A Front-Row Seat with the Sportswriters Who Sat There
Sit down with host Todd Jones and other sportswriters who knew the greatest athletes and coaches, and experienced first-hand some of the biggest sports moments in the past 50 years. They’ll share stories behind the stories -- some they’ve only told to each other.
Jerry Crasnick: “I’m actually getting paid to do this.”
He started out covering an American Legion baseball game in Maine for a newspaper audition. He ended up covering some of the greatest moments and players in baseball history for three decades. Jerry Crasnick tells us what it was like to talk hitting with Tony Gwynn and talk pitching with Greg Maddux. Hear about meeting Pete Rose for the first time, how the Hit King joyfully filled notebooks with mangled syntax, and what it was like covering him daily during the infamous gambling scandal. Get the scoop on The Nasty Boys, but you won’t want a scoop of Marge Schott’s hash browns after one shared story. Good thing the owner banned him from the media dining room. Oh, and somehow Jerry can still hear despite being in the press box when Roseanne sang (screeched?) the national anthem in 1990. The ramparts!
Jerry Crasnick spent more than three decades as a baseball writer, including 15 years as a national reporter for ESPN.com from 2003 until October 2018. Besides writing articles, he also made numerous TV and podcast appearances for ESPN. Jerry covered the first five seasons of the Colorado Rockies and wrote features and columns about the national baseball scene for The Denver Post from 1993-97. He covered the Cincinnati Reds from 1988-93 as a beat reporter for The Cincinnati Post. His articles about baseball were also published in The Sporting News and Baseball America.
Jerry covered 29 World Series, about 30 All-Star Games, and many of the most memorable moments in baseball history. He was on the front lines reporting daily during the scandal that led to Pete Rose’s lifetime ban for gambling. He was in the press box when Cal Ripken broke Major League Baseball’s record for consecutive games played, when Mark McGwire set the single-season home run record, and when Kirk Gibson hit his famous homer off Dennis Eckersley. Jerry also covered the Jack Morris-John Smoltz Game 7 duel, Joe Carter’s World Series-clinching homer off Mitch Williams, and the 2016 World Series when the Chicago Cubs ended a 108-year title drought by defeating the Cleveland Indians. And he was there for Mike Piazza’s homer in the first game in New York after 9/11, the earthquake at the ’89 World Series, and Tom Browning’s perfect game for Cincinnati. Jerry also likes to note that he worked the games when Roseanne Barr sang the national anthem and when Cleveland mascot, Slider, suffered a knee injury by falling off the outfield wall.
Jerry was a sports business reporter for Bloomberg.com from 1997 until 2003 before joining ESPN. His 38-year career in journalism began in his native state of Maine at the Biddeford Journal Tribune before he joined his hometown Portland Press Herald. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Boston University in 1980. He was a student there in the late 1970s when Jim Craig, Mike Eruzione, Dave Silk and Jack O’Callahan led the Terriers to a national championship before they became famous members of the “Miracle on Ice’’ Olympic team.
Since leaving ESPN, Jerry has worked as Senior Advisor for Player, Agent and Media Relations at the Major League Baseball Players Association. Upon his hiring in January 219, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said: “I know first-hand, both as a player and now with the association, of the knowledge, diligence, and integrity Jerry has brought to every job he has held. He knows our sport—both the realities and the myths, the good and the bad—as well as anyone in the business. He is an exceptional communicator, an insightful observer, and a prolific writer.”
Jerry is the author of the 2005 book License to Deal: A Season on the Run with a Maverick Baseball Agent about the life of corporate CEO turned baseball agent Matt Sosnick.
Come back on August 18th when we are hanging out with Terence Moore!
You can follow Jerry on Twitter: @jcrasnick
Follow our very own host, Todd Jones on Twitter @Todd_Jones
Todd Jones: I'm Todd Jones, recovering from 30 years as a sports writer. Thanks for joining me as I sit down with some of the best sports writers of our time, who knew the greatest athletes and coaches and experienced firsthand some of the biggest sports moments of the past half century. We'll share stories behind the stories. Some we've only told each other. Pull up a seat on Press Box Access. Jerry Crasnick is one of those old friends who still calls just to say hello. He thinks about others. That's one of the many reasons he was one of the nation's great baseball writers for three decades. Jerry always thought about the fans, what they wanted or should know about the game and it's many characters. He found and told stories for those who couldn't be behind the scenes with him. We're lucky to hear Jerry share some memorable ones from his career. What do you say we talk some baseball? Well, Jerry, it's so great to have you here on the show. I'd loved talking with you over the years and I'm so glad to be talking to you now.
