Tag Archives: Brian Kingman

Brian Kingman interview…part 2

kingman062111

Part 2 of this amazing interview…just some nuances that are the ambrosia of baseball.

2) What was the day like when you took the photo for the Sports Illustrated cover, and how did that come about?

I am going to answer this two part question in reverse order: How it came about…

SI decided to put us on the cover for two reasons. First was our performance during the 1980 season. We went from 54-108 in 1979to 83-79 in 1980. That’s a remarkable 29 game turnaround. We racked up 94 complete games, which I believe is the modern day record. I don’t know though, does 1980 qualify as modern day or does it seem rather ancient to the readers of your blog? It was the most complete games since 1946, and
if you look below at the innings pitched per start, it was quite an aberration from the norm!

The second reason was that we started off the 1981 season 11-0 which was an MLB record at the time.

Only 20 teams in modern history (since 1901) have produced a season in which five players logged at least 200 innings. All but three of those seasons occurred before 1930.
The exceptions:

1. 1980 Oakland Athletics (Matt Keough, Brian Kingman, Rick Langford, Steve McCatty, Mike Norris)
Record: 83-79
Finish: 2nd in AL West
Runs scored: 686
Runs allowed: 642

2. 1977 Los Angeles Dodgers (Burt Hooton, Tommy John, Doug Rau, Rick Rhoden, Don Sutton)
Record: 98-64
Finish: Lost World Series (4-2) to Yankees
Runs scored: 769
Runs allowed: 582

3. 1957 Detroit Tigers (Jim Bunning, Paul Foytack, Billy Hoeft, Frank Lary, Duke Maas)
Record: 78-76
Finish: 4th in American League
Runs scored: 614
Runs allowed: 614

So, how do the 1980 A’s fair when compared to the teams from long ago? Well, incredibly, Oakland’s 1,261.1 innings logged by their starters stills tops the field. Ye, gods.

That isn’t really fair because the season is longer now. Besides, I already noted IP/GS is a better way than raw IP. When you look at innings per start, a handful of teams do nose out Martin’s bunch, as the chart below reveals:
Year Team IP/GS
1923 NYY 8.03
1922 NYY 7.99
1920 CWS 7.96
1920 BRVS 7.90
1920 PIT 7.81
1932 NYY 7.81
1920 CIN 7.81
1920 BRK 7.81
1980 OAK 7.78
Notice something there? They are almost entirely made up of teams from the early 1920s. That’s interesting. There have been three periods in baseball history when workloads for starting pitchers declined noticeably: 1) In the 1890s when the pitchers were pushed back to 60 feet, 6 inches; 2) In the early 1920s when the lively ball came out; and 3) In the 1990s when pitch counts became all the rage. In each instance, the game changed in a few years, causing managers to adapt to how they used pitchers.

So how did Martin run the 1980 A’s? Like someone who hadn’t fully realized the Dead Ball era had ended.

 Part 2>  What was the day like when you took the photo for the Sports Illustrated cover?
It is probably more interesting the effect the SI cover had on me for years after the day it was taken……………
 
The photo was taken in the visitors locker room at Anaheim Stadium. All of us were proud to be on the cover. Perhaps I was a little less proud than the others.
They were all winners, and I was a 20 game loser. 1980 was a nightmare year for me. In fact that was the hardest part of my 20 loss season was that I was losing
while everyone else was winning. Virtually every 20 game loser pitches for a bad team where losing becomes expected . Typically these are 90-100+ loss teams.
In 1980 we were a  winning team (83-79). The last time a pitcher lost 20 game was in 1922 when Dolf Luque was 13-23 for the Cincinnati Reds. dolf
  Misery Loves Company
The last pitcher before me to lose 20 games for a winning team  might have had some good advice for me. Trouble is he died in 1957.
 
