Baseball fans across the nation, young and old, can now enjoy a different perspective of America’s pastime, from right inside the bullpen, through a new book co-authored by Newport Beach resident and former All-Star player Gregg Olson.
The book, “We Got to Play Baseball: 60 Stories from Men Who Played the Game,” is a collection of tales and favorite memories from those involved with the game in the 1950s up to current day.
“Baseball is a game of legends and there are some legendary stories out there,” Olson said.
As a pitcher for nine major league teams from 1988 to 2001, most notably with the Baltimore Orioles in 1988-1993, Olson has heard – and participated in – many of the tales from the diamond, including when he and the Atlanta Braves “drowned” Billy the Marlin in Florida.
He co-authored the book with writer Ocean Palmer, who played amateur ball and is a dedicated fan of the game.
Telling stories from the “good ol’ days” is a part of baseball culture, and now Olson has compiled some of the best to share with fans.
Contributors include All Stars, Hall of Famers and legends like Jim Abbott, George Brett, Jim Palmer, Jim Fregosi, Rex Hudler, Brooks Robinson, Gary Carter, Will Clark, Chris Bosio, Rob Dibble, Robin Ventura, Eric Karris, Don Sutton, Mark Grace, Tim Hudson, Mike Cameron, not to mention Olson himself, who was the 1989 Rookie of the Year.
And it’s not just players – stories from coaches, managers, umpires and others are also included.
Readers will laugh out loud at pranks these great athletes played, chuckle at amusing anecdotes from on and off the field, smile at insider traditions, habits and hi-jinks, and learn to love the game all over again.
The book starts off with a great story from George Frazier about launching water balloons with a homemade “water balloon bomber” from a rooftop in Boston while was in town with the Yankees.
And there’s a lot more where that came from.
Fans will learn the inside scoop on who “Mr. Jello” really is and how the elaborate prank was executed, including exactly how many boxes of jello were dumped into the toilets at the hotel suite of manager Rene Lachemann.
Baseball buffs will enjoy reading about the “hot foot” prank where players lit a teammate’s shoelaces on fire, Mark Grace getting taped to a table wearing a straightjacket for calling Rick Sutcliffe an old man, Chris Bosio remembering when Ken Griffey Jr. brought a steer, feces and flies and all, into Lou Pinella’s office, and finding out the legend behind rookies painting a certain part of the anatomy of Sheridan’s Horse in Chicago.
There are also several more serious stories, like Jeff Brantley’s recollection of the 1989 earthquake during the World Series or George Brett’s personal version of the famous pine tar incident in 1983. Some of the stories reflect on other legendary players or well-known moments.
Stories from other baseball greats such as Cookie Rojas, Ferguson Jenkins, Bob Boone, Brian Giles, Doug Flynn, Mark Lemke, among many others, are also included.
“I was looking for the fun stuff,” Olson said. “Stories that nobody would ever know about. … There’s so much behind the scenes.”
Fun stuff like “Canseco’s Lucky Shoes,” or “Itch Powder” or first-person accounts of memorable moments like “A Very Intentional Walk,” or “The Night Cal Broke the Record.”
Some of his fondest baseball memories, Olson said, are from his conversations with his catchers, those moments on the mound that nobody would have ever heard about.
And there was so much that happened after the game, drinking beers in the clubhouse until the wee hours of the morning or going out and having some good ol’ team-camaraderie fun, Olson said.
“ I learned so much about the game during those times,” he said.
The idea for the book came about when Olson was at a celebrity golf tournament in North Carolina. He and several of the other celebrities, including many former baseball players, were sitting around after the tournament, swapping stories, when someone suggested, in the midst of all the laughter, that somebody should write them all down.
Olson, now a scout for the San Diego Padres, travels all over and often sees former players and managers, so he just started collecting them.
After talking with co-author Palmer about the book, Olson began formally writing all of the stories down.
“It’s a blast to hear all the stories,” said Olson, who added that it was fun learning the background on all the guys he grew up hearing about from his dad.
He is currently working on a second book that would gather more stories from the 1950s and show how different baseball was back then, he said.
Olson and Palmer are trying to get this book “up on it’s feet” first, Olson said, before moving on to the next book.
The book is a great way to remember the players, to memorialize baseball history and those who made it, Olson said.
“So people will remember who these guys are,” he said.
The book is available for purchase on amazon.com and through the publisher’s website http://sbpra.com/GreggOlsonandOceanPalmer