Jerry Crasnick: Yeah. It's great to be here at Todd. We go back a ways to some pretty fun times when Cincinnati was maybe the center of the sporting universe, but the baseball universe for sure in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Todd Jones: Yeah. We crossed paths when I was just starting out and you were the Reds beat writer. Actually, when I think of you, Jerry, obviously think of baseball in 30 years of covering baseball that you did, but I think of three o'clock in the morning and not a bar, not a bar. Think about this. Not a bar at three o'clock. Take us to the Waffle House at three o'clock in the morning in 1990.
Jerry Crasnick: Well, I believe that must've been after game two of the World Series, I think and we were at the post, which was the PM Paper so we had the luxury of staying there and waiting guys out and getting some good detail stuff. We filed our stories and dragged ourselves out of that Riverfront Stadium press box. And I don't know, we probably had a flight at about 7:00 or 8:00. It was a direct flight to San Francisco, I think. And it's like you're not going to drive home and sleep for an hour. So let's go get like a triple ham and cheese on and hash browns and for keep sending in the coffee and get to above 5:00 and then puff it out to the airport and go cross country. And then you get to the Ballpark and I think we checked into our hotel, but then you have to head out to the Ballpark for the game day workouts and write your stories. So that was back when we were young enough to be able to go completely without sleep. Right?
Todd Jones: Oh yeah. No sleep, right. Yeah. Yeah.
Jerry Crasnick: And so I do remember that and I was just looking at each other and now you'd say boy, what a bad experience but that's all part of the romance of the thing, right, is going through those things and I do remember that session at the Waffle House.
Todd Jones: Oh yeah. Well, I remember when we actually finally got to the workout in Oakland on zero sleep. And I think I was talking to Hal Morris of the Reds and I realized there was something in my rental car that I needed to get from my computer. And so I walked out into the parking lot of the old Oakland Alameda Coliseum, boy what a dump, and this giant parking lot with no sense of where you are. And I looked and there were like 200 white rental cars and I had no fob.
Jerry Crasnick: That was fun. Pre-fob.
Todd Jones: No fob, no sleep and I'm walking around. It felt like an hour trying to figure out what the hell, what car is mine? And so when I think of rental cars, white rental cars, if I rent one now they say, what color do you want? Anything but white. When I think about baseball and the history of baseball, it's so intertwined with writing. From the back to the earliest days of the game, what is about the nature of baseball and writing over the years that has made it such a special thing?
Jerry Crasnick: Well, if you look at guys like Roger Angel or Shirley Povich, or, I mean, there's a million of them. Peter Gammons in later years or whatever. I think there's a pace to the game certainly. I've covered other sports. You have an NBA game and it's 125 to 122, it's like, what are you really going to pick out? Hockey, it's so end to end. Baseball, there's always that moment where it's like what's the manager thinking? There's the chess master of strategy. There's the picture batter confrontation, which can go on for four or five minutes. It's a series of isolated moments. And there also has been sort of a history of more access. Writers could go in and seek out players that their walkers before the game and really get to know what they're thinking and you'd get to know the personalities and the personalities themselves, I just have always found at least one I covered it and you were around in those days with people like Pete Rose.
Jerry Crasnick: And I mean, there's so many of them, they were fascinating people. Good or bad, they have their personal quirks, but they gave you the time. It wasn't a regimented thing where Bill Belichick is opening it up and you have five minutes to seek out a wine man or somebody. You would get to know these guys a little bit and they were good talkers and really interesting people, a lot of them.
Todd Jones: Yeah. When you think about it, baseball and horse racing and boxing were these three sports in the 1950s. And really what they all have in common is people like to talk about and there's a lot of gambling going on with the three, but they liked to talk. And I think part of the love of baseball and the love of the writing about baseball is just the conversations and the fact that the writers such as yourself would get to know these people. And then the audience would get the trust of writers because they were the conduit. And I think it just lent itself to that type of storytelling.
Jerry Crasnick: I mean, I remember once Lou Piniella messed up a double switch and I really wrote about it and kind of made fun of him for it. And he wasn't real happy about it the next day, but it was like, it's easier. I think in football, yeah. You might have a case of cloth mismanagement or something, but every day in baseball, it's like, why did you bring in this guy? Why did you hit this pinch hitter? And a lot of times there are things going on that the fans don't even know about and the writers don't know about. Maybe this pinch hitter was hung over, or maybe he had a fear of hitting against a certain guy, or maybe he was having trouble at home, family problems and his mind wasn't where it should be. I mean, a lot of these strategic decisions, I think fans always think, why did this guy blow this way? And they don't know and we didn't know either. And I guess we would always try to pull out from the manager exactly why and sometimes we'd ferret that out and sometimes we wouldn't.
Todd Jones: So in 1988, you left your home state of Maine and you moved to Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Post, the afternoon paper made you the beat writer to cover the Reds. So in the spring of '88, you walk into the manager's office in Spring Training Facility down in Florida and it's Pete Rose.
