On two occasions recently, Redleg Nation had the pleasure of spending some time talking to Chris Welsh, native Cincinnatian, ex-Reds player, and current Reds television broadcaster.
Chris was very frank with his thoughts on the past, present, and future of the Reds franchise and we appreciate his time.
The first part of this interview will be posted today, the second tomorrow, and the third on Wednesday.
This interview was done in two sessions, on May 26, 2006 and May 31, 2006.
RN: Redleg Nation
CW: Chris Welsh
RN: This is Bill Lack with Redleg Nation talking with Chris Welsh and we want to thank Chris for the time heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spending with us today. I did a little research and you were born in Wilmington, DE.
CW: I was.
RN: How did your family end up in Cincinnati?
CW: In Wilmington Delaware, back in the old days, you either worked for Dupont or you worked for Hercules Powder Company, which is where my dad worked. He got transferred out to Cincinnati to open up the Midwest office in around 1960. So I was 5 years old when I moved to Cincinnati, so I really call Cincinnati my hometown even though I was technically born in Delaware.
RN: Typical Cincinnati question, what part of town did you grow up in?
CW: Over on the east sideÃ¢â‚¬Â¦a driver and a 2 iron from Moeller High School, but I ended up going across town to St. X. (St. Xavier High School).
RN: You grew up a Reds fan, I assume?
CW: Absolutely. My sisters were Phillies fans, and I always had a little tender spot in my heart because they would clip Phillies articles and so on, even through the sixties. But obviously I ended up being a Reds fan and saw my first game at Crosley Field.
Played in Crosley Field actually with a CYO team that was playing for the city championship back in 1969 when we were 8th graders. Of course they demolished it later. A year later. That was the beginnings of my baseball, yes, Cincinnati, no doubt.
RN: So, your formative baseball memories are the 60Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s and 70Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s, which were a great time to be a Reds fan.
CW: Yeah, because essentially in 1973, I packed up and moved to college. I went away to the University of South Florida. One time during my college ball, 4 of us on our baseball team down at USF drove non-stop from Tampa to Cincinnati, got 4 standing room only tickets to the 1975 World Series, snuck down into the blue seats, ended up finding 4 empty seats behind Frank Robinson and his family and we watched Luis Tiant pitch a game against the Reds that day.
RN: Was that when he shut the Reds out?
CW: Yes, it was. Then we went up to the Ramada Inn in Blue Ash, which I found out, was where the Red Sox were staying. It happened to be the same hotel I had worked at the previous summer as a morning bellman, so I knew all the people that worked there and we ended up sitting in the lounge having a few cocktails with Luis Tiant. And as the story goes, later in my career I ended up playing winter ball down in Venezuela in the Venezuelan Winter League and had Luis Tiant as a teammate. So it all kind of came full circle eventually.
RN: WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll get to USF in a minute, but you went to St. Xavier, graduated what? Like Ã¢â‚¬â„¢72?
RN: Cincinnati high school baseball at that time was incredible.
CW: It was good. Yeah, when I went to St. X, when I could have walked to Moeller, Moeller won the state championship under Mike Cameron. We had tremendous summer ball teams, I know I played for Midland one year, played for another group called Sweeney Chevrolet, which had all stars all over the place. It was really good baseball.
RN: It was the class of the state at the time.
CW: The high school was, but to be honest, I remember more about my summer ball because we played more games in the summer than we did in the spring during high school ball. At that time the programs werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t nearly as developed as they are today. The facilities werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t nearly as good as they are now.
There was talent coming out of there. Buddy Bell had just come out of Moeller high school, Lenny Matuszek, was currently at Moeller, Pat Tabler, who I played with in the minor leagues with the Yankees was coming out of Cincinnati.
Just tons of really good players and your didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t realize how good they were until you went out and started playing college ball. Then you realized that the talent you played against in the summer wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t much different than what you were seeing on a college team. So it kind of prepared me for when I was playing elsewhere.
Read on, below the fold…
RN: So, then you went to University of South Florida?
