Philadelphia Inquirer - August 4, 1980
Cooperstown’s greats: The unenshrined also gather
By Chuck Newman, Inquirer Staff Writer
COOPERSTOWN, NY. – This was the stately Otesaga Hotel on the eve of baseball's annual Hall of Fame induction, the night before they added the names of Al Kaline, Duke Snider, Chuck Klein and Tom Yawkey to baseball immortality.
The town had been active this night, the lone movie in town drawing a decent crowd for a Mickey Rooney movie. Now, downstairs in one of the hotel ballrooms, a small gathering had assembled to hear a four-piece band play music suitable for doing the Lindy. The setting was from another era.
But the live action was here in the lobby of the Otesaga, with the past greats of the game assembled.
The Hall of Fame members were easily identified by buttons which read "Hall of Fame" on the first line and "member," in larger letters, on the second.
The first sign of the button brought forth baseballs, notebooks, newspapers – anything upon which an autograph could be written. Many of the seekers were too young to recognize the names they were collecting. Some would wait a respectable few minutes, then check their record book to see whose name they had obtained.
There was Joe Brown, the former general manager of the Pirates, and Charlie Gehringer, the Tigers second baseman they called "the mechanical man." And Joe Sewell, who compiled a .312 lifetime average with Cleveland and the Yankees back in the 1920s and '30s. And the Phillies' Robin Roberts, who was elected to the Hall in 1976. And Bob Feller, the Indians pitcher who struck out 15 Philadelphia Athletics in his first major-league road game. And Stan Musial. And Burleigh Grimes, the last of the legal spitball pitchers.
Off in a corner of the lobby, a group of men sat in animated discussion (they sit there this time every year). Some of them are famous, their names enshrined. Others, who have given just as much to the game, go virtually unnoticed, except by their peers.
There was Buck Leonard and Judy Johnson, each a member of the Hall. Cool Papa Bell, another member, was expected along directly, although a rumor was afoot that his health would keep him from attending this year.
And there was Bill Cash and Larry Kimbrough and Buddy Burbridge and Jeep McClain, men who would be recognized only by those who had been around to watch the Philadelphia Stars and Homestead Grays. They are not Hall. They may never be. Never mind that Kimbrough may be the only pitcher to pitch to right-handed batters with his right hand and to left-handed batters with his left hand. Never mind that Cash may have had the best arm any catcher ever had. Never mind that he didn't allow Cool Papa Bell, perhaps the game's greatest base stealer, to steal a base on him in seven years.
And there was Webster McDonald, another who waits and hopes for entry into the Hall of Fame. His is a vigil that seems more unlikely to succeed every year.
Bill Cash has driven Webster McDonald here from Philadelphia the last six years, hoping his friend will finally get his due recognition. It was McDonald who got Cash started in baseball. Now it is Cash trying to get Webster McDonald into the Hall.
For all we know, Webster McDonald may have been one of the greatest pitchers ever to play baseball.
Webster McDonald's best years, however, were back in the '20s and '30s. There were no records kept on black baseball players in those days, except by black newspapermen, and there weren't enough of them. It is because there is so little written evidence that Webster McDonald's name is not in the Hall of Fame.
All who know him and of him say he won more than 20 games over too many seasons to count. They say he ranks with the best who ever pitched.
But there are no written records.
Webster McDonald was a submarine-ball artist, learning the motion from Carl Mays (a 27-game winner one year), whom McDonald used to watch pitch for the Yankees against the A's back in 1921 and 1922. McDonald quickly became so proficient that Rube Foster, considered the father of black baseball, lured him from Philadelphia to the Midwest, where he paid McDonald $750 a month, plus expenses. That was real money in those days.
It's a fact that Webster McDonald pitched 17 games against a barnstorming team of major leaguers, winning 14 of them. It's a fact that Hall of Famer Jimmy Foxx once bet Except to those in the know, Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane $25 that Cochrane couldn't hit McDonald's curveball. Foxx collected. It's a fact that McDonald beat Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean twice in four days, once by a 1-0 score.
"He used to give me a fit," said Leonard, who played 23 years with the Grays, keeping Luke Faster on the bench, and batting .392 in 1948. "I couldn't hit him."
"If he had been a white boy, he would have been another Robin Roberts or Sandy Koufax," said Johnson. "I'm not going to say (that the Hall of Fame is political). I'm just bitter because they are not letting enough players in, black or white."
