runs batted in with 116, and batted .282.

“I was hoping to hit .250, drive in 80 runs, play decent third base and maybe help the club a little,” says Schmidt. “I never thought all this would happen so fast.”

So much happened so fast that as late as the beginning of September, when the Phillies’ “Yes We Can” motto melted into a lie, Schmidt was a legitimate contender for Most Valuable Player in the National League.

“I don’t want to black-cat the kid,” says Danny Ozark, the manager of the Phillies, “but if Schmitty continues to progress the way he has, he’ll be the highest-paid player in this game some day. The front office won’t be able to find enough money to pay him.”   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 »

The Old Ballgame

In SJ Magazine on September 1, 2009 at 4:01 pm

mzl baseball copyI grew up in a land where men were men and women baked cakes. A land where fathers worked all day and slept all night. While the rest of us watched Milton Berle, my father, exhausted from bringing home the kishka, would plop in his overstuffed green sateen lounge chair and snooze ‘til he snored.

That was the daily routine. That was what work was. In our humble house, celebrations were few and far between. There were birthdays and the Fourth of July and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They were days of rest, they were days of play.

My favorite Father’s Day ever was when I was eight years old. My father loved watching sports. This day, we would celebrate by doing what my father and I loved most. We would go to Connie Mack Stadium. I loved that place. It was other-worldly. No grass was that green. No bases were that white. We got seats in the upper deck. That way, there was money left for food. My father bought me a hot dog, slathered in bright yellow mustard, and an ice cold Coca-Cola in a cup I needed two hands to hold. It was my favorite meal. Read the rest of this entry »

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