Bob Kennedy, Florida State League, Brooklyn Dodgers discussed on Fresh Air

Fresh Air


And play games with that. In my dad, in the beginning would watch his swing, make sure we were swinging properly. And eventually he felt that we had it down pretty good. You know, you didn't have to watch. I remember him saying when I was older that he'd come home from work. He was a fireman in San Francisco for thirty years, and he'd here that pounding of the tennis ball against the rafters. And you know, give me a headache sometimes and but it made him laugh because I was there taking, you know, probably five hundred to one thousand swings day. I just absolutely loved it. Right. And you know you, you were the word just slapping because your dad knew something about the game. He would look at your mechanics. Tell us a bit about him. How did he know so much about baseball? Well, my dad was a minor league player and he was. Originally drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers before World War Two. He got hit in the head his first year in his eyes progress, no helmets. Those days is progressively got worse. And he eventually played for Cleveland and Oklahoma City and then was traded to the cardinals and played under Johnny Keane in Houston, where he met my mother and they got married after the season. He was very good hetero, very fine fielding. First baseman, and his career was shortened. And so he put it all after the war served four years in the service in the navy at Pearl Harbor and a ship repair unit played on the US navy team which played the US army team and army air corps Musial STAN Musial and forty. Five played with my father. Ted Williams was playing on the on on the teams a marine team. So there was all these ex. These these major leaguers playing this league were entertaining the troops basically. Yes. So it's clear you had talent, but it was all of that practice from somebody who knew what he was doing that no doubt, hone your skills, you were drafted by the St Louis cardinals organization and were a prized prospect. A lot was expected of you and it took years for you as you ride in the book to really get your stride as a hitter. And partly that was, you know, Justin mechanics and learning pitches, but a lot of it was emotional. How do your head get in the way? Well, I always, I describe my fragility in my emotional fragility. I mean, you're a high idea, come out of high school. You're a star in your little area. You grew up and I grew up with the baby boomers and there's lots of kids to play ball with and all of a sudden, my first spring training there, seven hundred kids in camp and there's only eight teams, and I know I'm going to make the team. I got a bonus signing bonus of thirty thousand which was unheard of for forty second round. Pick, but it just the big adjustment is you play two games a week and and in in summer league and back in those days in high school. And now you're playing, I believe it was a hundred and twenty eight game schedule in the minor leagues, something like that. And you're playing every day and you're not gonna hit five hundred like you did in high school. I hit two fifty six and a ball. I had to sixty AA the next year. And you know, it was tough. It was depressing in indigo and slumps in these your first experience with slumps and it's all a learning process in your headed eighteen year old kid and you don't know how to handle you. Throw helmets. You throw bats kick dirt, and you know, and you got coaches trying to tell you to calm down and you gotta learn to play this game on even kill, and it's all part of the process. That's what the minor leagues are about, but it, you know, it takes a long time and everybody's different. It took me a lot longer. Tell us the story of the first time you met guys razzing you in the stands, some college kids in a league game. It was. I was eighteen my first year in ball, making five hundred dollars a month and only getting paid during the season. And no, you went home and you didn't get paid, and we're played a doubleheader very windy game in Saint Petersburg, Florida and the Florida state league and was a pop up. And I dropped it and you know, to me a drop a pop up publicist it was and there was some college kids that had come down to watch the game and never sitting over on the first base side. And I guess they read that I was the big prospect and they just started writing me incessantly. And as a result, I got tighter and tighter, and I got matter and matter and I didn't acknowledge them because that's asking for trouble. I had enough sense to realize that, but they were relentless and it turned out that another play later in the in the second game, I just made another botch on easy, throw. It was obviously they got under my skin. And when the when the game was over, I ROY Matik was my manager. At it's eighteen. He calls me in the office and obviously he's gonna tell me, you can't let you know he's gonna give me the lessons, and I just start crying and he just had his ROY was a cigarette smoking a cigarette in his hand and bear in his other hand. And he just I'm ever going home jeeze and. There. I was completely after, you know, all that pent up emotion inside and it just came out in tears. I think you're right at one point that one of your coaches thought you needed to be away from your dad a little bit. I mean, he was such an important influence in your life. Was he? I don't know. A challenge. A burden was difficult with him to what when the cardinal cardinals were scouting. Me, dad negotiated my contract. They got a sense of the strength of the power of my father. Bob Kennedy. There was able team Modesto in the California state league. There was three ball teams, Cedar Rapids, Saint Pete in the Florida state league and California state league. Bob Kennedy kept me out of the California