Here’s a couple funny stories that occurred while I was catching. Both involve Hall of Famers and both happened more than once. The first one involves Wade Boggs. Widely considered one of the greatest hitters of all time, Boggs had a legendary batting eye and a Ted Williams like command of the strike zone. I knew this, but this first story will give you a taste of just how good he was.
It was my rookie season and we were in Kansas City hosting the Red Sox. Boggs walked up to the plate, went through his weird ritual of drawing symbols in the dirt, (Nomar had nothing on Boggs in the strange ritual category) and stepped in the box. I wish I could properly describe what it felt like when he got in the box…all I can say is an intense focus radiated off the guy – definitely different than most hitters.
Anyway, we go first pitch fastball away on the black for a strike. Being my rookie season, I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing back there, but I figure if we got that pitch on the black, let’s expand the zone a little more and see if the umpire will bite. So I call for another fastball a little more outside. The pitch comes in and it’s a fraction of an inch outside, but the umpire calls it a strike. As was his style, Boggs followed the pitch all the way to my glove and when the ump called it a strike he immediately blurted out, “nope, that ball is definitely an eighth of an inch outside.”
It was classic, because he said it just like Rain Man. “Definitely a good driver.” Come to think of it, Boggs did have a little Rain Man in him. He could’ve been the hitting Rain Man with a Magnum P.I mustache though. But the best part about the whole incident was he was right! That ball was exactly an eighth of an inch outside. Do you realize how thin an eighth of an inch is? I was blown away. And he put to rest my notion that it was a fluke by repeating that act on different occasions.
My second funny behind the dish story came courtesy of Rickey Henderson. Actually, this was a common occurrence when Rickey came to bat. To preface the story, you have to understand that umpires (for the most part) didn’t really dig Rickey’s act. They never said that to me, but judging by some of the strike calls against the guy when I was catching, that was the impression I got.
The cool thing about Rickey though was that he never complained to the umps. Instead, he would talk to himself in the third person. An umpire would call a ball way outside for a strike, Rickey would jump back and start yapping, “OK now, Rickey can’t hit that pitch…Rickey’s good but not that good.” Stuff like that. He was amazing, the words never stopped. He actually talked to himself…as the pitch was coming. The pitch was in mid flight and you could hear him say, “Rickey’s gonna get it.”
I honestly think Rickey may have talked himself into being a Hall of Famer. I can’t tell you how many times I heard him say, to no one in particular, “Dang Rickey, you’re good.” Or if he was a little behind a pitch…”Ok Rickey you’re a little sleepy but your still good.”
Both Henderson and Boggs were great, weird, and amazingly funny to me in their quirky ways.