For “Big Poison,” Only Clean Hits Allowed

Of all the stone cold hitters to ever wear a Pittsburgh Pirates’ uniform, none was more deadly than Paul “Big Poison” Waner.

Part of my duties as a PNC Park tour guide is to take visitors out onto the warning track where we show them the retired names and numbers of all the great Pirates’ The further back in time you go, the less well known the player is.

In old timers’ cases, that’s a shame. With his brother Lloyd “Little Poison,” the Waners grew up on an Oklahoma farm and learned to hit by using corncob balls and two by fours or tree branches for bats. In 1923 Waner dropped out East Central University, a teachers’ college, and headed to San Francisco to play for the Seals in the Pacific Coast League. As Waner recalled, “They just let me hit and hit and hit and I really belted the ball.” During each of his three San Francisco years, Waner batter over .350.

By 1926, when Waner was 22, the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased his contract for $40,000 and put him in the outfield. In his rookie year playing outfield ( he had done some pitching in the minors), Waner batted .326 and lead the league in triples. The next year, with “Little Poison” on the team, the Pirates won the pennant. The brothers combined for 460 hits and Paul was named the National League Most Valuable Player.

“Big Poison” played for the Pirates until 1940. After his release, Waner had stints with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Boston Braves and the New York Yankees.

Perhaps one of the most memorable moments in Paul’s career came when he had 2,999 hits. Playing for the Braves on June 19, 1942, Waner hit a shot off his old teammate Rip Sewell that shortstop Alf Anderson couldn’t handle. When the official scorer called it a hit, Waner frantically waved to the press box to signal that he didn’t want number 3,000 to be tainted.

The scorer reversed his decision and in the fifth inning, Waner hit a clean single to center to notch his historic 3,000th.  At the time, Waner was only the sixth player to reach that magic number.

Paul (3,152) and Lloyd (2,459) hold the career record for hits by brothers (5,611), outpacing the three Alous (5,094): Felipe (2,101), Matty (1,777) and Jesús (1,216) and the three DiMaggios (4,853): Joe (2,214), Dom (1,680) and Vince (959).

Waner, number 11 for the Pirates, retired with a career batting average and on base percentage of .333 and .404. The Hall of Fame induced Waner in 1952 and his brother Lloyd in 1967.

What’s The Count Again?

As Earl Weaver (or was it Casey Stengel?) once sort of said, “Managing is simple. You’re going to lose 50 games no matter what you do. You’re going to win 50 games no matter what you do. It’s the other 62 you try not to screw up.” With those words from an acknowledged master this week I’m going to discuss who has been the best managers in major league baseball thus far in the 2011 season. As with the players on the field, basic stats don’t always tell the story. Sometimes you have to trust what your eyes see and not what the stats tell you. As with many things, reputations can prove to be deceptive.

When you consider that the difference between a .500 season and making the playoffs is about ten or twelve wins per season, (about two wins per month) being able to run a game properly and set up late game situations to your advantage becomes of the utmost importance. The line between making the playoffs and watching them on television is indeed a fine one and in those crucial 62 games, mistakes in and beyond strategy can make all the difference.

The Five Best This Season.

1.       Joe Maddon. I look at the statistics for the Tampa Bay Rays and the mostly no name roster and wonder how this team continues to contend. The Rays had to completely redo their bullpen this past offseason, they lost Evan Longoria for six weeks, their lineup consists of mostly utility players, and yet they would be contending for the playoffs if not for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Maddon makes few mistakes and has his players believing that they can win 162 games per season

2.       Terry Francona. Certainly he has the horses year after year to get into the playoffs but if it was that easy, anyone could do it. Not only does Francona have to deal with 25 egos every day, but the Boston press is not known for shrugging it’s shoulders and saying we’ll get them tomorrow. This season he has dealt with injuries and/or poor performances from his pitching staff and a catching situation which has left much to be desired.  Despite his calm appearance, Francona is very much hands on and knows when to leave things alone and when to make something happen.