stately which he filled. I was ready to play in because that was the top able Lee. And he put me in the middling of Florida state league, which was a toughly. And he told me years later, he wanted the kind of cut the apron strings from my father. So. So there you go Bob Kennedy being a real influence and on my career. Do you think you needed to cut the strings from your father? Yes, no question. It was the right thing to do. Because dad and my brother played in the California state lady in dad came to all his games just whenever he could, and that would have drove me crazy. Gary had a different relationship with my father than I did with him. And yes, it was the right thing to do to get me away from him and get me to stand up on my own two feet. Was he hypercritical? You felt like you just couldn't please him when he coast all through little league and he was just wonderful. And the parents and the kids were were all benefited from his instruction and was really terrific with the kids. But once I got into high school, he was so petrified that a coach would ruin me, and it was never words. He lost control, and that's when things started to get a little dicey between a million him. He would always watch whenever he can't. He was a fireman he worked twenty four hours off forty eight yet two days off. So he would be at every practice in highschool watching him. And it was like. You know, the central scrutinize Irvine over from Frank Zappa's Joe's garage album. Maybe it was just like forever watching, and I would feel that it was like a shroud over me and I would come home on pins and needles. I didn't know. Would you know get laid into or would smile and praise me was kind of a tough situation and that continue to near major league career to, right? Yes. Well, I'm I'm sure he was a great guy and he died in nineteen Ninety-two, right? He did ironically one year after my retirement. So it was too bad. He could live longer. I wanna talk about playing first base. First base is a natural place for collisions, right? I mean, when there's a ground ball, you're there to catch a throw from the infielder and hopefully it's on target, but it might be into the path of the runner who may not see because the runners busting it down the line, not necessarily looking at the throw when you could see that was going to happen. The ball was going to be into the path of the runner. Did you have techniques for either warning the runner or trying to avoid getting hurt or hurting the runner. Well, number one, the runner can't run inside the baseline. He's got to be on the chalk. So a throw into into him, or I got a stretch towards home plate. I feel pretty confident that I'm not going to get hit on. It's up to me to make sure that I stride in fair territory towards the ball I stretch excuse me and only time I was ever scared when I was older and on my last year in Cleveland, Oakland raider running back to play for Kansas City. All American of Bo Jackson hit a ground ball shortstop, and the throw was down the line into him. And I heard him running like it was like a herd of buffalo. I'm not exaggerating at never had that experience before, and I played against some big guys. He was running so fast, and he was such a big strong guy that when I I remember I cringed when I caught the ball and just in hopes. That he wouldn't clip me on my left shoulder and he missed me. Thank goodness. I made sure I stroked up the line, but that's the only time ever in my career. If the throws too far up the line, you make a judgment. First base was a part of me, and that's also extension of knowing where the runner is. I have good peripheral vision. I have good sense of where the runner is. Can I come off the bag instead of stretching? Can I just come off the bed and get the ball, make the tag instead of staying on the bag? I was able to do that, and it was just all second nature to me. The easy part of the game for me was fielding if hitting could have been as easy as fielding. I woulda hit four hundred. The other thing about playing first base. It's the one place where there are a lot of there's time to converse with an opposing player player. Baserunners gets on and you know, I mean the pitcher and catcher, I mean the hitter and catcher near each other, but they're kind of busy, the catchers, getting the signs when you're with a runner. At first, you're often waiting for the pitcher to get ready and you can see there's chatter, is it friendly? Were there guys who try and use that to get in your head? Or would you try to get an other players heads. I was a chatterbox and for one reason, I would ask the hitters how they felt the plate and if a hitter would there's, it was just the beginning when the old days you wouldn't ever talk to the opposing player during a game before before game and BP that was no, it was the enemy. And that was starting to change in my era, started to change in the sixties in the seventies even got it advanced further. But I always ask, you know, guy came to the. First-base how do you fill the plate and if they start, you know, I don't feel so good that other of man, I feel great. Well, I'm in, I'm in a hot streak. He'll well, I would rela- that information to your pitcher, Rick? Yes, and actually the pitching staff and are the pitching coach, Rick Monday at a funny story, Rick. Money's a very dear friend now does radio for the dodgers you go flying into Saint Louis Hernandez on first base, we better all hid doubles. They wouldn't have to talk. He turned and his new memoir is called, I'm Keith Hernandez after a break. He'll tell us what he doesn't like about the game today at about what it was like on the set of Seinfeld. Also, Kevin Whitehead reviews a new album from trumpeter Adam Farrell. I'm Dave Davies, and this is fresh air.

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