Jerry Crasnick: Yeah. I mean, look, I was... A lot of kids now you see get jobs and God bless them, they might be 22 or 23 out of college and get their first beat job and that's tremendous. But I was 29 years old and I moved, we were actually going to get, my wife and I were engaged and we got married in the middle of my first season when we moved out to Cincinnati. But I think it was right around St. Patrick's Day. They didn't fill the each job until late. And I get out of the airport in Tampa, drive to Plant City, home of the Strawberry Festival. The game was done and nobody was around. And I walk in and open the door to the manager's office and Pete Rose is sitting there. And that's pretty daunting. You remember Pete? He would do things like he had a shampoo at his desk and he'd like rub it in his hair and then sit there for 10 more minutes and then go in and take a shower.
Todd Jones: Well, it was such a good haircut. Right? [crosstalk 00:08:24]
Jerry Crasnick: But Pete had to preserve that Moe Howard haircut. I remember walking in and seeing Pete and my voice is shaking and I'm nervous as hell and Pete, I'm Jerry Crasnick and I'm the new beat writer. And he was cool. I mean, he was fine. I remember, I think we were like two months in and I was late for an interview, an interview thing and he said to somebody where's that Tim guy? And then finally he learned my name and he called me Cras. And you can not like a lot of what Pete Rose did, but that doesn't prevent you from having a huge soft spot for him personally. Right?
Todd Jones: Right.
Jerry Crasnick: Just as one of the amazing, most fascinating human beings and characters I've ever met anywhere. And it's funny, the thing that stuck with me as somebody who always treasures the language as a writer was Pete's mangled syntax. He would say... He said to me once, I was writing a story and he said, you're making a mountain out of a mole. When Bart Giamatti was deciding his gambling thing, Pete said, all I want is an impractical decision-maker.
Todd Jones: Don't we all?
Jerry Crasnick: It's was things like that and they were so funny. He would do them all the time. And Todd, you probably remember Pete, everything frame of reference wise was 1960s television. He called Paulo Neil Jethro because he looked like Max Baer in the Beverly Hillbillies. He called Tom Browning Otis because he looked like the town drunk in Mayberry. He would call them Puggy and then it was Otis. Right. So he alternated between Puggy and Otis. And then obviously he had things like Chris Sabo calling him Spuds MacKenzie. When that came out and everybody looked and said, with the goggles and the goofy kinda haircut, he does look like Spuds MacKenzie. So Peter had this like natural sort of thing that I think it was the same reason why when you'd go to autograph shows or something, people looked at him like, he's the guy you wanted to be sitting next to at a bar. He related to the common man and the regular guy better than anybody I've ever encountered in any sport anywhere ever.
Todd Jones: And he knew by talking to you as a writer, that he was really talking to the fans.
Jerry Crasnick: I think the thing with Pete that the writers loved the most was and Lou Piniella was, I love Lou Piniella just as much. I mean, he was great. But Lou was a bad loser. I mean, if you went in there after a game and you asked him a question, he'd say, look, my friend-
Todd Jones: That was the key words right there.
Jerry Crasnick: Look my friend was like incoming. So usually what we would do is let some radio guy ask the first question after the lose him.
Todd Jones: Yeah, let him hit the [inaudible 00:11:28]
Jerry Crasnick: Yeah, let him step on the minefield. But Pete was the opposite. Pete, if the team lost a game and it was bad and the players didn't want to talk, Pete would fill up your notebook and he would bail you out. I mean, he would be funny. He would say whatever he had to say. He was tremendous and he carried a lot of us. So it was really almost a thing where you didn't want to fall into that trap, right, where every day you just quote Pete because there were a lot of interesting guys on those teams, but it was hard not to fall in that trap just because he was such a gem when it came to giving quotes and helping you write the story.
Todd Jones: The next year in 1989 was when the gambling scandal hit with Pete Rose. What was it like to be there every day on the front lines of that?
Jerry Crasnick: Well, it was funny because in Spring Training, I think there were... He didn't show up for a day or two and he came back and they said, what's this all about? And he said, the commissioner wanted my advice on something. And I was pretty new to the beat so I was like maybe the commissioner wanted his advice on something. And the people who were around longer than me said, no, there's something going on here. And I believe it was Marie Chasse from the New York Times reported that it was a Peter Ueberroth, I guess at the time, right? Called them in and had said they had issues with the gambling and he came back and it was one of those things where, okay, today something's going to come down. Well, nothing came down, but you had to be there anyway. And you'd say, well, can I take today maybe and just take a day and not be near the park? But you couldn't. You had to be there. And a day after day after day. And then the season started and this is obviously pre-cable TV, pre-internet, but we had television crews from the different networks following us every day. They became like surrogate beat writers.