3.       Fredi González. Following a legend is never easy. Not having future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones for much of the season, a player who is the heart beat of the Atlanta Braves is never easy. Dealing with a team which has seen Jason Heyward stumble badly in his sophomore season and having center field, until recently, be a giant hole defensively and offensively doesn’t help.  Neither does having the Philadelphia run away and hide from the rest of the eastern division. But González has stayed calm, used his young players well (even if some pundits claim he is over using his bullpen), and has the Braves pulling away with the wild card lead.

4.       Kirk Gibson. The Arizona Diamondbacks still strikeout at an alarming rate and their redone bullpen, while a big improvement, still hasn’t convinced me that they can get to the playoffs. It’s also very difficult to tell if Gibson knows how to run a game at this level or not.  But Gibson seems to be willing this team into the playoffs. His football mentality has his players afraid to do anything else but win. Even with the loss of Stephen Drew for the season and having to use Lyle Overbay at first and failed phenom Sean Burroughs off the bench, the Dbacks refuse to give up. Gibson brings enough energy for the entire roster.

5.       Manny Acta. Admittedly the American League Central is a very weak division, and the Cleveland Indians have fallen behind after a very strong start. No one would have given the Indians even this much of a chance but Acta has taken a virtually no-name team, especially the pitching staff, and kept them in the race. His two big guns, Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner have been out on and off for much of the season and yet the team continues to grind out wins behind an unknown pitching staff and great team defense. He has very quietly kept this team’s head above water and while unlikely he can get them to the playoffs this season, Acta is teaching these young guys how to win.

Those are my five picks for 2011. Some have the horses and are expected to win. Others don’t. Both can be equally difficult. Both take different personalities. Both types are interesting to watch.

Double The Fun: Joey Jay Notches His First Major League Win

With the Little League World Series drawing to a close, this is an opportune time to look at Joey Jay’s career (99-91, 3.77 ERA). Jay was the first Little League graduate to make the majors. And, as is often the case when I do my blog research, I’m surprised about what a grand career, both before and after baseball, Jay enjoyed.

Jay was 12 years old when Little League Baseball came on the scene in his hometown Middletown, CT. Originally, Jay played first base but he soon turned to pitching and dominated his opponents through high school. More than half a dozen scouts pursued Jay before he signed a $40,000 bonus in 1953 with the Milwaukee Braves at the tender age of 17.

But according to the bonus baby rules adopted that year by Major League Baseball , which were designed to keep teams from outlandish overspending, Jay was forced to stay on the Braves’ roster even though he rarely pitched.

Jay made a few inconsequential relief appearances before manager Charlie Grimm tapped him on September 20 to start the second game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds. Jay responded in a rain shortened seven inning contest with a three-hit, 3-0 shutout.

For the next several years, Jay’s Braves career was a series of ups and downs. Finally, he was traded to Cincinnati with fellow pitcher Juan Pizzaro for shortstop Roy McMillan. With the Reds, Jay blossomed into a 21 game winner (twice) under manager Fred Hutchinson. In the 1961 World Series when the Reds met the imposing New York Yankees led by Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, et al, Jay pitched the Reds to their only victory, 6-2 in the second game.

But Jay was quick to realize when his career was over. In 1966, Jay quit and never looked back. In an interview with my SABR colleague Joseph Wancho (read his outstanding biography of Jay here), Jay told of his post-baseball successes. At various times, Jay owned as many as 100 oil wells, taxi fleets, limousines and two building maintenance firms.

Jay keeps a low profile, refuses to do card shows or participate in fantasy camps and doesn’t wear his World Series rings. Jay said:

When I made the break [from baseball], it was clean and forever. It’s infantile to keep thinking about the game. It gets you nowhere. Most ex-ballplayers keep on living in some destructive fantasy world. Not me. I’m happier than ever since I left.

One last thing you should know about Jay. He doesn’t mind if you know that he resides in Florida. But Jay refuses to reveal which city he lives in.

Mario Cuomo: Before politics, he played baseball

Once, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a promising young outfielder toiling in the low minor leagues. Management forecast a solid career for him. And indeed the Pirates’ prospect, a former St. John’s University student and an Italian immigrant grocer’s son, did eventually accomplish great things—but not on the ball diamond.

