The Tommy John Interview: Part 2

Tommy John and His Coaching and Playing Career


I started off the conversation in part 1 talking about how he became affiliated with the increasingly popular children’s book, “A Glove of Their Own”. Part two of this interview with Tommy John will highlight his career both pitching and coaching. At the end of the interview will be an embedded MP3 player where you can listen to our conversation in its entirety.

When inquiring with Tommy if he was currently managing, he had this to say, “No, I resigned July 8 from the Bridgeport Bluefish, and I took a job with a company out of Murray (sp), Kentucky, and I sell sports scoreboards: football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, all sports scoreboards. I’m the sales rep in the state of Texas, and what we’re trying to is get the coaches and athletic directors to look at our product. We have a good product. The company’s called Sportable Scoreboards out of Murray, Kentucky, and I think I’ve sold 4 so far since I’ve been going at it.

Getting back to Tommy’s career, we discussed how you don’t hear guys playing 20+ years anymore, let alone 26, especially as a pitcher. Tommy didn’t attribute his longetivity to a workout regimen.

“No, I think it was genes passed down from my dad. I developed a pretty good work ethic from my dad. Other than my elbow, I really didn’t have any significant arm problems. And, I just kept myself in very good shape. Very good shape. Workout regimen? Nolan Ryan had a very good regimen. But his was just as good as everybody else’s. It’s just the fact that in his family, someone gave him the gene to throw the ball harder than anybody else that I’ve ever seen.”

As I mentioned earlier in part one of this interview, Tommy played for a few teams. So I asked him if there an organization that was better to play for, and likewise, was there one that was the worst, or that he least liked to play for?

New Yankee Stadium: Yankee Museum
Image by peterjr1961 via Flickr

“Well, as long as you’re playing major league baseball, they’re all very good. I particularly enjoyed playing for the Dodgers when Theo O’Malley had the ball club. I thought Walter and his wife Kay and then when he passed on to Peter and his wife and then Peter’s brother in law ran the team. They treated it pretty much like a family. But the best place in the world to play baseball, or in fact, to play sports was New York City. Playing for the Yankees was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me as far as my pro career went because it’s a tough market to play in. The fact that you can go out there and play and go through all the stuff that happens within the organization. . . it’s tough and if you enjoy people and you enjoy doing the things that New York has to offer, you will absolutely love it. If you don’t, it’ll be a very, very tough time for you.” He continued to say, “I absolutely loved every place I played. I know that sounds like a very political answer, but. . . I did! I enjoyed every place I played. I started out in Cleveland and then I went to the White Sox and I spent 7 years in Chicago. That was close to home. I could get home on the weekends or my mom and dad could come up on the weekends. Chicago was great. Los Angeles was outstanding! The weather, the ballpark, the fans out there were great. New York, like I said, it’s the best place to play. I never played in St. Louis for the Cardinals, but that would be a very good baseball town too. I even played in Oakland, too, for a very short time, and I enjoyed Oakland as much as any place I ever played.”

Looking at ballparks: Tommy spoke about which ballparks he pitched well in, and which one that he just didn’t want to pitch in at all.

“Well, I had a tough time starting out pitching at Tiger Stadium. White Sox park was a great park to pitch in back in the early to mid 60’s. The old Dodger stadium, before they moved the fences in, was a great ballpark. Old Yankee stadium was outstanding. You know, when I first went there and played there with Cleveland and DiMaggio and Mantle and Maris, that was a great ballpark. Then they reconfigured it and made it smaller and now they’ve made it even smaller and you know, but back when it was 465, 467, and left field was 407, you could just throw balls and guys could hit ‘em a mile and they were outs! The old ballparks were great! In fact, I even enjoyed pitching at Fenway with the short left field wall because everybody was trying to hit it over the wall, and that made my sinker down and away even better.”

Given Tommy had a good sinker, the line drives he gave up at Fenway that might have been a HR in most ballparks were just line drives there. “(chuckle)Oh yes, I dented the wall many, many times!”

When asked if there were any guys that he just didn’t want any part of pitching to Tommy replied, “Well, I didn’t mind pitching to anybody. There were some guys who hit me better than others. They guy who comes to mind who hit me well was Ken Griffey, Sr. I could get Junior out, because he was only about 10 years old at the time! The other guy, statistically, Ned Yost, the ex-manager of the Brewers, was like 12 for 14 off of me, and I don’t ever recall him hitting the ball like that, but obviously he did.”

Be sure to check back tomorrow for part 3 of my interview with Tommy John. At the end of the third section there will be the complete audio of the interview.

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