They say misery loves company, but I had to suffer in solitude. While the other guys enjoyed the thrill of victory I had to endure the agony of defeat. Sports Illustrated
gave each of us a framed blow up of the cover but, I couldn’t look at it for at least ten years. Not only did it remind me of the 1980 season, but when my career was
over looking at the cover made me dwell on how different things may have turned out if I had won 14-15 games instead of losing 20.
Just as dramatic as the 1979 A’s turnaround from last place in 1979 to second place in 1980, was my turnaround from 8-7 In 1979 to 8-20 in 1980:

Who was the last rookie starting pitcher with a minimum of 15 decisions to have a winning record on a team with at least 100 losses?

Answer: Brian Kingman, 1979
Brian Kingman was 8-7 for the 1979 Oakland A’s who were 54-108. Before that Tom Seaver was 16-13 for the 1967 NY Mets who were 61-101. Kingman ironically went on to become a 20 game LOSER the very next season going 8-20 for the A’s. Not only did he remain the last 20 game loser for 23 years until Mike Maroth lost 21 for the Tigers in 2003 he did it for a winning team, the A’s were 83-79. The last time that happened was in 1922 when Dolf Luque lost 20 for the Cincinnati Reds.

Brian Kingman interview part 1…the minor leagues

Brian, just a young buck in the “bushes”.

This is the first part of what will eventually be a 4 or 5 part series interview with former Athletics pitcher Brian Kingman. I know this is the part where I usually talk incessantly about nothing, but I’ll let the man speak for himself. I will, however, add that Brian was gracious enough to give me some in -depth answers that read like a book. This is good stuff readers! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

 1) Well, I suppose we should start at the very beginning. I have a sort of strange obsession with the life of a minor leaguer. The trials, tribulations and bus rides in the “bushes” always stoked my imagination. Do you have any stories or thoughts about any of your stops in the minors?
 
LIFE IN THE MINORS
                                                “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it”
                                                                                        ~Henry Thoreau
Baseball has always been a game of numbers, and some of the biggest numbers are the odds against making it to the big leagues. Less than
one percent of high school players and about five percent of college players are drafted. Less than ten percent of minor leaguers will play even
one day in the major leagues and somewhere between 1-2 percent will actually have a career in the big leagues. I think my first day of spring
training the Director of Minor League Operations said something similar to this in a speech to all of the Oakland A’s minor league players.
I am sure virtually all of us were confident that we were among the 1-2 percent. If we weren’t, we probably wouldn’t have made it this far. 
Knowing that you will make it to the major leagues makes it easier to endure the grind, which is the grueling schedule of 140 or so games,10 hour
bus rides, cheap hotels, doing your own laundry, missing your girl friend, and crappy food. This was just another obstacle to be over come on the path to the big leagues. You were no longer just playing baseball, you were being paid to play baseball. So what if you made less than $10,000 a year, you
were living the dream. Actually as I always liked to point out, we were chasing the dream. Living the dream would be life in the major leagues.
The fact that professional baseball was different from the baseball you had played up to this point in your life was quickly apparent. There were far more
players in spring training than there were rosters spots in the minor league system. Almost every day a few players would get to their locker in the morning ready to start their day, only to notice that their locker was empty. The only thing in their locker would be a pink slip informing them to see their manager. The pink slip mean that they were released. In the real world it would be referred to as being fired or terminated. For all but a few who might
catch on with a different organization it mean that their days of playing baseball were over. Most of these guys had been playing baseball since Little
League, and had been stars in high school or college.
As the season drew closer and the certainty over roster spots became more clear, it was common for the pranksters to remove the contents of one of
the remaining players locker and place a forged note in their locker instructing them to see the manager. The locker room would be full of somber faces
and condolences regarding the bad news. More than a few guys fell for it hook, line and sinker, some of them near tears as they walked into the managers office only to learn it was all just a joke.
I remember reading in a book (Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell) that one of the elements involved in the development of excellence at performing complex tasks is to have spent at least 10,000 hours of practicing it. In order to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world class musician, chess player, baseball player – anything, you basically have to spend at least 10,000 hours working at it. That’s one of the reasons why to excel at something
you need to really like what you are doing, or the odds are you won’t put in the hours. For most of the guys who were cut in spring training, they had
put in 10,000 hours working at something they loved, there just happened to be an excess supply of baseball players competing for a limited number
of spots. The ten thousand hour rule might get you a spot in the minors, but to continue along the path to the big leagues it is just a prerequisite.