CW: Yeah, actually, I walked on. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d never been to Florida in my life, went down there in February, stayed with a friend of the family who was a teacher in St. Pete. He took me to Florida Southern, which is a bible school, he took me to University of Tampa, which is right down town in Tampa, and he took me to USF. It was a hot sunny day in February and I saw there girls walking around in short shorts and halter tops and said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Show me to the coachÃ¢â‚¬Â.
RN: I was doing some research on-line and saw a baseball card of you in a St. Pete Pelicans uniform.
CW: That was the Senior Professional League. I had Jim Rice, Tito Landrum, and George Foster in my outfield. How about that?
RN: That ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bad.
CW: They could hit, but they couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t run. I found out the last thing to go is your hitting. They couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t cover a ball in the gap for anything. I had a better chance of catching it than they did.
RN: Then the Yankees draft you, twice.
CW: Yeah, twice. Once in the 24th round, once in the 21st round. I had a really good year my junior year of college, my first year of draft eligibility. The problem was we graduated almost the entire South Florida team, so I came back my senior year, the first year, by the way, Robin Roberts came in and coached me, and I ended up going from 10-3 with a 1.something ERA to 4-7 with an ERA way up in the 3Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s.
I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d get drafted at all. But the Yankees told me, if you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get drafted this year, donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worry about; weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re only going to offer you $500. So, I ended up getting drafted in the 21st round and signing.
RN: So, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re working your way up through the Yankees system.
CW: I was 22 when I signed so I was already old for my age. And I played one year in Oneonta, the summer NY-Penn league and led the league in a whole bunch of categories. I had 14 starts and 12 complete games. So, by the end of my first full season in pro ball, I was in AAA. At my age, I had to get up there quickly and I did.
RN: You had a pretty good year in the minors in 1980.
CW: Yeah, with the Columbus Clippers. We had a good team. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if I would have made it to the major leagues if I hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come up through that organization. They wanted you to win everywhere you went.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got a whole pocketful of rings, minor league championship rings from where we won. In A ball, we won the championship in Oneonta, I was in a PCL championship team my second year, 2 times in a row in Columbus we won the whole thing. You didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to win, you were expected to win.
RN: Think thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s important in the minor leagues?
CW: Absolutely. I think this developing talent is fine, but you also have to know what itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like to be part of a winning ballclub. Which means even if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a superstar, you sacrifice sometimes, you hit the ball the other way, you move a runner up. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not going up there to court your own numbers, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going up there so your team wins and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what is lost with some of this Ã¢â‚¬Å“development over winningÃ¢â‚¬Â in the minor leagues.
RN: Did you expect to make the Yankees in 1979?
CW: I was the last player cut. When I went to Spring Training, I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even on their radar and I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even know if I gave up a run all spring. All of a sudden it was down to the last cut and it came down to the very last cut and it was down to Paul Maribella, who was on the roster, I was a non-roster player, who essentially had one full year in the minor leagues. And I went down to AAA in Ã¢â‚¬â„¢79 and I got waxed, realizing that this was a lot tougher than spring training. But it was a good experience being up there.
In 1979, that was the year after the Yankees won the World Series, so I was hanging around right to the very last day of spring training with Munson, Reggie Jackson, Guidry, Gossage, and Tommy John. It was awesome. Being on the field with Lou Pinella and these guys, it was really cool.
RN: Couple of years later, you get traded to San Diego.
CW: Hallelujah. I was going back to AAA for a third year in a row and I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have anything left to prove in AAA. I was still fairly young and I was posting good numbers and had won two games in the playoffs the year before, 2 complete games. And I wondered, why am I going back to the IL again?
RN: So, you can understand some of these guys, like Chris Denorfia, that have nothing left to prove at AAA, guys like Cody Ross.
CW: If you spend a few years there and are among the best players in the league, yeah. And it gets to you after a while, but that said, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see that happening too much any more. You see guys rushed through, they come up and theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not ready.
Anyway, I ended up getting traded on April Fools Day, in a six player trade. Ruppert Jones, Joe Lefebvre, Tom Lollar and myself all went from NY to SD and John Pacella and Jerry Mumphrey went the other way. They actually wanted Mumphrey.