Jerry Crasnick: Every day, it was like, okay, the Reds lost the game. And somebody would ask a question or two. And our news desk would say, hey, there's a story that Pete was going to... That there were some betting people who were threatening to break Pete's legs. And we're going to write about this tomorrow. So I was the sacrificial lamb and had to say Pete, there's a story coming out. What about this and what do you have to say about it? And he didn't have anything to say and he really held up pretty well under the circumstances, but it was a gauntlet. I mean, and it was August before the thing came down. So there was pressure and tension and stuff every day. I think the one thing that to me was interesting was I wasn't there the years before when they had Tommy Gioiosa and Ron Peters and all these never do well guys, apparently who were hanging around. And it was funny because Larry Star, who was the Reds trainer who you remember, Larry told me a story once where they went to New York, I guess, and they got off the bus and Pete was looking for the track immediately and he said to Larry, he said, Larry, who's your bookie? And Larry said, he asked it almost like you'd say who's your dentist? Pete just thought everybody had their own bookie.
Todd Jones: Yeah, right? And every town too.
Jerry Crasnick: Yeah. So there was a lot of stuff that happened before I got there, but yeah, it was a tough year and it was a tough year for Pete. He held up well, but it was just a drain emotionally for all of us.
Todd Jones: Pete being from Cincinnati, that was such a sad, sad story because everybody in town loved the hometown guy. He had such a fabulous career as a player, all time hits leader. Do you remember the press conference at Riverfront Stadium, the room when he addressed everybody about the suspension?
Jerry Crasnick: I do remember it. I think our news people were writing the main story. I had the story, I think I was doing a Tommy Holmes who was taking over for Pete as manager. But I remember going in there into that room and the one thing I remember was it was in the sort of empty room in the basement, I guess, of Riverfront Stadium. And I just remember the number of people in there and it was August in Cincinnati and it was like a blast furnace. You walked into it and it was like going into the corridors of hell. Heat wise, it had to be 130 degrees in there. It was just hit you in the face as you went in there. And then obviously it unraveled. I remember we were in Pittsburgh the next week and I'm in the clubhouse and all of a sudden they say Mathew Marty just passed.
Todd Jones: Right. A week later.
Jerry Crasnick: He died. Yeah. And it was like, well, if Pete was ever going to get back into baseball, this might put the kibosh on that. So yeah, I mean, that was the sort of a postscript to what the people don't always talk about but there was a huge emotional aspect of that story as well.
Todd Jones: And then what's really crazy is you have that just tragic story all year, every day. And then the very next year, the Reds go wire to wire and win the World Series. So you have the total opposite feeling in Cincinnati. So now you're covering that every day. That had to be quite a change for you.
Jerry Crasnick: Yeah. I mean Lou was tremendous. I mean, Lou was a guy who... But Lou was like, he was a competitor. He had a short fuse too. You had to be careful with the way you sort of asked Lou questions. He had a heart of gold. I mean, he was probably one of the nicest people I've ever met, but he was a bad loser. I remember one day I think we were in the office early, the Reds had won a game on Saturday. The next day they put up their Sunday lineup or something, their backups. And I asked Lou a question about why the lineup was different. And Lou for some reason was in a bad mood that day and he has the lineup and he froze the lineup card and he goes, you think you're so smart, you make out the lineup. And Hal I was just sitting there laughing and Hal goes, I would have picked it up and started to make it out. I said, I wasn't going to do that with Lou. But Lou was just, he was a competitor and you were around those teams.
Jerry Crasnick: I mean, what an amazing group of talking about running the gamut from Barry Larkin, who was the hometown kid and Michigan grad and just classy and Eric Davis, who was supposed to be the next Willie Mays and the nasty boys and Jose Rijo and Browning threw a perfect game when I was there. And Paul O'Neill from Columbus and Sabo and Hal Morris. I mean it was just a great collection of guys and a really interesting and sometimes for me, it was even the guys like the Herm Winningham or the Glenn Braggs or the bench guys who were just as interesting. It was a really fun team to cover and wired a wire, like you said, until they got to the world series and swept the As. It was a pretty magical season.
Todd Jones: And then you had the nasty boys. And when I think about the nasty boys, Norm Charlton, Randy Myers and Rob Dibble, I mean, Dibble is always the one that comes to my mind. The other two were great pitchers also, but Dibble, he had his own issues, right?
Jerry Crasnick: Yeah. I mean, they all were their own characters. Randy Myers had the soldier of fortune kind of steric and-
Todd Jones: Didn't he have a grenade in his locker?
