Growing up in Detroit in the 1950s and early ’sixties, it seemed every kid’s dream to play pro baseball. Then in 1962, that dream came true for me. And for a brief instant, a sudden dose of fame and fortune came and passed ingloriously. A dismal future lurked in the shadows for a nineteen-year-old “could-have-been” big leaguer. If it weren’t for my dad’s instinct to insist that his son’s modest “signing bonus” include scholarship money for college, the post-baseball life of this previously “can’t-miss” superstar could have proceeded in a less-than-favorable direction. Darkness seems always to precede the dawn. Then the brilliant light fades, giving place again to darkness—thus “the evening and morning of the first day” (Genesis). For the past four years, I have been basking sporadically in the “limelight.” It had become evident to a good many of baseball statistical enthusiasts and historical sleuths that a brilliant one-game performance by this relatively unknown player/athlete had sauntered down through more than fifty years of unclaimed posterity. Even I was not consciously aware of the significance of my somewhat-phenomenal feat. It registered only after conceding that this dubious fact in baseball’s illustrious history is a record most unlikely to be broken by any subsequent major league player. To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of my 1963 one-game performance, Ted Keith, from Sports Illustrated Magazine, wrote an extensive article based on his interview with me in 2012. The article garnered for me much notoriety and fanfare in my community and nationwide. A former sportswriter from the Los Angeles Times, Steve Wagner, saw the article and, remembering he had done a piece about me in 1991, decided to look further into my history. After much research and finding more interesting accounts, he decided to compile the data and eventually write a book about my story. He called and asked for an interview because he was writing a book about me. I was skeptical at first, since throughout the years, a small number of writers had asked me to contribute to their books. They usually contained a smaller or larger chapter about my professional experience. I asked how he could write a whole book on me. “How would you fill the pages?” He told me he already had two hundred pages! He just needed me to fill in some details. I was surprised but happy to comply with his wishes.
After Steve’s book Perfect was published and became somewhat popular with the media, I was contacted by my favorite sports TV station and asked to do an interview on Live-TV with my favorite MLB analysts and commentators. Not too long afterward, CBS TV contacted me about the recent book by Steve Wagner and asked if “they” could do a special interview for a TV spot on their CBS morning show. My brother, Tom, and Tommy Lasorda were included in the TV program.
All the notoriety being poured upon me in my seventieth year gave me pause to consider what could have been, had I not incurred a career-ending back operation that seemed to put my life in a state of suspended animation for more than fifty years. Could there have been a different and better story to tell? From my deliberate effort to tell a new story, I have established a new pattern of thought, providing me with a new “point of attraction” in my present, about my past, and into my future. And, as I extol the works of the Beatles, I borrow a few of their potent words to, “take a Sad Song and make it Better”!