Mario Cuomo, who served as the 53rd governor of New York from 1983 to 1994, played only one season (1952) for the Brunswick Pirates in the Class D Georgia-Florida League where he hit .244.

But the Pirates’ scouting report indicated, incorrectly, that better things lay ahead for Cuomo:

A below average hitter with plus power. He uppercuts and needs instruction…Potentially the best prospect on the club and in my opinion could go all the way…He is aggressive and plays hard. He is intelligent…Not an easy chap to  get close to but is very well liked by those who succeed in penetrating his exterior shell. He is another who will run you over if you get in his way.

Some of the report, at least, is accurate. Cuomo graduated number one in his law school class.

But a concussion derailed Cuomo and he did not return in 1953. Interestingly, Mickey Mantle who signed at the same time but for $1,100 instead of Cuomo’s $2,000 was not impressed by the governor-to-be’s baseball skills. Said Mantle about Cuomo: “He couldn’t hit a barn with a paddle.”

Cuomo is not exactly out of baseball. He’s an avid fantasy player and always selects Italian players no matter how well they may be doing. On a more serious note, a federal judge appointed Cuomo, a Yankees fan, mediator in the $1 billion case between the New York Mets owners against the trustees representing Bernie Madoff’s defrauded victims.

In reassessing his baseball career, the always philosophical Cuomo imparted a valuable life lesson to all of us. Remembers Cuomo:

I was not a good prospect really because I didn’t think I was good enough. And we learn from the rest of our lives, you can’t make it anywhere unless you go all out and that’s part of baseball, too. You’ve got to give it everything.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Curt Flood

Editor’s note: Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? was a past regular feature here. It will resume on a weekly basis the first Tuesday after the postseason ends.

Claim to fame: Flood hit .293 over 15 seasons and was one of the best outfielders of his generation, winning seven straight Gold Gloves from 1963 to 1969. But he’s known more for what he did after all this when he protested a December 1969 trade from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies, informing the commissioner at the time, Bowie Kuhn that he wanted to consider other offers before signing a contract. Kuhn feigned ignorance, hiding behind baseball’s Reserve Clause, and Flood filed suit to challenge. Though Flood lost in the Supreme Court in 1972, his playing career by then done, his effort almost certainly helped bring about the demise of the Reserve Clause a few years later.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Flood exhausted his 15 years of eligibility with the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1996 when he peaked at 15.1 percent of the vote. He died the following year at 59, which leaves him now as a posthumous candidate for the Veterans Committee.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Short answer, yes, though labor pioneers are woefully under-represented in Cooperstown. Flood or former player’s association head Marvin Miller might be the most egregious snubs, though many other players may deserve more recognition as well. There’s 19th century great Lip Pike who signed baseball’s first professional contract, $20 to play for Philadelphia in 1866. And much as credit is due to Flood for combating the Reserve Clause, it might still be in effect had Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally not played the 1975 season without contracts so they could become free agents. Don’t forget arbitrator Peter Seitz who struck down the clause in a historic ruling after that season and who was fired within minutes by the owners for his handiwork.

All this being said, Flood might be the Jackie Robinson of the labor movement, and he’s long overdue for his Cooperstown plaque. True, his statistics don’t suggest automatic enshrinement, what with him having less than 2,000 hits, a career WAR of 35.9, and an OPS+ of 100. Still, the Hall of Fame has never been entirely about numbers, and for contributions above stats, Flood looks like an easy choice. His spirit, courage, and willingness to take a stand represent what makes baseball great, at least to me. I view Flood in the same way as Robinson or Detroit Tigers great and Jewish hero Hank Greenberg, who incidentally testified for the embattled player in court. It’s a spirit baseball should be looking to commemorate, not forget. If the Hall of Fame isn’t the place for this, I don’t know what is.

The question is if the traditionally conservative Veterans Committee will honor Flood or any of the other men here. That’s no sure thing. The committee passed on Miller yet again in December, and at 94, there’s an increasing chance he’ll die before he gets a plaque. That’s too bad. After Flood, I only wish baseball would learn.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? was formerly a Tuesday feature here. It will relaunch following the postseason.

Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al Oliver, Alan Trammell, Albert Belle, Allie Reynolds, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Bobby Grich, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Closers, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Dick Allen, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Harold Baines, Jack Morris, Jim Edmonds, Joe Carter, Joe Posnanski, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Larry Walker, Manny Ramirez, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Moises Alou, Pete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Roger Maris, Ron Guidry, Ron Santo, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Tony Oliva, Will Clark

Some of the Good Stuff This 2011 Baseball Season

The summer is going way too fast and the 2011 major league baseball season is following suit. Some of the playoff pictures have been all but decided and there have, as in any season, been surprises and disappointments. Some teams are already looking ahead to 2012 and some are thinking about the big prize at the end of it all. Here is some of the good stuff that I’ve seen this season.

One of the best stories of 2011 happened just this past week. One of the classiest people in all of sports reached a prolific milestone and gave us a non asterisk moment of joy. Jim Thome hit home run number 600, joining the elite hitters in baseball history. I, along with most of the baseball world, were overjoyed to see a stunning accomplishment not tainted with did he or didn’t he. Thome is still a productive hitter and while reaching the 600 mark was obviously on his mind during the offseason, Thome is not a player who stuck around when it was obvious to all that he was done. It brings back memories of the other greats who have accomplished this feat untainted (Aaron, Ruth and Mays) and reminded me of the glorious days of baseball past.

Derek Jeter became the first New York Yankee to reach 3,000 hits. None of the Yankee greats had been able to reach that milestone. None. It was a popular media pastime this season up until that day, to treat Jeter as if he was a mediocre player who had accomplished little throughout his Hall of Fame career. He couldn’t hit, field or run anymore and his once unquestionably great baseball instincts were no more. His contract extension was offered through pity and a sense of it’s only because he’s been a Yankee his entire career. Jeter went on the DL this season which was further proof of the erosion of his skills.

Jeter would have to bat eight or even ninth and maybe even DH if New York could find a taker for Jorge Posada. Nonsense and disrespectful.

Hit number 3,000 was a home run and he followed that up with four more hits on that day. No more Jeter is done talk in the press. No more secret whispers in the corridors of baseball. Someday Derek Jeter will be done, but not this season.

The umpiring, despite a couple noticeable speed bumps in August, has been the best I’ve seen in many a season. The once imposing trend toward arrogance and infallibility and a strike zone that changed more quickly and more often than a woman’s mindset seems to have been replaced by a spirit of cooperation, a genuine let’s get this call right, and a strike zone players can depend on pitch after pitch. Perhaps the firing of six umpires during the offseason after the horrendous officiating during the last two season’s playoffs and a renewed commitment to excellence has made the difference. Umpires are there to ensure that all is fair for both teams, get calls right and to be seen and not heard. Their officiating this season has certainly brought a new level of professionalism to the game.

The 2011 has seen the return of the old guys. Jack McKeon and even more surprising, Davey Johnson are managing once again. In my youth it seemed that all managers were old, white haired and had seen Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson play. These managers chewed tobacco and cussed out umpires at the drop of a hat. If you didn’t hustle you didn’t play.

Sometimes even if you did hustle you didn’t play. There were no pitch counts and only a closer for a bullpen. Starters were expected to go the full nine. They didn’t have computers and SABR stats and a press conference after every game. I say let’s keep this thing going and bring back Earl Weaver, Whitey Herzog, Yogi Berra and Tommy Lasorda.

Let the young guys be bench coaches or minor league instructors. Bring back those big, leather chairs.

Each baseball night brings something new and exciting to the table. So far so good 2011.

Double The Fun: The Day Elroy Face Finally Lost

In 1959, Elroy Face and his signature forkball dominated the National League. Face’s 18-1 record still stands as the best winning percentage (.947) in baseball history posted by anyone who had a minimum of 15 decisions. Face’s streak ended in Los Angeles on September 11 during the first game of a double dip. Beginning in 1958 and until his late season 1959 defeat, Face won 22 consecutive games.