Jerry Crasnick: Yeah. He had a grenade in his locker and that sort of thing and he had his thing. Norm was the guy, I think he majored in... He was a triple major at Rice. I think it was Philosophy, religion and something else. And Norm was really smart. They called him the sheriff and no one had kind of a... He was kind of like the closet wise ass. He struck out 10 guys in four innings in San Francisco once. And everybody kind of thought that he was doing something with the baseball and you'd go up to him and he'd wink it in kind of talk about the wind and the way the wind was blowing and that sort of thing. And I mean, no one was actually the guy who gave me one of my favorite scoops. He was such a great guy. I remember this, there was a game against the Dodgers and Mike Scioscia was hitting and everybody remembers the game where Norm was running the bases and ran over Scioscia and steamrolled him. But there was a game where no one was pitching and Scioscia was hitting and no one had them more a pitch and nobody knew anything about it. And I came downstairs to do my interviews. And you remember down outside the clubhouse, it was all gasoline fumes. And the players would go to their cars.
Jerry Crasnick: Well, Norm sees me walking and Norm comes over and says aren't you going to ask me why I hit Scioscia? And I said should I be asking? And he said, yeah, if I were you, I'd ask. So I said why did you hit Scioscia and he says, because he was peeking back and he was stealing signs and next time if he does it, I'm going to hit him in the head. Wow. So I said, well, can I quote you on that? And Norm goes absolutely. So I go upstairs, write the story and file it. And I think the headline was sign stealing larceny turns Charlton nasty. So I walked downstairs to go to my car and steamer, Stan Williams was there with Larry Rothschild. I think Larry was the bullpen coach maybe, or might've been the pitching coach. And I told Larry what was going in the paper that day and all the color drains from Larry's face. And he says you can't write that. You'll have to go upstairs and tell him you can't write that. I said, Larry, sorry, it's already filed.
Jerry Crasnick: And I came in the next day and Tommy Lasorda was going crazy. I mean, it was huge. Everybody was just jammed into his office and everybody went to Norm and Norm said, I don't have anything to say. And I think he gets suspended for like a week, but I remember going to Norm later and saying, look, hey, I'm sorry, I got in trouble. And he said, look, it was a dumb thing to say, but I said it and I got to live with it. And I thought there is a man.
Todd Jones: A stand up guy. Right?
Jerry Crasnick: He didn't blame me or say, hey, it was off the record or we took it out of context. Yeah. I mean, he was tremendous about it. He was great. Norm came in one day I remember with video, he was hunting alligators or something, I guess on some lake in Texas. And he had this video of himself, the gator was swimming up to the boat and they tried to pull it up and rustle it. I said, this guy is... He was actually probably the craziest of the three, but obviously getting to Dibble quickly, he was the guy who just... It was always something. He just had no impulse control and-
Todd Jones: Well, he threw a ball at a runner. He threw a ball into his pants.
Jerry Crasnick: He threw a bat at the backstop. I think Terry Pendleton got hit. He threw a, it was a game in Chicago where Doug Descenzo bonded on him and Dibble just threw them in the back as he was running down the first baseline. I remember the game where he got a save and I got on the elevator quickly to get downstairs. And Joe K, who was the Associated Press writer, I said, what's going on? Nobody's here when I got downstairs and Joe K said did you see what happened? And I said no. And he said, Dibble was mad at the way he pitched so he took the ball, threw it about 300 feet into the center field stands. And-
Todd Jones: Yeah, it hit an elementary school teacher or something.
Jerry Crasnick: He hit a school teacher and injured her. And so he did that.
Todd Jones: Well, I remember, I remember 1990 playoffs against The Pirates, Dibble was making this... He was on a crusade about his contract. He was going to get a new deal. And so he knew he had the national media. So every day he's talking up his contract and how underpaid he is. And it just became this daily thing like dude, you're in the playoffs, you're trying to win the championship. But anyway, so he's going on and on. And I was in this little crowd around him and sitting next to the locker next to him was Charlton. And Charlton was listening, just looking up and listening until him. And meanwhile, Charlton had a little figurine that was a Rob Dibble figurine. And he had a new surrounded snack and it was hanging from his locker and he's listening to Dibble complain about his contract and then he finally looks up at me and the other writer and says a boy has got more problems than a run-over dog.
Todd Jones: Well, besides all the craziness of the players and Lou, who I loved also, I mean, Lou blew me up a couple of times or he just.... I didn't know what I was doing. And I thought he was gonna fight me one day, but I loved him. But besides the players and Lou, you had the owner Marge Schott. And before we leave Cincinnati and go off to other baseball things, I wanted to ask you about Marge Schott because she was like straight out of a baseball movie. She was like this widowed car dealer, had the Saint Bernard dog. She smoked like a forest fire and there was just always something going on with Marge. Everybody just knew her as Marge. Tell me about your experiences with Marge.
