Time to hang up the cleats

 
I didn’t want this Baseball Season to end knowing itwas my last one.
It will come as a surprise to many of you that writing this column is a sideline I don’t admit to too many people — especially to my teammates and all the people who know I’ve been a major league ballplayer for the past 52 years.

I made my debut with the Detroit Tigers in 1955. Not too many people remember because that was the year another youngster, Al Kaline, hit .340, with 27 home runs and 102 RBI. Al got all the ink.

I never had Kaline’s hitting talent. The first time I saw a major-league curveball I knew I wouldn’t last long in the Show. However, I had a stronger arm from right field than Kaline did so Manager Bucky Harris turned me into a relief pitcher.

Yes, I was there in ’68 when Denny McLain went 31-6 with 28 complete games and an ERA of 1.96. And, I was there that summer for Mickey Mantle’s last game in Tiger Stadium. Denny’s nod was barely noticeable. Mickey nodded back. Denny grooved one and the Mick blasted it over the porch in right field.

It was my ability to throw a knuckler rather than a blazing fastball that kept me in the game. There’s little arm strain with a knuckleball so I was effective right up to last week. The way Valverde was throwing the manager  didn’t need to call on me.

I could probably stay around for another season or two but I started to become disenchanted with the game many years ago.

Trades are part of the game but I’ve traveled among teams in both leagues so many times I’ve accumulated frequent-loitering miles from sleeping in airports. It was nice to be traded to a winner like the Tigers but I’ve had enough of it.

There’s no loyalty with free agency between players and teams or players and fans. Shoot, I played with Whitaker and Trammell for 18 years. Those two were Detroit’s double-play combo for more than 2,000 games. You’ll never see that again.

And then there’s the performance-enhancing-drug problem. Also, this may seem prudish, but I didn’t like it when they let lady reporters in the locker room. I mean, c’mon, it’s embarrassing to come out of the shower with a towel the only thing between you and total nudal frontity and have some news babe stick a microphone in your face. Hey, they don’t let me in the ladies changing rooms at Macy’s!

I don’t like the way most of the players wear their pants down to their shoe tops. Looks sloppy! Besides, how do you know we’re the White Sox when you can’t see anyone’s socks?

I’m going to retire quietly, too. Most of the fans won’t know I’m gone. What’s next for me? Broadcasting? Naw, I can’t be a shill for all those stupid commercials.

Surprisingly I seem to have a talent for painting. My dear friend, Jane Seymour, has been instrumental in developing my artistic aptitude, even though the first time she handed me a brush I tried to hold it with two hands. She says if I continue to improve she’ll let me co-exhibit with her at her next showing.

But she made me promise that when talking to prospective buyers I can’t spit or scratch.

Especially not in Carmel.

 

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