It turned out; I showed up in spring training, there were only a few days left in the spring, in Phoenix. In NY, all the front office guys wore pinstripe suits and looked like bankers. I show up in Phoenix in the hotel lobby and here comes this guy waving a cigar and has white patent leather shoes on and a matching white patent leather belt and a Hawaiian shirt and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Jack McKeon. And he looks at me and Lollar and he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know who was who, so he looked at Lollar and said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“You must be WelshÃ¢â‚¬Â. Lollar said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“No, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m Lollar.Ã¢â‚¬Â He said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Lollar, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re the #5 pitcher, Welsh, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re # 4. Bus leaves tomorrow, you guys are in the rotation.Ã¢â‚¬Â
RN: What a way to win a job.
CW: I looked at Lollar and said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s go celebrate.Ã¢â‚¬Â
RN: So, you played 3 years in SD?
CW: 2 1/2 plus, then had an altercation, not a physical altercation, but a problem with Dick Williams. They ended up selling me to the Montreal Expos in the middle of 1983.
The bottom line of that incident was I wanted to throw over to first base and he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want me to. My heart of hearts was telling me this guy, Lee Lacy, was going to go. 1st and 3rd situation, so I threw over and Williams didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like the insubordination, so he told Jack McKeon, Ã¢â‚¬Å“YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got to get rid of this guy, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a jerk.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Dick Williams devotes an entire chapter in his book to what an **shole I am. So donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give the guy any money by buying his book.
RN: After going to Texas, you come to the Reds to finish up in 1986.
CW: ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a funny story. This was in the years of collusion and evidently collusion, at that time, extended even to those players who were released free agents, like myself. I was released by the Texas Rangers and on my exit interview the GM said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“We really didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t pitch you enough to find out whether you could pitch here or not. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know whether you can help us, you pitched a little bit in relief, you pitched a little as a starter, you had a really good game as a starter against the Yankees, but we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know whatÃ¢â‚¬Â¦weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to release you.Ã¢â‚¬Â
So I made calls to every team in baseball that year and nobody would even offer me a look-see in spring training. I mean some people wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even answer the phone when they found out I was a free agent. Collusion was really a true thing, obviously by the payouts the owners ended up making. And I called the Reds and they didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want anything to do with me. Bill Bergesch was the GM.
I was living in Bradenton, Florida at the time and I heard that Pete Rose was in Tampa making a commercial at my old field at USF. So, I told me wife at the time, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m going to drive up to Florida and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m going to talk to Pete. I always really pitched well against Pete and he was the manager and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d see what he had to say.
So, I went up there and talked to Pete and in between shoots, he said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Chris, good to see you, where you going to be this spring?Ã¢â‚¬Â I said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m going to be with the Reds, didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you hear?Ã¢â‚¬Â He said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s great. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d love to have you in camp.Ã¢â‚¬Â I said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“No, really, I called Bergesch, he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to have anything to do with me so IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not really sure what IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m doing.Ã¢â‚¬Â Pete said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“*uck Bill Bergesch, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m the boss around here. You show up tomorrow morning at 8:00.Ã¢â‚¬Â
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exactly what happened, I show up, Bill Bergesch is pissed off; PeteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got a uniform waiting for me.
RN: ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great story. What was it like pitching your first home game as a Cincinnati native in a Reds uniform?
CW: It was pretty incredible. It was against the St. Louis Cardinals and I think I walked Vince Coleman to lead the game off and I think, Ã¢â‚¬ËœGreat, here we go againÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, but I was nervous as hell. I think I was more nervous in that game than any game I had ever pitched in my life. Just knowing that my family was there and my mom and dad were there. Obviously, my dad was a huge supporter all through my youth ball and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what people really donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really great to pitch in front of your home town crowd, I guess if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re Roger Clemons it is, but if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re Chris Welsh and your stuff is a little bit short it can be nerve wracking because the pressure that you put on yourself is such that you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to let these people down. You want to pitch well, but your team is almost secondary compared to everything else. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to be feeling if you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t last the first inning.
But it turned out I ended up going 8 innings, got beat 2-1; I thought I put a in pretty good showing. (EditorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s note: Chris actually threw 7 innings, not 8 and took the loss in a well pitched game in which he gave up a single run in the first and the second and zeros the rest of the way.)