My first full season in the minor leagues was spent in the Southern League. The Athletics double A team was the Chattanooga Lookouts. 

Kingman in Chattanooga

Kingman in Chattanooga

When

we landed at the airport in Chattanooga there was a crowd waiting to greet us, and a parade that took us to our home park, Engel Stadium. It had been eleven years since professional baseball had been played in Chattanooga, and the city was elated to have a team once again. 
Engel Stadium had quite a history. Satchel Paige made his professional debut at Andrews Field, future site of Engel Stadium, in 1926, playing for the Chattanooga White Sox, a negro league team. Twenty one years latter,16-year oldWillie Mays made his professional baseball debut as a center fielder for the Chattanooga Choo-Choos in the Negro Southern League at Engel Stadium. Harmon Killebrew also played there. He is the only player ever to hit a ball over the centerfield wall which was 471 feet from home plate!killebrew
It is 325 feet down the line to left and probably 340 feet or so to the scoreboard, which was over 30 feet tall.  I spent the first half of the season trying to fungo balls over the scoreboard before I finally succeeded. No one had hit a ball over the scoreboard in a game, although Dale Murphy almost hit a ball through it one night. The combination of throwing a lot of innings and swinging a bat has hard as I could a countless number of times eventually took its toll on my elbow.
Engel Stadium is no longer used for minor league games, it was however used in the filming of 42, the Jackie Robinson story.
The bus rides in the Southern League were long. Sometimes we would leave after a night game at midnight, endure a 10 hour bus ride which arrived at 10 am in the next city, with a game a7pm that night. I’d say the average bus ride was6-7 hoursbut there were several 10 and 11 hour rides in the mix. Players in the minor leagues spend a lot of time together. In addition to sharing an apartment, you had a roommate on the road, all that time on
the bus, and of course at the ballpark. We also shared a common goal which was to make it to the big leagues.
Professional baseball is a way of life. During the season you eat, sleep and drink baseball. It is like a parallel universe to the real world. Players become
totally absorbed in mastering the skills they need to be successful.  Almost everyone in the minor leagues was able to dominate the competition in
amateur baseball. Now for the first time many minor league players have to learn how to transcend failure, something they may have never experienced
before. For someone who was never hit below .400 in their life it can be quite humbling when your struggling to hit .250. In order to play in the major
leagues you not only need the physical skills, you need to be mentally tough.
Days off were few and far between but that didn’t stop us from having fun. While it is true that there were very few off days, there was still plenty of time for mischief. Games typically ended at 10pm, bars closed at 1 and you could sleep till noon if you wanted to most of the time. Some organizations,
like the Dodgers were known for their discipline, dress code and curfews. The A’s organization was at the other end of the spectrum. This remained true even when I reached the major leagues. Billy Martin encouraged his players to drink, in fact if you weren’t a drinker he thought there was something wrong with you. In Billy’s view there was no better way to celebrate the thrill of victory, or to drown the agony of defeat than by closing down the bar.
Playing baseball in many ways allows you – for better or more likely worse! – to have an extended adolescence. Teams tend to get more out of control on a road trip. After a game ends players need to unwind. Food, alcohol and women
Beer-Womenalways seem to go a long way to alleviating, hunger, boredom,
loneliness, horniness and even depression. The good news was the necessities always seemed to be readily available. If left completely unsupervised
I am sure our hotel would have turned into something resembling a party from the movie Animal House.