Jerry Crasnick: Yeah. It's funny because you think about it, she was kind of ahead of her time. Right? And how she was a woman in the old boys club and she was running a team. And what was the line they had like Marge Schott's employees wish that she treated them like dogs.
Todd Jones: Yeah. Schottzie had a better, better life.
Jerry Crasnick: Yeah. So look, I don't think it was any secret that Marge maybe like to imbibe here and there. So there were writers, I think who said, hey, I'll wait until six or seven o'clock and call her at home and see what I can get. I didn't have much of a relationship whether she didn't really know the players that much. I remember after them winning the World Series in 1990, they had the ring ceremony the next year and she would get out there and say, oh, here's one of my favorite players and he's a product of Cincinnati and he's one of the greats, Barry Larkin. And then she would give some intro to Tom Browning. And then at the end it was like, Scutter, Damon.
Todd Jones: Just some guy, just some guy.
Jerry Crasnick: Just some guy. And you remember the story, I think, where she didn't have any kind of post World Series spreads. So I think it was like Rick Mailer and Billy Hatcher and these guys went out to a Whataburger, a Roy Rogers or something.
Todd Jones: The night they won the World Series, they brought burgers back to the team hotel.
Jerry Crasnick: Yeah. She was just legendarily cheap.
Todd Jones: I was once at a Reds game in the dining room before a Sunday afternoon game and they're serving breakfast and it's a salad bars set up and Marge is directly across from me and I'm scooping the eggs onto my plate and she reached in with her bare hands and scooped out the hash browns and put them on her plate. After that, I've never really been able to eat hash browns again.
Jerry Crasnick: You're traumatized by her hash brown etiquette.
Todd Jones: Yeah. Now at least I was in the dining room for the media. You once got banned from the dining room by Marge Schott. Tell us about that.
Jerry Crasnick: Yeah. It was funny because I think the previous year, Hal McCoy and Rob Parker had gotten banned from the dining room and they did these barred by Marge hats and they became a must have fashion item. And I wasn't banned and I almost felt kind of like left out a little bit and-
Todd Jones: I needed to get banned.
Jerry Crasnick: But I wasn't going to write something just to get banned. But I remember, I think it was a Friday, maybe a night game and it was raining and I needed some notes. You need those. You're scrambling for those early notes and the dog the time, it was Schottzie 02, I believe.
Todd Jones: The sequel.
Jerry Crasnick: Yeah. Would be out on the field and it was a nice dog. I love dogs. It was a St. Bernard. But this dog, it would chase players, it would nib at them, it would steal the gloves and run across the field. It would defacate on the AstroTurf. I mean, it was doing a lot of stuff that really was becoming more than just your cute mascot type of stuff. So I asked Tim Belcher, who was one of the old time, great straight shooters. He was a guy who-
Todd Jones: Right pitcher.
Jerry Crasnick: ... if he didn't pitch well, he would leave early. He would write a note out and tape it to his locker. Like hey guys, I'm in a bad mood, so I can't talk, but here's what I can say. My slider was horseshit tonight. This pitch was, whatever. He was amazing. He says to me, look, we all love dogs and we all have pets, but I just don't think that if you took a survey on this clubhouse, most guys would see the value or enjoy this dog being around and just causing all the havoc that's causing. So the light bulb went off in my head like this is a pretty good lead note.
Todd Jones: This was a chance to get barred.
Jerry Crasnick: I didn't really think that way, but it wasn't back of my head. And I wrote the note and the next day I remember sitting in the press box in the back row I think because it was a Saturday and I didn't want to... I was just kinda hanging out and I heard her walking out and saying my name like for Crasdick, Crasnick like she couldn't pronounce it. And she banned me from the press box, the dining room. Yeah, so it was... I had arrived. But the best part was Belcher who I guess around the, I don't know, fourth or fifth inning, all of a sudden the guy from, what was it? LaRosa's I think. Was that the pizza place? Comes in with about six pizzas and a bunch of subs and a note that says here's some food to share you to share with your scooped friends. And he signed it. I think he signed it woofs and licks. And then he pops his head out of the dugout and he tipped his cap up at the press box. It was like the greatest, I don't know, it was just so fun and it was such a funny thing that happened, but it was pretty much life as usual under Marge.
Todd Jones: Well, I went back and looked for a story about you being in barred and I actually found something. And your quote about being barred was "I only wish she had banned me before they served that liver the other night."
Jerry Crasnick: Which is a really good quote that I didn't remember. So thanks for bringing that to my attention.
Todd Jones: Well, now we have it on the record. Well, we talked a lot of Cincinnati and it was really, when you think about it, just a few years of your career. You covered baseball on a national basis and really some of the greatest moments of all time. But before I switch gears to national scene, there's one other story involving a woman in baseball that you were present for and that was on July 25th, 1990 in San Diego and Roseanne Barr sang the national anthem. And you were there. What do you remember about that night?