RN: IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been told, I have a friend of a friend thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pitched in the big leagues and he said he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d want to pitch his hometown because of the distractions and the added pressure. You know, people asking for tickets, demands on your time, is there a lot of that? Is it really difficult?
CW: I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the tickets thing, I think thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d probably be worse during the All Star game or the playoffs, something like that. But I do think that you have that added burden of being the hometown kid, really wanting to do well and when you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do well, you let the whole town down.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not like you just let the team down. If I pitched *hitty in Montreal, the only guys that cared were my teammates and my coaches. People in Montreal didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give a hoot about Chris Welsh, but I think there are some people here that really pull for you, just because. And you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to let those folks down; you want to give them a good effort.
I do think, had I been a better pitcher, or even had the opportunity to come back the following year, I would have been a much better pitcher because I would have handled it much better because I would have been through it before. I think after a while, familiarity would have really helped out.
RN: That first night, how many tickets did you leave?
CW: About 35 tickets. I told a lot of peopleÃ¢â‚¬Â¦I told my mom and dad ahead of time to tell everybody just get your own seats because I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to set a precedent that I was going to leave 35 tickets every 5th day.
RN: What was it like playing for Pete?
CW: Pete was a good playerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s manager. I was excited every time the guy looked my way and talked to me. I was like most of the kids in Cincinnati growing up; I wore #14 whenever I could. I ran to first base because thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re supposed to do when you take a base on balls.
Pete was wonderful from that standpoint and one of my fondest memories from that year was a picture that appeared in Ã¢â‚¬Å“USÃ¢â‚¬Â magazine that did a spread on all the guys that played high school ball in Cincinnati that were playing for the Reds. Marge loved it. The original Schottzie, Marge, Pete, Dave Parker, Ronny Oester, Buddy Bell, Barry Larkin, and myself.
When I started, which was about 24-25 games that year, and when Pete played first that year, we had 6 players on the field that all went to high school in Cincinnati. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a pretty good testimony to high school baseball here.
RN: You played for some interesting managers. Frank Howard?
CW: Great guy.
RN: WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve already talked about Dick Williams.
CW: HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an **shole.
RN: Bill Virdon?
CW: Tough guy, really old throwback. Old school all the way. Knew his baseball, but it was his way or the highway.
RN: Played for Bobby Valentine in Texas, right?
CW: Bobby V loved himself and thought everybody else should love him as much as he loved himself.
RN: Did you play for Doug Rader also?
CW: Only a little bit. Only in spring training, Rader got fired and Valentine came in and said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have no left handers in the bullpen, what do we got in AAA?Ã¢â‚¬Â I was in AAA, so they called me up.
RN: That 1986 Reds team had an interesting roster. In addition to Rose, you mentioned Dave Parker; can you talk a little bit about Dave Parker as a teammate?
CW: The funniest guy. If not THE funniest, certainly one of the top 2-3 funniest players to ever be around this sport. He could be a standup comedian anywhere and I mean big time. Plus he was a talented player, obviously.
He had some stories to tell about what they did in Pittsburgh during his years there. He would have a way to loosen up a clubhouse better than anyone else I ever heard. Between he and Perez, they would come in and start getting on each other and pretty soon the whole place was just erupting in laughter because Parker could hold an audience like no one else. It was great.
RN: That was TonyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s last year.
CW: It was. I remember Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tony Perez DayÃ¢â‚¬Â. They brought Pituka out and had the big ceremony out in center field. One of the best ever guys youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d ever want to meet.
RN: Sparky credited him for being one of the reasons the Big Red Machine was as good as they were, was he still a leader in the clubhouse in Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ86?
CW: He was a clubhouse leader. We ended up in second place. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not really sure what happened that year except they got off to a horrible start and I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t actually get called up until the end of April. By the time I got called up, the team was already well behind and I think the Houston Astros ended up running away with it, with Joe Sambito and Mike Scott having great years that year.
Tony was a leader, you knew he was going to be around baseball for a long time, you didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if he was going to be a manager or not, but, he knew the game and he was great with kids and just a wonderful guy. One of the best teammates you could ever have.