                                  “Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player

                                        It’s staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in”
                                                                                                     ~ Casey Stengel
Fortunately for baseball, and minor league teams every where, the minor league manager always seems to be around to keep things from getting
too far out of control. Minor league managers have to be able to manage more than just the game. They also teach how the game should be played
and are instrumental in passing on the oral traditions of the game: 

The 1976 was a fun season with a lot of great memories. Matt Keough was still an infielder, and played third base. Steve McCatty was our closer, and Dwayne Murphy was the centerfielder. Bruce Robinson was my catcher and closest friend on the team. Bruce caught for the A’s in September of 1978, and was traded to the Yankees in 1979. Bruce_Robinson
As great as 1976 was, there also was some bad news for me. During the last month of the season I had severe elbow pain which prevented me
from being called up to the major leagues during the month of September when they expand the roster. It also threatened to end my goal of making
it to the major leagues. I spent 1977 with the Athletics triple A team in San Jose. I was no longer able to throw in the mid 90’s, and there was no bite
to my slider. I spent a lot of time in doctors offices, getting cortisone shots and on the disabled list.
I had elbow surgery after the 1977 season, and couldn’t even throw a ball until spring training of 1978. I rehabbed with the triple A team in Vancouver and
was sent to Modesto (A ball) when I was ready to pitch. It was psychologically hard to find myself in A ball two years after being close to making the big
leagues. Watching my teammates from Chattanooga move on to triple A and the big leagues was hard as well. I felt like I was going backwards. Instead of developing as a pitcher I was learning how to pitch all over again. My goal of making it to the major leagues seemed to be slipping away, and even though my surgery was successful, I was a different, less dominating pitcher now. Just a little less velocity, and a curveball instead of a slider, I still
had “good stuff” but the my path to the big leagues was definitely going to be harder now.
Pitching is never easy, but when I was able to start pitching again after my elbow surgery it was a lot harder. It was a long frustrating recovery, but if baseball teaches you anything it is how to deal with frustration and failure. It rewards hard work and persistence. So there was really no other choice
but to claw my way back. On one of those long bus rides, I think it was from Reno to Bakersfield I heard Jerry Rafferty’s song Baker Street. One segment
of the lyrics just jumped out at me. I think I listened to Baker Street a thousand times that summer. It was inspirational for me. I planned on working my
way back, all the way to the major leagues.
Just one more year and I was happy. I was called up to the big leagues in June of 1979.
You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you’re trying, you’re trying now
Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re crying, you’re crying now

 

Brian Kingman reminisces…

1983 Topps…neon eyesores.

This is the speech former Athletics pitcher Brian Kingman gave at the MSBL 25th Anniversary banquet. It is held at the end of the MSBL World Series, which is held in Phoenix every fall. MSBL stands for Mens Senior Baseball League.
I originally e-mailed Brian about an autograph request, and he has been the most cerebral, down to earth, and charming athlete I have ever “met.” I found it interesting to learn that he is an avid reader as well. He has been nothing but cool about answering my geeky “fan boy” questions, and I am eternally grateful for his input. I have taken liberties (not many) with the speech to make it sound less like a speech to a large audience and more steadily readable to an audience of one.   
By Brian Kingman

I attended my first game at the age of 8 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Dodger Stadium was not in existence yet. The Dodgers were playing the much hated Giants, and Don Drysdale was pitching.  Attending that game made a tremendous impression on me. It wasn’t just the game itself, it was being in the middle of
30-40,000 cheering people, mostly adults, who were invested in the outcome of the game. It was at that point I began to see baseball as more than just ‘a game’.

My parents made me attend church every Sunday, but by the age of 9 or 10 I decided that baseball was my religion. Koufax and Drysdale might as well have been gods, and Vin Scully, the Dodgers radio voice the High Priest. Each game was like a sermon. You learned about baseball, the players, and the history of the game.
One day in the 5th grade, my best friend found out that Sandy Koufax was going to be speaking at
a $100 a plate luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It was about a four mile bike ride from where we
lived, and it was in the middle of the week, so we would have to figure out how to miss school.