Jerry Crasnick: I believe it was between games of a double header and San Diego was always a great trip. It was that old Jack Murphy stadium. It was just the best place to go. The weather was always perfect and we're sitting in the press box and all of a sudden Roseanne comes out to sing the anthem and I'm thinking, I didn't realize Roseanne could sing. Well, she couldn't sing. I mean, I'm one of those people who thinks that the national Anthem doesn't necessarily have to be played before every sporting event. I'm not like I respect the military and I respect the Anthem, I stand for the Anthem. You got to show some respect, right, for the Anthem. And it was awful. She couldn't sing. She was screeching. And the-
Todd Jones: I can still hear the word ramparts. That one's stuck in my head.
Jerry Crasnick: Oh. And the fans were just, oh, they were booing like crazy. And then at the end of it, I believe it was Mark Parrot, maybe was the catcher or somebody, she saw him do it or she had the really inspired idea of grabbing her crotch and spinning. And it was pretty bad. It was just a really bad scene. The postscript to it was you get done. It's the West Coast. I go to bed. I don't know what time it was, two o'clock, and my phone rings about 6:00 in the morning. Right. And this guy calls and says, I'm calling from a publication in Florida and I'd like to talk to you about the Roseanne thing. And I said, well, okay, I'll give you what I thought. And he said, well, we can give you like $100 if you can go around and get some quotes from Reds players and people around the team about how awful the Roseanne Barr thing was. And I said to the guy, what complication are you with? And he said the National Inquirer.
Todd Jones: Oh, wow.
Jerry Crasnick: So I said, this was one of... I don't know what prompted me to say this but I said, you know who would be really good for you to call on this? Marty Brennaman. And I don't know if Marty ever knew-
Todd Jones: Great announcer, long time announcer.
Jerry Crasnick: I don't know if Marty ever knew that, that they called him or if it was the National Enquirer when they called, but I just thought that the two things struck me as funny. If you're going to talk to anybody about this, probably should be Marty Brennaman.
Todd Jones: I'm sure Marty lit it up. I'm looking at the list of things that you covered. Kurt Gibson's home or off Eckersley, the 89 earthquake series, Joe Carter's home or off Mitch Williams, the Smoltz Jack Morris game seven duel in Minnesota, Cal Ripken's record setting game on and on and on. Piazza's home or after 9/11, Mark McGuire's Homer, Cubs, Indians game seven. So many, many just indelible baseball moments. Baseball is really about also the characters in the game. And we've talked about some of them. Besides the Cincinnati guys, who comes to mind for you all the years that you cover baseball? It's just good guys to deal with, but also just guys were amazing players.
Jerry Crasnick: There are the good guys. Walt Weiss was a guy I covered. Do you have to read who is... Back-up catchers could be some of the best guys. They would be-
Todd Jones: Why is it that? Why is that?
Jerry Crasnick: I think it's because they have to interact with the pitchers, but they're also hitters and they are behind the plate. They see the game unfold. I think that's why you see all these guys who become managers. The Bruce Boisclair is and... Because a lot of hitters, let's face it, Lou Piniella was a really good manager. Lou didn't really like pitchers.
Todd Jones: I don't know.
Jerry Crasnick: He didn't. He couldn't relate to pitchers. So Larry Rothchild had to be kind of the buffer. When Lou wanted to yell at a pitcher, Larry would kind of say, look, I'll talk to him. But the backup catcher understands what the pitcher is going through. So, I mean, I could give you a list if I thought of it of 20 guys like that who were amazing. Jose Rijo was a joy back in the game in the day. I mentioned Barry Larkin, just the quintessential professional guy, understood being a leader, that kind of thing. Nationally, the hall of fame type of guys, one guy who stuck with me was Tony Gwynn. Tony Gwynn, he was one of those guys who always kind of feigned annoyance when the writers would come by and he'd say I got nothing to say about that, but I will say this. And then he'd go on for like 20 minutes and fill your notebook. One of my favorite stories was I was in Denver and I used to have to go around and do these 60, 70 inch features and take out some guides.
Jerry Crasnick: And I set something up with Tony Gwynn's agent when we were at Jack Murphy stadium and I think the clubhouse opened at 3:00, but I wanted to get there early. And I got there about 2:30 and the clubby or whatever, it was his job, it wasn't his fault but he was giving me a hard time. And he said you can't come in. And I said, well, Tony said he'd meet with me, he went in and asked Tony and Tony said, yeah, let him in. I spent an hour and a half in the video room with Tony Gwynn breaking down his thought process and breaking down at bats. And I hope pitchers approached him. And this was in the mid '90s. It was seriously like watching, talking to a surgeon when he's in the operating room. It was amazing. And we talked about everything. The 5.5 hole in left field and how he would tailor his swing to get to that.