In his interviews with Face’s teammates, Pittsburgh Post-Gazettereporter Robert Dvorchak got their perspective on the deadly forkball. According to catcher Hank Foiles:

It was very deceptive for a hitter. You couldn’t set for the forkball and you couldn’t set for the fastball. And every once in a while, Elroy would slip a curve or a slider in. Hitters knew what they were going to get because you got to go with your best pitch. But every once in a while, we’d show them something else. It wasn’t for sale but we wanted them to look at the merchandise.

Here’s how Face explained the differences between the splitter and the forkball. In both instances, the ball is held with the middle and index fingers spread far apart. A splitter is held with the fingers on the seams but Face put his fingers on the smooth part of the ball. To a batter, the pitch looked like a fastball but then dipped as if it was falling off the edge of a table. Depending on fingertip pressure, however, it could dart down left or right or even rise.

Face’s string ended during the bottom of the ninth inning while he was protecting a one-run lead in the first game of a doubleheader at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Maury Wills led off and singled. Jim Gilliam knocked him in with a game-tying triple. Then Charley Neal broke his bat on a forkball. But the ball dribbled between Don Hoak and Dick Groat and the streak was over. The Dodgers won 5-4. For the first time in 98 appearances, Face walked off the mound charged with a loss.

During his streak, Face rarely pitched only a single inning. In fact, in his 19 decisions in 1959, Face averaged 2-2/3 innings pitched. In one relief appearance against the Chicago Cubs, Face pitched five innings—nearly the equivalent of today’s “quality start.” And in eight games, Face pitched three innings or more.

Known as the “Baron of the Bullpen,” Face was the first of the full time relief specialists. Before Face, the bull pen was often staffed with marginal starters and mop up men. After Face, every manager in baseball wanted a closer. Face’s top salary was $42, 500. During his prime years, the Pirates paid $1 to park their cars at a gas station across the street from Forbes Field.

Today Face would be every bit the equivalent of the New York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera who earns $14.5 million.

“Double the fun” is a Friday feature here that looks at one notable doubleheader each week.

Another delay on “Any player/Any era”

I apologize, but for the second straight week, “Any player/Any era” will be late. The reason for delay is the same. I’ve started doing a bit of corporate freelance again for a client in San Francisco, and I now have assignments due each Friday. Me being me, I tend to procrastinate. The goal for next week is improve on this trend and get my posts here up on time.

In the meanwhile, as a preview, I will say that my subject for this week is my all-time favorite player, Will Clark. I’m projecting him as a 1930s American League first baseman. The thought here is that with his glove, batting average, and power, he could be a legend in that era in the right ballpark. I welcome anyone’s input.

Wind (Temporarily?) Out of Pirates Sails

Since I wrote my euphoric blog “Shiver Me Timbers, the Bucs Are in First Place”the Pittsburgh Pirates have come unwound, both as a team and individually.

Ironically, six weeks ago when the Pirates were baseball’s darling, MLB on Fox and ESPN eagerly signed them up for their national games of the week.

So, on August 13, when Fox’s Josh Lewin introduced the Pirates-Milwaukee Brewers game, he hung a lot of crepe. Basically saying that the Pirates had gone straight into the tank since Fox committed to the Brewers game as well as the August 20 contest against the Cincinnati Reds, Lewin reminded pained viewers that no team in major league history has gone from first place to ten games out in less time than the Corsairs. By Sunday night, Lewin had proven prophetic. The Brewers swept the three game series against the Pirates and moved to 36-3 against the Bucs in their last 39 games.

Luckily for Fox, the Saturday game turned out to be a good one. To the Pirates’ fans frustration, however, the Buccos lost 1-0 and scratched out three lonely hits—only one of which came during the five innings tossed by Brewers’ emergency starter Marco Estrada (3-7).

An interesting strategic moment came in the top of the ninth. The Brewers had summoned closer John Axford. The first Pirates’ batter, Xavier Paul, tripled. At that point, the pressure is on Axford—he’s protecting a one run lead with a runner on third, no one out.

