Jesse Jarnow

johnny bench

One more baseball posting to close out the week…
Two excerpts from Catch You Later: The Autobiography of Johnny Bench by Johnny Bench and William Brasher. (see also: Johnny Bench by, uh, me.)


1972 World Series, versus the A’s.

I, meanwhile, had to prepare for a World Series not against Baltimore and Mr. Brooks Robinson, but against Charlie Finley’s Oakland A’s: mustaches, mules, and all.

We were the bad guys. It was 1972, the streets belonged to the people, flower children were alive and well, and the Cincinnati Reds were the Establishment being shoved up against the wall by the A’s from Berkeley.

We wore white suits at home, gray on the road, with low-cut socks and black polished spikes. They wore gold, green, and white uniforms in every combination, shiny high-cut silks, and white spikes.

We were clean-shaven with trimmed, short hair (Pete still wore a flat top) and no sideburns. They were longhairs, with sideburns and mustaches — thanks to Charlie Finley’s contest to see who could grow the most stylish upper lip — and the results were muttonchops, handlebars, and Fu Manchus.

…Before the series began in Cincinnati, I got together with Reggie Jackson and went out for something to eat. … Later I drove him back to the hotel, Reggie was on crutches, and when we went up past a few players’ rooms, I smelled the sweet, unmistakable odor of marijuana. A couple of the Oakland A’s, the American League representatives in the World Series, were smoking dope. That really shook me. I thought, “How in the world can they be doing this?” (pp. 109-111)


1973 National League Championship Series, versus the Mets

“Grab a bat!” I yell. “Everybody grab a bat! Make sure Pete gets off the field.”

Sparky takes it up, mobilizing the whole team into a civil defense corps. We’ll go out there swinging to get him if we have to. Our hitter slaps a grounder, Pete runs a few steps toward second, then dashes for our dugout.

“Here they come!” someone shouts, and the fans are pouring over the walls and onto the field. Pete bulls his way, knocks a few kids on their cans, and makes it into the dugout. By now the people are on the dugout roof and coming over the top. I stand there with the fat part of a bat in my hand. I swing at a kid who comes at me and rap him in the shins. I can hear the thwock against the bone. He yelps and drops back and others back off. (p. 144)


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