Back in 1971, they formed a committee to review the credentials of the old-time black players. It was called the Hall of Fame Committee for the Negro Leagues. Monte Irvin, who was on the committee, was one of nine players admitted. Josh Gibson, Leonard, Bell. Johnson, Oscar in the crowd at Cooperstown Charleston, John Henry Lloyd, Martin Dihigo and Satchel Paige were the others.
McDonald was one of 30 players considered and rejected. No records, the committee, now disbanded, said.
"They say show us the records," Leonard said dejectedly. "There were no records kept then."
With no evidence, McDonald can only wait. More patiently than some around him. "A perfect gentlemen," at least three people called him. Associated Press "Never got mad, cursed or anything like that."
McDonald, a perfect gentleman, now 80 years old. sat quietly talking to his peers. The famous ones and the not so famous. About the old days. About the old Madison Stars, about a white writer in New England who heard about McDonald's unusual pitching style, came to a game and saw McDonald pitch a no-hitter. Times and places have become more difficult to pinpoint over the years. But Webster McDonald was talking baseball. For hours.
This was the sixth time Webster McDonald had come here with Bill Cash. Not to politick – Cash does most of that; it is not Webster McDonald's style – but just to to be a part of all this.
"It's like a tonic for him," Cash said. "It seems to perk him up."
Webster McDonald can use a boost these days. In recent years, he has had surgery on his knee for arthritis, and a cataract operation. The six-hour car ride from Philadelphia had tired him more than usual. "I guess it's the heat," McDonald said. "It takes a lot out of me these days."
McDonald said he doesn't get around much in his Girard College neighborhood anymore. "And if I do, I make sure I get home before dark," he added with a wry smile.
"Mac is downhearted," Cash said. "It looks like he has practically given up. I keep telling him 'Mac, don't give up. We have a chance this time.'"
Bill Cash said he really believes that. And he wants it on the record.
Kaline, Snider, Klein, Yawkey inducted into Hall
By Chuck Newman, Inquirer Staff Writer
COOPERSTOWN, NY. – Al Kaline. who collected 3,007 hits for the Detroit Tigers; Duke Snider, Brooklyn's Duke of Flatbush; Phillies slugger Chuck Klein, and Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey were inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame yesterday.
Klein, the only man to collect 200 or more hits in his first six seasons, received the honor posthumously with his great-nephew, Robert Klein, accepting for him.
"Entrance into the Hall of Fame means that Chuck will live on forever," Robert Klein said.
The warmest applause of the day was given to Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who accepted the plaque in honor of the late Tom Yawkey. "He was a man I loved, and a great sportsman," Williams said.
Kaline said his induction was the proudest moment of his life, but not his biggest thrill.
"I think that would have to be getting to the World Series," he admitted after the ceremonies.
By the time Kaline and the Tigers made it to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1968, it was only a matter of when Kaline would be inducted. And on what ballot. He had already had eight .300 seasons after joining Detroit right out of high school and was well on his way to joining Charlie Gehringer and Ty Cobb as the most illustrious of all the Tigers ever to have worn the uniform.
He was already well-advanced toward becoming only the 12th major leaguer to go over 3,000 hits and establishing an American League record for most seasons playing 100 or more games (20). He had already attained the distinction of tying Cobb as the youngest American League batting champion when he hit .340 as a 20-year-old in 1955.
And he had already established himself as one of the finest fielding outfielders ever, headed toward nine Golden Glove awards and eventually establishing a league mark for consecutive errorless games by an outfielder (242 from May 15, 1970, to July 2, 1972).
But Al Kaline was beginning to believe that he was going to miss out on the one thing he really wanted. "I kept thinking about Ernie Banks and all those great years he had," Kaline said. "And I kept wondering if the same thing was going to happen to me."
The Tigers of 1968 ended that worry for Kaline, reaching the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals and making it even more memorable by coming back from a 3-1 deficit become world champions.
Ironically, it came on an "off" year for Al Kaline. He played in only 102 games that season after suffering a broken right arm when he was hit by a pitch. He spent 35 days on the disabled list. And even when he returned it was not to full-time action because Mickey Stanley and Jim Northrup had earned playing time with fine jobs in his absence.
But by World Series time Kaline was back on regular duty, and he turned in the type of performance that was expected. He went to bat 29 times in the seven games, got 11 hits for a .379 batting average, scored six runs, hit two home runs and batted in eight.
And in the critical fifth game, with Detroit one game from elimination, Kaline drove in the tying run as the Tigers rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to erase a 3-2 deficit.