When we arrived at the Hilton, we searched until we found the banquet room where Sandy was the guest of honor. We asked the doorman if we could just look in and actually see Koufax. When he opened the door we saw Sandy sitting at a podium at the front of a large banquet room with at least 300 people having lunch and listening to various speakers. We both waved at Sandy, much to our surprise, he waved back. 200-sandy-koufax
It made our day!

We thanked the doorman and asked if Koufax would be coming out through these doors because we wanted to get his autograph. He told us that he would and we walked off looking for a good place to wait. As we were walking away, the doorman said, “Hey boys come back here”. He told us that Sandy wanted us to come in and join the luncheon. We couldn’t believe it, and we knew no one back at school was going to believe us either.

The waiters actually set up another table for us in the very front of the room, right near the podium. We were surrounded by wealthy businessmen wearing suits, and there we were in our jeans and T-shirts. It’s not everyday you get to meet God, but on that day 50 years ago, we thought we had. Needless to say, Sandy autographed our baseballs for us but it was so
much more than just an autograph he had given us. It was a priceless memory and an act of kindness which showed that Koufax was more than just a great pitcher

Becoming a professional baseball player was a life long goal. Signing a contract to play in the Oakland A’s minor league system was emotionally satisfying, validating years of hard work. However as satisfying as it was there was also a downside to professional baseball. Everyone who has ever played professional baseball learns very quickly, that although the competition is better and the game itself hadn’t changed, we weren’t just playing baseball anymore. We were in the business of playing baseball. kingman062111

Every minor league player has the same dream and shares a common goal: playing in the big leagues. But for 95% of them, the dream comes to an end in the minor leagues. To see one of your teammates released, and realizing it was the end of a life-long dream was painful. It was almost as if someone had died, in a very real way part of them had. The joyful innocence of a neighborhood pick-up game was a distant memory, replaced by the harsh realities of professional baseball.

Most of the players I have known will tell you that their time in the minor leagues was more enjoyable than the time spent in the major leagues, if for no other reason than minor league players spend more time together. Major league players live with their families at home and have a room to themselves on the road. Minor league players are roommates at home and on the road. They endure 10 hour bus rides, worry about playing time, slumps, injuries, and the possibility of being released. Most of all they share the dream of playing in the big leagues.

I got off to a great start in my second year playing for the 1976 Chattanooga Lookouts, the Double A affiliate for the Oakland A’s.
I was 8-3 half way through the season, had a moving fastball in the mid 90’s, and good command of a sharp breaking slider. If it
wasn’t for the fact that the A’s were a team with several established veteran pitchers, I would likely have been called up to the
big leagues.

In 1976, baseball was in the early years of free agency. By mid-season, A’s owner Charles Finley decided to trade and sell off his star players rather than lose them to free agency. Catfish Hunter had been traded to the Yankees and Reggie Jackson to the Orioles. When Finley attempted to sell Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, and Sal Bando, Bowie Kuhn who was the Commissioner of baseball prohibited the sale, saying that, “It wasn’t in the best interests of baseball”. Well it would have been in my best interests!

There is a very good chance that if those transactions had been allowed, I would have been pitching for the A’s that summer. Unfortunately I tore a tendon in my elbow later that season, eventually underwent elbow surgery, and spent the next two years
rehabbing, trying to get back on the path to the big leagues. I became a different pitcher by necessity. The velocity and movement on my fastball were diminished, and a curveball replaced my slider. The narrow and treacherous path to the big
leagues became even more precarious.
In June of 1979, I finally made it to the promised land, and won my first game in Yankee Stadium in July. I felt privileged to
have competed on the same field as Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio, but even better having beaten the defending World Champions. I ended up with a with a 8-7 record on a team that lost 108 games.

