My attempt to interview Bernie Carbo today

As faithful readers will know, I have been offered a chance to contribute to a Where Are They Now section on a Web site called Baseball Savvy. The section is made up of features catching up with former ballplayers, not Hall of Famers necessarily, but the Vida Blues and Bill Madlocks of the sport. I have been looking for a good first player to profile, and today, I almost interviewed Bernie Carbo. In fact, I spoke to him twice.

Fans may remember Carbo as the Boston Red Sox outfielder who hit a game-tying, three-run homer against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, paving the way for Carlton Fisk to hit a walk-off shot in the bottom of the 12th. It’s arguably the greatest baseball game ever (it gets my vote), and the home run gave Carbo his fifteen minutes of fame. Rather improbably, he now seems to be having a second fifteen minutes, albeit for different reasons. On April 1, the Boston Globe published a story where Carbo said, “I played every game high.”

In the article, Carbo detailed addictions to cocaine, marijuana and other drugs during his career and after, saying he’s been clean for fifteen years and that he now runs an evangelical Christian ministry. Needless to say, his words went viral, though I didn’t think to seek him out in my search for a suitable interview subject.

Instead, I put in a call this afternoon to Dave McCarthy, executive director of Ted Williams Museum, a past subject here, hoping he could pass my number on to Will Clark, who was inducted into the museum’s Hitters Hall of Fame in February. McCarthy declined, saying he enjoys good relationships with players because he doesn’t pester them. I said I understood and asked as a throwaway question if McCarthy knew of any good players for me to talk to. To my surprise, he threw out Carbo’s name and said he could get him for me. He said he needed Carbo’s okay and asked me to call back in an hour. When I did that, McCarthy gave me Carbo’s cell phone number.

I was given the number with the understanding Carbo wouldn’t be available to talk straightaway and that I could arrange to interview him at another time. I called and got a voice mail which offered two other numbers for Carbo. When those numbers led to voice mails as well, I called the cell again, intending to leave a message. This time, however, Carbo picked up. We spoke briefly and agreed to talk at 7 this evening.

I got permission to leave work a couple hours early and went home to read the Globe story, do some research and prepare questions. By 7, I had a couple of pages of questions prepared (such as: How did you manage a .387 career on-base percentage under the influence?) but the interview didn’t come off.

I called at the appointed time, Carbo picked up, and we exchanged pleasantries. Carbo seemed to get spooked, though, when I asked if I could use a recorder, a question I typically ask interview subjects. Carbo wanted to know who I was, what I was doing this for, and how I knew McCarthy, so I spelled it out. He wanted to know what I would be asking about, so I gave him an idea of my questions. Carbo then said ESPN and the 700 Club will be airing interviews of him in the next few weeks. In fact, he said he shot three hours of footage with ESPN today. He also told me he assured these outlets he wouldn’t give the story out ahead of time. He also said something to effect that he still wasn’t sure how this story was going to play out with the public.

Thus, Carbo asked for my name and number and said he would call me in mid-May. I fear either Carbo will get an adverse reaction to one of the big interviews or that the story will have been beaten to death by the time we talk. Still, he seems nice enough to not write off entirely. Upon hearing my last name, Carbo asked if I was related to a man he went to high school with; when I mentioned the Hitters Hall of Fame, he asked if Shoeless Joe was a member.

(Postscript: Actually, he didn’t want to talk to me.)