Lest people get the wrong impression about his remarks, Kaline made it a point to clarify his statements. "This is probably the proudest moment of my life," he said shortly after his voice had broken with emotion when he introduced his parents. "But it was thrilling to have been able to play in a World Series. So many people miss out on that."
Just like his smooth transition from high school star to major league standout, Kaline eased into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, something only nine players had done before him.
When he was asked to describe that moment, last January, when he was notified that he had made it, Kaline came as close as he can to the stereotyped athlete.
"I was supposed to get a call about 6 o'clock in the evening," he said. "And it was already 6:20. Those 20 minutes, you should pardon the expression, were like hell."
They weren't easy moments for Snider, either. By 6:20 he was about resigned to his 10th, and maybe last, rejection. "I had been disappointed for a couple of years before that," one of Brooklyn's Boys of Summer had said. “And I had about resigned myself to the fact that I had a great career and that was going to be it.”
Williams then put things in perspective for Snider.
“You are a perfect example of what I said about the writers all along,” he said. “They are not always right. They waited 10 years to get you here.”
Smith runs wild as Phils rip Reds
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
It all began 45 minutes before game time. That's when Lonnie Smith looked at the Reds lineup and noticed that Johnny Bench wasn't in it.
"I haven't stolen on Bench yet," Smith said. "I haven't worked up enough courage."
Not that Lonnie Smith should worry about such mundane stuff. The way this kid burns, he probably could steal bases if Nolan Ryan were making 98 m.p.h. pitchouts to Bill Dickey.
But when the name "Joe Nolan" went up there in the Cincinnati catcher's slot, Smith just grinned and slipped on his track shoes. Three hours, three Smith steals and an 8-4 Phillies win later, it was apparent why.
Four pitches into the afternoon of Nolan and Reds starter Bruce Berenyi, their troubles were just beginning. All four of those pitches were balls to Smith. And that meant that the Phillies' rookie roadrunner was on first, digging into the starting blocks.
It didn't take Smith long to figure out that Berenyi wasn't quite Steve Carlton when it came to holding guys on.
"I felt I could steal on him right away," Smith said. "He throws very hard, but he really has a slow delivery to the plate."
Smith looked Berenyi over for one pitch, then whooshed into second on the next. Pete Rose, who has complemented Smith in the No. 2 hole the way drawn butter complements lobster, moved him to third with a bouncer to second. Greg Gross doubled him home, and that was one run.
Third inning. Same place. Same cast. Same scenario. Smith punched a one-out single into right. Three pitches later, the Reds pitched out, and even that didn't help. Smith still motored into second for stolen base No. 2. Rose then bounced a 2-2 pitch up the middle, and that was two runs.
Fifth inning. Act three. Smith dropped a leadoff bunt single between third and the mound. This time he didn't bother waiting around for a couple of pitches. He chugged into second on the first pitch. It was his 20th steal, moving him past Garry Maddox for the team lead.
Rose then stroked another single , up the middle, and the Phils had a third run.
At that point, the rest of the lineup decided to join the party – to the tune of a six-run inning. Berenyi walked Gross and Mike Schmidt back-to-back, and that brought on reliever Mario Melvin Soto.
Maddox knocked in Rose with a "sacrifice fly. Soto walked Ramon Aviles to force in another run. Bob Boone jacked a fastball into the corner in left for a three-run double. A close game had become 8-1. And Nino Espinosa (2-2) and Ron Reed pitched it out fairly uneventfully.
Another day went by without a Phillies homer. (That's 34 innings since the last one – Schmidt's game-tieing blast Tuesday.) But with Smith cranking up his automatic-run machine, who needs homers?
"I don't care if we never hit another homer," said Dallas Green. "It doesn't bother me as long as we win. And this is the type of game we're going to have to play."
But they play that game best when the two guys at the top, Smith and Rose, get on base and move each other around.
"With Lonnie's speed, that kind of baseball is a lot easier to play," Green said. "It's the same kind of (Omar) Moreno-(Ron) LeFlore thing we've had to battle defensively get on... steal second... and the next thing you know they've got a run on the board. Now we're doing the same thing."
Hard to catch
Smith now has stolen 16 bases since June 22, and 13 of them have led to runs. He has stolen 10 in a row since Pittsburgh's Steve Nicosia nailed him July 12. And eight of those 10 also have turned into runs.