The next two batters, Andrew McCutchen (hitting about .200 since the All Star Game) and Matt Diaz (.265 but no home runs in 200+ at bats) both swung at the first pitch. Results: two ground outs, McCutchen to shortstop; Diaz to second. Although there are 25 ways to score from third (read them here), the Pirates couldn’t push across the tying run.

Ted Williams must have been spinning in his grave. The Pirates should have heeded Williams’ long standing advice about swinging at the first pitch: Don’t! In his book, The Science of Hitting, Williams wrote that when a batter faces a pitcher for the first time during a game, as McCutchen and Diaz did with Axford, he should take a pitch or two to evaluate the pitcher’s stuff.

I understand the counter logic. Batters don’t want to fall behind 0-1 or 0-2. And they’re often coached to be aggressive, to look for a pitch they like and to take their cuts.But here are two things I also know. First, when it comes to batting philosophy, I’ll listen to Williams before anyone. Second, the Saturday game ended with the Pirates stranding the tying run on third before losing by a single run. Swinging at the first pitch may work some of the time—but it didn’t that day.In the meantime, through games played Monday night, the Pirates have fallen to fourth place, 13 games behind the Brewers and losers of 14 of their last 18.

Cold calling old ballplayers

I learned a valuable lesson growing up. I found an old San Francisco Giants oral history book at a garage sale, and in the preface, the author spoke of fruitless attempts to interview Willie Mays, noting he had better experiences interviewing many less-famous players. A lot of these former Giants, the author noted, had listed phone numbers and were happy to talk. I took the message to heart, and it’s led to several interviews off cold calls over the years.

I was reminded of this Tuesday evening when I located the number of a former player living in Sacramento, where I grew up and my family lives. At some point, I’ll call this guy as well as the grandson of a Deadball Era star who lives about an hour from me. These calls are rarely bad experiences, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that old ballplayers generally love to reminisce about their careers. I don’t have to do much beyond ask decent questions and listen.

Here are a few players I’ve interviewed after getting their number from the phone book or online yellow pages:

Cuno Barragan: I did my high school senior project on the Sacramento Solons and interviewed Barragan who caught for the team before going on to the Chicago Cubs of the early 1960s. He might have been the first ex-big leaguer I ever interviewed, and I appreciate his willingness to invite me out to his home. If memory serves correct, we sat on bar stools made of baseball bats and base cushions.

Dario Lodigiani: I wrote a college term paper on all the Italian American baseball players who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I had designs after I submitted my paper of turning it into a magazine story. It never went anywhere, though it gave me an excuse to talk to a few former ballplayers, the most notable Dom DiMaggio, who I tracked down in person at a wharf front memorabilia story. I found Lodigiani through online yellow pages, and I remember the then-87-year-old former third baseman, who played six seasons between 1938 and 1946, as a nice fellow.

Joe DeMaestri, Rugger Ardizoia: Two more nice guys who I called about the Italian American project. DeMaestri, like another of my interview subjects Gino Cimoli, worked for UPS after his playing days. Ardizoia had a one-game career for the 1947 New York Yankees and may be at the upcoming Pacific Coast League reunion.

Art Mahan: I started research in early 2010 on a book on  Joe Marty,who played from 1937 to 1941 with the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies. When I began research, Mahan was one of four living ex-teammates, and I didn’t have much luck at first. The Art Mahan in the phone book turned out to be his son, and it sounded as if the senior Mahan didn’t like interviews. Still, the son passed my number on to his sister who in turn called me and gave me an address to send questions to. This led to a call a week or so later from another Mahan who, with his 96-year-old dad standing by and periodically coming on the line, talked with me for two enchanting hours. (Mahan died in December, and I noted his passing here.)

Billy O’Dell: I put together a Where Are They Now?-style piece on O’Dell and made my initial call from home, though I had to do a follow-up from work. I was sitting in the break area on my cell when the CEO of the company my firm was renting space from walked by. He gave me a look that said, Who exactly are you speaking to about the last out of the 1962 World Series? The CEO and I got to talking after I finished my call, and he said he knew former Giants outfielder Ken Henderson. I wound up interviewing Henderson, too.