RN: Davey Concepcion was coming to the end of his career also.
CW: Davey played SS in a game I hit a home run against Philadelphia Phillies, I think it was July 5th. And weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re playing them in Philadelphia, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have to look this up, but he had three or 4 errors that night. (EditorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s note: It was July 5th, Chris threw a complete game and hit a home run, the only one of his career, Davey had 3 errors on the night.)
I probably gave him 17 chances. I moved him way over, I had a really good sinker working that night and I moved him way over to what I call the 5 1/2 hole. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got the third baseman off the line and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got the shortstop about 3 steps to his left and way deep. Every ball was hit right over there, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d get these guys out on their front foot and theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d pull the ball and I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want these little dribblers going in for base hits. So I moved him over and, sure enough, he got ball after ball after ball. And his arm was dying at that time and he couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get it to first base and he had like 3 errors.
By the 7th inning he came over and said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I no more play *ucking shortstop when you pitch ever again.Ã¢â‚¬Â
RN: Is Davey a HOFer?
CW: Yes. No doubt. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so hard to compare numbers through generations. I think if guys have a great career and have a period of time, a decade or so, where they dominated at their position. You tell me during that period of time, who was as good, consistently, as Davey Concepcion?
He could have been that good because he played for the Big Red Machine. You put him on the Mets or the Padres back in those days and he might not have been a HOFer. He is what he is and I thought he dominated his position as well as anyone in baseball during that decade. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d get my vote if I were eligible to vote.
RN: You got an early look at Barry Larkin that year.
CW: I actually first saw Larkin when I was in the minor leagues. We had Larkin down there, we had Tracy Jones, we had Kal Daniels, Sabo was down there. Lark came up later in the season, it was between him and (Kurt) Stillwell. They picked the right guy. Larkin had something about him as a young kid, you knew he was going to be good.
RN: Think heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a HOFer?
CW: Yeah, I do. For the same reasons. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care about the batting averages, or stolen bases or MVPs. But I do think LarkinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a HOFer. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the reason why, they let Rizzuto in and Phil Rizzuto couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hold Barry LarkinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s jock. And thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a fact. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care whether he played in a big market or not.
I think these guys should be recognized for being as good as they are and playing for as long as he did. You know, if you play 5 years in the big leagues and struggle to do so, you know how hard it is to play in the big leagues and how hard it is to stay there. Not just to stay there, but to be on top of your game like a guy like Larkin was. I think he should get credit for that.
RN: Eric Davis that year.
CW: Awesome talent. Great guy.
RN: He had an unbelievable season. 27 home runs, 80 stolen bases.
CW: I was lockering next to him. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d say to him, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to talk to you, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to wake you up.Ã¢â‚¬Â He was just a young kid, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d only been up there a year or so.
He hit the longest home run I ever seen hit in Olympic StadiumÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. to right field. We had some pretty good left handed power hitters in Montreal and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d seen some pretty good visiting team players come in there, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d never seen a ball hit that far and he hit it opposite field. Pete said the same thing, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d never seen a ball hit that far in Montreal. Eric Davis hit it, opposite field.
RN: How good could he have been without the injuries and the cancer?
CW: Hall of Fame.
RN: Was he just so lean he injured easily, was it a tolerance to pain? A combination of those things?
CW: No, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe in these things where they say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s soft.Ã¢â‚¬Â What happens is a guy gets a streak of bad luck or he gets injured.
RN: Like Junior?
CW: Yeah, like Junior. Pretty soon, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like having an automobile that starts breaking down on you. These parts arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t independent, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re all working together. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s even more so in the human body.
I always gag when the Reds medical staff comes out and says, Ã¢â‚¬Å“This hamstring injury that Junior has sustained is no relation to his other hamstring injury up higher on the same leg. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a bunch of bullsh**. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all related. If your leg hurts and you develop an arm condition, its probable than one had to do with the other. There wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be chiropractors on every corner if that wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the case. I think that theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re all related.
RN: Mario Soto.