He has been picked off only once (by San Diego's Eric Rasmussen). He has been nailed by catchers only twice (by Nicosia and Chicago's Tim Blackwell). He has stolen 17 of 18 since mid-June. And if there is a defense against him, nobody has found it yet.
"If you pitch out and you still can't get him, I don't know what you're going to do," said Green.
Nearly overlooked in the stampede to heap praise on Smith is how well Rose has performed behind him. Rose has long been regarded as the ultimate leadoff hitter. But as the classic bat artist, he makes a Utopian No. 2 hitter, too.
"Pete,” said Green, "is just a helluva hitter. Period."
"It's a whole new kind of role for me." Rose said. "It means I have to give myself up now. I've never been in that kind of role before."
But what Rose has sacrificed in batting average, he has picked up in RBIs. He had nine RBIs on June 1, the point at which Smith began playing a lot. He has 32 in the two months since.
To accumulate those RBIs, though, Rose has to make sure Smith gets to second. And as one of the game's premier two-strike hitters, there might be nobody better to hang in there until Smith pulls off the inevitable steal.
"It means I have to be more patient," Rose said. "I'm pretty patient anyway. But I have to be super-patient when he's on, because we don't rely on (steal) signs with him, so I don't know when he's going to run.
"But I told him, 'Don't worry if the guy throws a couple of strikes.' When I'm swinging the bat good, I'm a better two-strike hitter anyway."
Rose ripped three hits yesterday, raising his average to .292. Smith's two singles hiked him to .348. With Bake McBride (idle yesterday) cruising along at .317, the top of the order has pumped the Phils to seven wins in the first 10 games of a pivotal home stand.
And whatever happened to Back-to-Back Theater?
NOTES: Smith has scored 13 runs on the homestand, and yesterday he moved past McBride (45-43) into third on the team in runs scored. Rose is first with 70. Schmidt has 65. Smith has scored a remarkable 45 in 59 games.... Soto may have paid Smith the ultimate compliment yesterday. After Smith had gotten on three times and scored three times, Soto sent the first pitch over his head on the fourth trip. "Nah, I don't take it as a compliment," Smith said. "It's not a compliment when a guy throws at you. But it really doesn't bother me, as long as I don't get hit in the head. If he hits me, it hurts him more than it hurts me. If he hits me, I can steal on him."... McBride's tender knees got a day of rest against Berenyi, the only pitcher to hold him hitless in his last 22 games.... Larry Bowa, with a cramp in his calf, was out again but should be back tomorrow.... The Hustle Award goes to John Vukovich, who dived into the stands (unsuccessfully) after a foul ball in the eighth inning. The score at the time was 8-2.... The Reds' statistics were printed yesterday on paper that was so old it included the message, "Games at Crosley Field. Future home new Riverfront Stadium." Turns out it came from the hidden reserves of the Phillies' public-relations office.... National League leaders in runs produced through Friday: Keith Hernandez (118), Steve Garvey (112), Jack Clark-Mike Schmidt-Ken Griffey (109 apiece), Rose 108, George Hendrick 107.... Phillies' attendance projects to about 2,660,000 for the year.... Phils are off today. Dick Ruthven vs. St. Louis' John Fulgham tomorrow.
Whispers pierce McBride's quiet world
By Al Haas, Inquirer Staff Writer
"Bake is playing on two of the worst knees you can think about, and he is having one of the best years he's ever had. That says something about the quality of the man, I think." – Dallas Green
It used to be just the right knee, the one they operated on in 1976. But now, since this season began, the other one has gotten into the act.
Arnold R. (Bake) McBride, the magnificent athlete who plays right field for the Phillies, is suffering from an erosion of both kneecaps. It is an incurable condition that can only get worse.
"Erosion" is one of those clinical terms with a palatable ring. But when you think about what it means, it makes you wince.
What it means is that the bones in Bake McBride's knees have been deprived of their natural sheathing and are now grinding against each other every time he moves his legs. It means that his knees hurt him, that they puff up and have to be drained at least once a week. It means that getting out of bed each morning is a painful, elaborate ritual.
"It's like I need 3-in-1 oil to get going, they're so stiff," McBride observes with a wistful smile. "I take each one, straighten it and bend it, and then wait for it to pop. If I don't, I couldn't walk. I'd be walking stiff-legged."