Prior to the 1980 season the A’s hired Billy Martin to manage the team. He turned a horrible (54-108) team into a winning
team (83-79) by maximizing the teams strengths which were starting pitching and speed. Rickey Henderson stole 100 bases.
We led the league in ERA and set a modern-day record with 94 complete games.

1980 was also the year I lost 20 games. Despite pitching well, I suffered from a lack of offensive support. 20 game losers
are almost always found on 90-100 loss teams. However, I managed to lose 20 games on a winning team, something that
hadn’t been done since 1922, and very likely will never happen again. The hardest part of losing 20 games for me was the
fact that I was the only one losing. The twenty game losers on those 100 loss teams had company. They say misery loves
company, well I was all alone!

Billy Martin was a great manager. Few could match his knowledge of the game and none could match his willingness
to take risks. He was a master of the element of surprise. Billy was a very intense individual. His intensity was both his
greatest strength and his greatest weakness. The famous Lombardi quote, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”,
is the perfect description of what Billy was like. For Billy, losing was like a small piece of death.

billyAs a player Billy was combative and frequently involved in fights. As a manager Billy could go from a great motivator to a bullying tyrant very quickly. He occasionally became involved in fights on and off the field, several of them with his own pitchers. One night at the hotel bar in Kansas City after a loss Billy decided he wanted to fight me. I didn’t see it as a wise decision for
either of us. Obviously it wouldn’t be a good career move for me, and Billy was sure to get at least a short beating before thecoaches could intervene. We walked outside, me alone, and Billy with his entourage, his coaches as bodyguards, to get it on. When Rickey Henderson noticed everyone headed outside he asked what was going on. He was told to not get involved. To his
credit he thought I looked outnumbered and disobeyed the coaches. Rickey was there for me if I needed help.

Billy began by poking me in the chest with his finger. I grabbed his hand and wouldn’t let him retract it. He tried to swing his other hand at me and I grabbed it too. The coaches rushed in to break it up, no punches landed by either side. Needless to say, 1980 was a very long year for me. Losing 20 games in a season is hard on any pitcher but doing it for Billy Martin made it twice as hard.

Billy could play the nice guy too. One time on a flight after I had pitched well but lost, he told Art Fowler to bring me up to the front
of the plane where Billy and the coaches sat. He told me I had thrown a great game that day and he was proud of me. He said,
“Next year will better. You’re going to win 20 games next year”. I returned to the back of the plane and about 10 minutes later I see Art coming down the aisle again looking straight at me. “Billy wants to see you again” Art said. This time Billy was on his second bottle of wine. He said, “With you’re stuff your going to win 23 games for us next season”. The guys in the back of the plane wanted to know what Billy had told me. I said “The first time he said I was going to be a 20 game winner next year, and
this time I had made it up to 23 wins. If this flight lasts long enough, who knows, I might have had a shot at winning 30!”

The next two years saw us go from a playoff team in 1981 to a 4th place finish in 1982. Our pitching staff that had completed
154 out of 271 games during the 1980 & 1981 seasons began to show symptoms of overuse. Billy’s relationship with the owners deteriorated quickly, and he was fired after the season. I was sold to Boston and ended my career with the Giants.

Baseball comes to an end for everyone who has played the game. The end may come in high school, college, or perhaps
in professional baseball. Very few leave the game on their own terms. The longer you play the game the more it becomes
a part of your life and the harder it is to say goodbye.

satch

The great Satchel Paige.

Satchel Paige was right when he said, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you”. For a very longtime, that “something” was my baseball career. It was several years before I could enjoy talking about it and revisiting the memories.
The end of a career can be like a divorce when someone you still love has decided to move on without you.

Despite not throwing a baseball for 25 years, teammates from college and high school convinced me to play baseball again in the MSBL World Series. What I discovered playing MSBL was beyond my greatest expectations. I rediscovered the joyful innocence
of playing baseball we all experienced as kids, playing the game because we love it. It was almost a shock to see guys hustling and playing hard because they wanted to and having a great time.

