I’ve never been to a party thrown in honor of a book before. In fact, some of the best parties I’ve ever been to were thrown in honor of never having to open up another (insert subject) book again back when I was in school. But here I am at the House of Blues in Anaheim, surrounded by three scantily clad women, helping me put white gloves on as they show me “The Official Major League Baseball Opus,” a limited edition 75-pound book which has more than 1,000 photographs and illustrations and sells for $3,000. (Recession? What recession?)
It took two of the women to carry the book onto a display and another to turn the pages (feel free to create your own “how many blondes does it to open a book?” joke) of the baseball tome which traces the history of the game through 110,000 words.
The event attracted former players such as Chuck Finley, Chili Davis, Goose Gossage, Harold Reynolds, Fred Lynn, Tommy John and John Salley, who despite never playing baseball was there to, um, well, what brings you here Salley?
“I’m here to pick up my check,” Salley said jokingly after the baller turned comic entertained the crowd on stage. Afterwards Salley and I went to an outfield themed photo studio set up in the club with three of our friends who used to be cheerleaders. As much as I liked my picture, I’m nowhere near as photogenic as “The Spider” as you can see.
Before I left the party I ran into Al Leiter, who actually taught me how to pitch (not that I’m any good) back when he was on Pros vs. Joes. In fact the first thing he said to me as he grabbed my throwing arm was, “I haven’t seen you since that [expletive] show!”
Since Leiter is always in the talking mood, I asked him a couple questions before heading out of the House of Blues and into the madness that is Downtown Disney.
Q: I heard you helped out with this book, it looks nice, but why would anyone want to spend $3,000 on it?
A: This is a celebration of our sport. We covered everything that was part of our sport and we also wanted it to be a happy story. Much of it is focused on moments in time frozen for fans to relish in the good of the game. When you spend a considerable amount of your hard earned dollars to buy something that is part of your passion or hobby you want to see good. And I know what you’re going to ask next.
Q: What’s that?
A: The steroid era. We didn’t include it because this is a celebration of our sport. Yes, steroids were a part of this sport but do we want to accentuate it even more? It was a time we’re not proud of. This is about the beauty of the sport. The pictures really accentuate the beauty of the sport. This is what it’s about. We’re not trying to unearth or expose anything; we’re just celebrating the sport.
Q: Speaking of the steroid era, what’s your take on the pitchers in today’s game who have really benefitted I would think from the sport cleaning up its act?
A: I would have been better. I don’t know if I’d be throwing perfect games or no-hitters, although I did throw a no-hitter, but when guys are not as strong or as quick with the bat speed to the ball, they’re not as good hitters. I think because of better steroid testing, it’s harder to hit and they’re not going to be scoring as many runs.
Q: What’s it been like tonight, talking to and catching up with a lot of players you either played against or looked up to?
A: You know there’s a snippet, a snapshot in time as to your moment when you were significant and when I’m at an event like this it reminds me to hold on and freeze that for a second because the next greats are coming along and not to take advantage of the moment because the next greats are coming along. Not that we’ll be insignificant but it’s their time now.
Q: Finally, what’s your take on Stephen Strasburg? Do you think he should have been in the All-Star Game?
A: Who? [Laughs] I think it was right that he didn’t make the all-star team because he didn’t have the body of work as an all-star player but he’s going to be great. I hope he stays healthy and if he stays healthy for a long period of time he’s going to go down as one of the greatest pitchers ever.