Jerry Crasnick: We talked about bats and he told me the story about a bat that he owned, that it was like the perfect quality bat. And he called it nine grains of pain. And this bat, he was hitting like 400 with the thing. And one day, I don't know, it was in a game, whatever happened, it got hit in the wrong spot like at the end and the bat broke. And it's like, when they say a bat died a hero. That's the old slime that they have. Tony was probably just in tears when it happened. But I think he took it and glued it together and brought it back to his house and put it on the wall kind of thing. To me, when guys like that let you inside their craft. We talked about guy like Greg Maddux, for instance, he would get on the stage at a big World Series game. He would be the most boring guy you ever met. You'd say this guy has nothing to say. And then you'd sit down with him at his locker. I did a story once about pitchers who never walk anybody. Why is their control so good?
Jerry Crasnick: And Maddox just talked about the repetition that he would exercise and the muscle memory of having everything be in the same spot every time. Like if his stride was exactly in the same place and his arm slot was exactly in the same place. He goes, I don't know how you can't throw strikes. He was brilliant and he would impart those things when you got him alone at his locker, but in a big group, he would hold back. He wouldn't do that. And I think that was the challenge as a writer was to try to get those guys in their environment with... That was the favorite stories to me was talking to players about the art of hitting or what Weiss told me that he had a glove that he called the preacher and he would re stitch it every year and just use it for years and years. It looked like a little league glove, but talking to players about their equipment, you could get stories about it. Players have a love for it. And I think that's the thing about baseball that there are just those stories, you really have to work out the gap, but when you do get them, there's just a huge sense of gratification.
Todd Jones: How did you get them Jerry? What worked for you in terms of getting a guy like Tony Gwynn or a Greg Maddux to sit down and really dissect something like that. What worked for you?
Jerry Crasnick: My goal, when I went in to do a story with a guy was if I don't tell somebody something new, something new in the story, then why am I doing it? Right? And my threshold was more three or four things. When the internet came up, there wasn't that much excuse. The best thing for me was when I got a Nexus account, a Nexus Lexus account, because I would just go in and get all these stories and block save them and read them through and read everything. And if there was a story about a guy, I'd say, okay, I can use that as a starting point, but I'll just keep asking questions until he gets beyond it, because there's always something better. And the other thing a lot of times, Todd is, it's not always the guy himself. A lot of times, it's his teammates or somebody else that's going to give you the best stuff.
Todd Jones: Well, it's all about having a curious mind and you kept that throughout your career as a baseball writer. I think you once said the job never felt like work. Is that true?
Jerry Crasnick: I remember various times sitting in the stands at Dodger Stadium, you've been to Dodger Stadium-
Todd Jones: Gorgeous.
Jerry Crasnick: ... and just looking out on us on a Sunday afternoon when there's not a cloud in the sky and it's 76 degrees in these palm trees and sand. I'm actually getting paid to do this. How can you complain about that? And writers, we weren't veteran complainers. I think it was part of the writer stick almost at times, just let's grouse about things and complain about things. But I think when you scratch writer and get below the surface, most of the writers who do this just love this and really realize that this is what they were meant to do. And the one thing that you and I share, I hope, and I think is a respect for the romance of the business.
Todd Jones: Well, I think you're right. We did a lot of whining at the time, but when you look back, we got to be in the places where the fans wanted to be. And if we were doing our job the way we were supposed to, we were asking the questions that they had and writing for them and not for ourselves and being a conduit to the fans. And I think we were fortunate to have that. And you did it for so long, as well as anyone who... You started out doing American Legion Baseball as a tryout and battled for main population, 20,000. And then you spent all those years around the nation covering baseball. It's been a great time just chatting with you about this. I'm sure you have a lot of great moments that you treasure.
Jerry Crasnick: Yeah. A lot of good memories Todd and a lot of them were with guys like you and the other people that we had on those stuffs. I think we had a real bond and that's one of the things about what you're doing here I enjoy is just listening to these people because it comes through in all of their voices. I think they all have the same memories. It was the comradery. A lot of it was about the job, but a lot of it was about the gags and the traveling and the cars from the hotel, from the airport to the hotel and trying to catch a flight and all the mishaps and late night going to the bar or going to dinner together or whatever and-
Todd Jones: Waffle House at 3:00 in the morning.
Jerry Crasnick: Waffle house at 3:00 in the morning. I mean, that side, vividly remember that.
Todd Jones: Just don't get a white rental car.
Jerry Crasnick: Don't get a white rental car. that's on the list of top 10 sports writer at a full pause that has to rank in the top about two or three, I would think.
Todd Jones: Well, thanks a lot Jerry. I really appreciate it. It's been a lot of fun reminiscing.