Baseball has always been more than just a game. Playing baseball for me is like going home again. New friends are made, and old friends are reunited. Vin Scully once said “It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between the All-Star Game and an old timer’s game” For some of us it has been five of six decades since our first game as a kid, yet it too seems like a mere moment.
Our time together is magical, but unfortunately comes to an end all too soon.

They say that professional athletes die twice in this life, and the first time is when you stop playing. Thanks to the Mens Senior Baseball League, I am still trying to decide if I have been reincarnated or born again. Either way I consider myself lucky, not everyone gets to die three times. No worries though, old ballplayers never die, they just fade away.

Kingman kicks Billy Martin’s ass.

briankingman

Ass kicker.

 By Brian Kingman

Billy Martin was well known for drinking to excess and for rowdy behavior when drinking. A group of Yankees met at the famous Copacabana nightclub to celebrate Martin’s 29th birthday; the party ultimately erupted into a much publicized brawl, which resulted in Billy being traded to the Kansas City A’s. This would run his ‘fight record” to 4-1, as well as separate him from his beloved Yankees and his best friend Mickey Mantle.

Then 25 years after the Copa, and 13 years after his fight with Dave Boswell, Billy entered uncharted waters. In June of 1982 while the Oakland A’s were on a road trip in Kansas City Billy got into a heated conversation with me that he felt he wanted to finish outside.
Whereas Boswell was a 20 game winner in 1969 (also the year of his fight with Billy) I was a 20 game loser. Never, I repeat NEVER! underestimate the underlying rage and frustrations that losing 20 games can produce. Especially with a 20 game loser who had been seething over being called a dummy for pitch selection by his manager, who had called the pitches! That was our topic of conversation that wonderful night in Kansas City.
Once outside on that humid night in Kansas City I was ready for Billy’s renowned cheap shot antics. I also knew there was little to no danger. If Billy even landed a punch it was unlikely to have much of an impact. He enjoyed his reputation as a fighter, and wearing his black cowboy hat. I respected all of that and the fact that he was a great manager (on the field) but no, I’m sorry, ain’t no one gonna be kicking my ass…..with just a big mouth a cowboy hat and a reputation. They’re gonna have to bring it on!
So there we were face to face with Billy’s coaches nearby for his protection. He was yelling at me and I yelled back at him. Then he started to jab his finger in my chest. After the second or third time poking me in the chest, sure enough, here came the sucker punch. But I was waiting for it and grabbed his arm gave it a twist and had him in a head lock. I handed him to a coach for safe keeping, just as the rest of the coaches were jumping in to separate us. Art Fowler the pitching coach punched me in the face but I believe it was for Billy to see and hear about as evidence of Art coming to his defense, because there was nothing behind the punch.Rickey was there but I think he was just trying to keep from laughing at this point. But I was glad he was there for two reasons. One was that you never know what can happen and two, you never know what the “official version” of what happened will be unless you have at least one credible witness. Rickey was willing to get involved even though he had nothing to gain and that should tell you all you need to know about Rickey as a teammate. The next day I gave Art a thank you card and offering a rematch signed “Muhammad Ali Kingman” and we all laughed about it. Well at least Art and I did. Yes I am calling it a KO because that was the ultimate outcome if the fight hadn’t been stopped….by ME!oakland8
Later that year Billy took on the wall in his office, but we decided the wall won from the look of Billy’s hands and his defeated look that night.
I did hear that Billy got the better of a porcelain urinal the next season. Can’t imagine what the urinal did to piss him off, but I am sure they had an interesting conversation before it came to blows. In 1985 Ed Whitson administered Billy’s final ass kicking, helping to avenge the losses incurred by Tommy Lasorda, Jim Brewer and Dave Boswell who I am sure were all smiling when they heard the news. I know I was.