CW: HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the reason I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make the team in Ã¢â‚¬â„¢86. He had a bad arm. I even threw my stuff on the truck because they told me to get on the plane. They said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“You come to the ball park, bring your stuff, we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if you make the teamÃ¢â‚¬Â. So, I bring my stuff, they say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ok, you made the team, throw your stuff on the truck., bus leaves after the game for CincinnatiÃ¢â‚¬Â. I think, Ã¢â‚¬Å“AlrightÃ¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬Â¦non-roster player, good story. Half hour before the bus leaves, they say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Get your sh** off the bus, Mario thinks he can pitchÃ¢â‚¬Â. But I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see him at his best that year.
I saw a few sterling games by him, but overall, I saw him more so as a visiting player. What a changeup. He had some serious pop on his fastball too, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what people donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t remember about Mario. They think Ã¢â‚¬Å“what a great changeup, what a great changeupÃ¢â‚¬Â, but he was throwing mid-90s and he wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a big guy. He had a ball that appeared to be rising and it didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sink as much as your eyes thought it would.
RN: Tom Browning.
CW: Brownie. I kept trying to be as good as Tom Browning, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard. He really went after it. He went after it, went after it, went after it. He pitched fearless.
I really think I might have been too sensitive for my own good because this guy wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sensitive at all, at least around baseball. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d get lit up one day, the next day youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d never know what happened to him. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d go out and give up 5 runs in 5 innings and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d feel like IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be sheepish until I got my next start to try and redeem myself. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d turn the page. He didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have great stuff, but boy, you talk about a bulldog.
If thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a team fight, I want Browning on my side.
RN: You talk about getting lit up and then coming back from that, it almost sounds like what they say about cornerbacks in the NFL? You have to be able to forget about it and move on.
CW: The best pitchersÃ¢â‚¬Â¦everyday players are different because they get another 4 at bats the next night. But I used to just be stunnedÃ¢â‚¬Â¦the two really good closers, actually Gary Lucas had a pretty good run while I was in SD, but Jeff Reardon in Montreal and Johnny Franco in CincinnatiÃ¢â‚¬Â¦these guys would go out and strike out the side in the 9th inning of a one run game and theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re happy. Next day, they give up a 3 run bomb and lose the game and you could never tell the difference.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s almost like they didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care, maybe it was because I was always on the fringe, never expected to make it, never really had somebody in my corner saying Ã¢â‚¬Å“Give Welsh another chance heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s throwing 95 MPH after allÃ¢â‚¬Â, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s was never like that. It was always, well we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how he did it so weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got to run him out there again Ã¢â‚¬Ëœtil he proves he canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do it anymore.
So, I always felt like I was only 1 or 2 starts away from my last ever, if I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t pitch well. I took those losses a little more seriously than maybe I should have, in retrospect, I should have cared less and pitched better.
RN: Were you at any of those Charlie Sheen parties that Browning talks about in his book?
CW: Uh, no, I had other things to do. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll tell you what, he can flat play some golf. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about a scratch handicapper, and got one of the worst swings IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve ever seen. And heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll drop a 70 on your before you know it.
RN: Chris, we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t move out of 1986 without talking about Pete Rose. Should Pete be in the HOF?
CW: Yeah, I really think he should. What he did on the field was unparalleled, in my book. But that said he also violated rule 21, which is the most important rule in baseball, in all sports. It protects the integrity of the game. So, when you bet on your ballclub, a team you have control over, a team youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re involved with, you should have to pay the penalty. He did that as manager, as far as I know, he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t place bets as a player; at least there were no allegations of that.
So, I think there should be some kind of showing of what he did as a player. With an asterisk and years of community service, something like that. I really think that baseball missed the boat when they didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t force Pete into some kind of an agreement that would get him to work for baseball as a spokesman, as some type of representative of baseball as a penalty for betting on baseball. They could have come to some agreement, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure.
PeteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got terrific stage presence, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s great speaking in front of kids, minor leaguers, whatever it is, you could use him as a positive example, instead of a negative example.
RN: IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always seen it as two separate eras, the Pete Rose playing era, the Pete Rose managing era. Why canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t baseball see that as two different things?