This past Friday morning, McBride woke up in his townhouse near the airport and made the usual production of getting out of bed. If his wife, Celeste, had been there, instead of back home in St. Louis taking care of their three kids, she probably would have laughed at him. She usually does. It is the ironic laughter of someone who cares, a participation in the nervous humor of mutual adversity, the kind of chuckle one might hear in a lifeboat.
After finally getting his knees to work, and watching his soap operas, McBride made his way to Veterans Stadium for the evening's engagement with Cincinnati. He arrived 3½ hours before game time (He needs heat on his knees before each game, just as he needs an hour of ice on them afterward).
He didn't have to come on this particular evening. Dallas Green has told him repeatedly to take a day off now and then. The Phillies manager knows that rest is the only thing that will help knees like that.
But McBride came anyway. He came because this is his job and because, for all the pain and aggravation it causes him, he still enjoys it. He also came to shovel a little more dirt on his reputation for not caring, not trying. He has heard those whispers throughout his career from the fans, the media, and even team executives. He wants the fans to know they aren't true, that he does as much as he can on those knees.
So, he would show them again. And show them he did. In addition to a nifty shoestring catch in right field, he went 2-for-3 at the plate, lifting his average to .318. One of those hits accounted for his 62d RBI. That's one more than he's ever had in an entire season. So much for the whispers, whispers, incidentally, that don't wash with McBride's teammates. As an admiring Pete Rose puts it: "I don't want to hear that – about Bake jakin' it." They don't wash with his manager, either. Green admits he heard the whispers from the fans and media, and, as a result, "had questions" about McBride when he took over the team. He says those questions were quickly answered in McBride's favor.
"There are things he can't do with those knees and it may not look like he's putting out," Green adds. "But he is, and that is why he'll stay there until he proves otherwise to me."
Like most whispers, the ones about McBride are as understandable as they are unfair. At 6 feet, 2 inches, and 184 pounds, McBride is a sleek race horse of a man, as graceful as he is fast. As a consequence, he makes what he does on the field look so easy that people are prone to think he's taking it easy.
"Most people see me running and they think I'm not running at full speed. I guess because I make it look so easy, they don't think I'm hustling." The illusion is compounded by his seemingly indifferent style as a player. He rarely shows emotion, for one thing. And no one would ever accuse him of rushing on and off the field.
"When I come out to the outfield, I don't run out fast," he admits. "And when I come back to the dugout, I walk the last few steps. People see that and they think I'm not hustling.
"But anytime I go out between those two white lines, I give 100 percent. And whether the people in the stands think I do or not, I know deep down inside that I am giving my best."
In a way, McBride runs his life the same way he runs on and off the field: Quietly, inobtrusively, and to his own cadence. He is very much his own man, a quality that has had as much to do with the development of his life as his athletic skill.
That life began 31 years ago in Fulton, Mo. McBride was the second oldest of three children, and the only son. His late father was a former Negro League pitcher who had turned to cement mixing to support his family. His mother was, and still is, a nurse.
From the time he was a child, McBride spent a lot of time with his grandfather, a Baptist minister who lived on a farm. McBride loved the farm – and he loved his grandfather.
"Everywhere he went, he took me with him," McBride recalls.
Everywhere included hunting and church, two pursuits that have stayed with McBride. A religious man "in my own quiet way," McBride still attends church regularly during the off-season. Small-game hunting remains his only real pastime.
McBride's affection for his grandfather was such that when his parents moved to Illinois when he was in grade school, he remained behind in Fulton with "granddad."
"I didn't want to leave all my friends," he adds, somewhat unconvincingly.
At Fulton High, McBride became a star athlete. All-state split end. All-state forward. All-state trackman. He didn't become an all-state baseball player because Fulton didn't have a team.
Perhaps less predictably, he also became an excellent student. He had nearly an A average in high school, and got into Fulton's Westminster College on an academic scholarship.
At Westminster, McBride got good grades, played basketball and baseball, ran the 100 in 9.8 for the track team and – and then quit at the end of his sophomore year. While he had been offered a tryout with the NBA Phoenix Suns, McBride contends this is not why he left. He says he simply "got tired of school."
Prior to the Suns' camp, he was offered a tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals. He wasn't exactly enthralled.
"I didn't enjoy baseball that much," he recalls. "Basketball was my game."
He was quick, fast, a good shooter, and he could jump out of the building. At a mere 6-2, he could dunk the ball with both hands. Basketball was a game he liked and played a lot.
Baseball was something else. By the time McBride left Westminster, he had played organized baseball only three seasons – two in American Legion and one at Westminster as a pitcher.