CW: They donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see the difference there; they see one developing into the other. And they needed to put their foot down and say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is where the compromise stops.Ã¢â‚¬Â
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s funny. The people that are 4 time drug abusers in baseball were treated much less harshly than Pete Rose and his gambling, but gambling is the #1 sin, no doubt about it. When it comes to the integrity of the game, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the only thing that keeps it square.
RN: DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you think the drug abuse and now, the steroid issue, brings the integrity of the game into issue also?
CW: I think it does, yeah. Of course, this was before steroids and you talk about integrity of the game, what about the guys that were corking their bats or putting Vaseline on baseballs?
Getting the edge, whether itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s taking greenies or wetting the field down to keep another teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s running game from going. You know, all those little things they laugh about and say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re just trying to get the edgeÃ¢â‚¬Â, where Pete Rose was actually gambling money on baseball.
I think they had it out for him for one reason or another. I think if heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d have plea bargained earlier on, had he not been so hard headed and decided he was just going to deny it, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s his story and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sticking to it, I think it could have been a little bit different story.
RN: Pete talks about the possibility of his getting back on the field; do you ever see that happening?
CW: No. Even if heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s allowed to by baseball, what general manager or owner is going to be so desperate for fan attendance or ratings that they would do that? I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think that would happen.
RN: One more thing about the Ã¢â‚¬â„¢86 ballclub, letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s talk about Marge a little bit.
CW: Marge hired me.
RN: Marge hired you for the broadcasting job?
CW: Yeah. Also, in Ã¢â‚¬â„¢86, on my exit interview, she told me she was going to bring me back in spring training the following year, as did the Reds and I never did get an invite back. I can see how that slipped her mind, but it shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have slipped the mind of Bill Bergesch.
But, Marge was Marge. A lot of people in Cincinnati have aunts like Marge. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think the players disliked her. I think all the business of her calling Eric Davis and Dave Parker her Ã¢â‚¬Å“million dollar niggersÃ¢â‚¬Â I think that they laughed about it in the clubhouse. I think overall, she was a pretty good owner for the Reds. She kept that big league team competitive every year.
RN: She wanted to win.
CW: No doubt. Not a good employers and she wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t very nice to the little person. But if you were simply a Reds fan, you couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t complain with the results.
RN: LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wrap up your playing career with some broad questions.
CW: ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s taken a lot longer than it should have.
RN: WhoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the best hitter you ever faced?
CW: I think thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a difference between the best hitter and the guy that hit me the best. If you are talking about the best overall, batting average hitter, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d have to say Tony Gwynn or Wade Boggs.
If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re talking about the best power hitter I ever faced, maybe George Brett. I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t face him all that much, but he was terrific. I had a hard time getting him out.
There were some guys I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have as much problem with, like say, Mike Schmidt. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s difficult to say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“who is the best hitterÃ¢â‚¬Â, like now, well; itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s easy right now because Albert Pujols is doing what heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s doing. But I faced both Bonds, but one was at the end of his career and the other at the beginning of his.
But at the height of my career, which lasted only 5 years, in the early Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ80Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d say George Brett; he was probably the most impressive. I handled him well until I threw him fastballs. For some reason, he Ã¢â‚¬Å“willedÃ¢â‚¬Â me to throw him a fastball in every count and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d hit a line drive somewhere.
RN: And the best hitter you pitched well against was Mike Schmidt?
CW: Probably so. I also threw pretty well against Pete. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe Schmidt ever got me and I faced him a fair amount of times. There were other guys that got me a lot worse than Schmidt did. Cal Ripken, for instance, I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even get him out in exhibition games.
RN: Was there someone that would hit you that you felt you should be able to get out?
CW: I felt like that about every lefthander.
I really felt a personal offense when a leftie would come up with a big hit against me. Keith Hernandez was a good example of that. I just thought, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I should own that guyÃ¢â‚¬Â because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s left-handed and he shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be able to hit me.
I never had trouble with lefties coming through the minors, and realized that these lefties that play every day in the big leagues are a different breed of player. Tony Gwynn, same way, I thought I should get him out every time; I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care if heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hitting .400 against everybody else or not.
But there were always some guys that were a pain in the neck to you. Ray Knight used to hit me pretty well. That irritated the hell out of me.
End of Part 1