Finally, however, he decided to hedge his bets a little and go to the St. Louis tryout. Baseball might be something to fall back on if the Suns didn't want him.
"I didn't like baseball that much," he says again. "I just wanted to see if I could make it."
He could, as it turned out. But not as the pitcher he had been in college. His unsuitability as a pitcher became evident before he ever got to throw pitch one. The man watched him swing a bat, and then timed him to first base three times. When he finally looked up from the stopwatch, the man said, "No, you're not a pitcher."
"Well, what am I then?" McBride asked.
"You're an outfielder."
"Anywhere." ' What the St. Louis operatives realized on that day in 1970 was that they had something very special on their hands: One of those natural athletes who didn't need an airplane to fly. They drafted McBride and assigned him to their Modesto farm club. McBride married Celeste, his high-school sweetheart, flew out to Modesto (on an airplane) and batted .423.
Three years later, the Cardinals brought him up for 40 games. McBride batted .302 and, the next season, became the National League's rookie of the year, batting .309 and driving in 59 runs in 150 games. He also stole 30 bases.
Phillies coach Billy DeMars remembers that year very well. He recalls watching dumbfounded as McBride beat out what should have been routine infield outs. DeMars can't think of anyone faster, not even Lonnie Smith (McBride was clocked from home to first in 1974 at 2.9 seconds. Smith does it in around 4.0).
Time and bad knees have cut into that velocity a bit. McBride figures he has lost a half step down to first. And he doesn't steal much anymore, largely because Green won't ask him to try unless it's absolutely necessary. But he can still move. A half step less than 2.9 is not exactly geriatric.
Despite the knees and the other injuries that have plagued him throughout his career, McBride has remained an excellent fielder and a fine hitter. He went into this season with a lifetime average of .298.
Other aspects of his career have been less satisfying, particularly his relationship with St. Louis manager Vernon Rapp. Rapp didn't like McBride's long hair and beard. He didn't like the way McBride ran on and off the field, either. He said it made it look like he wasn't hustling. McBride didn't think the way he cut his hair and ran off the field was any of Rapp's business. The Cardinals traded McBride to the Phillies in 1977.
"It worked out for the best," McBride smiles. "I'm still playing, and he's coaching instead of managing."
Life in Philadelphia hasn't exactly been nirvana. McBride's hustle has come into question here, as it did in St. Louis, and he has his problems with the press from time to time. But, generally, things have been better. He liked "the players' coach," Danny Ozark ("He was like a father to me"), and he has "no problems" getting along with the very different Dallas Green. He likes his teammates, and he can certainly live with his new, long-term, $400,000-a-year contract.
McBride's relationship with the press is a rather strange one. He seems to run hot and cold on reporters. He can be very cooperative, or he can be considerably less.
His reticence is sometimes the result of provocation. When a writer criticized his hustle during spring training last year, for example, McBride responded by announcing he would talk to no one – and shoved a towel in his mouth to make his point. But, for the most part, his reluctance seems more a function of his personality.
McBride is a sensitive, intelligent man – and an exceedingly quiet and private one. He is the quintessential loner. He lives, by his own admission, "in a shell."
He didn't always live in a shell, he confides. He has been driven into it by life.
"Something that happened along the way caused me to be that way. First, there was the death of my father (in 1964, when McBride was 17), Then my great grandmother. Then my aunt. Then my grandmother. Finally, it was my grandfather, in 1975. All of them were people I was close to. All of them took care of me at one time or an another.
"I don't think I'll ever come out of this so-called shell I'm in, because of what happened to me in the past."
The experiences which drove him into his shell have also made it difficult for him to make close friends. While he likes his teammates, he has not gotten really close to any of them, with the possible exception of Manny Trillo.
"I think I'm afraid to get close to people because of what happened to me in my childhood," he observes. "It seems the people I'm closest to die."
Like most of today's professional athletes, he has made some provisions for the day when he can't play the game anymore. He has a number of real-estate holdings, including a secluded home near St. Louis ("I love the solitude and quiet"). He has gotten his degree in physical education during the off-seasons, so he can teach afterwards, if he wants to.
But, like most athletes, McBride doesn't want to think about the day he can no longer do what he's really good at. He likes to tell himself that, at 31, he is still a boy of summer. He likes to tell himself that he'll be playing "for quite a while."
But he will recognize the end when it comes, and he will know what to do.
"When the time comes when I don't enjoy it, then it will be time to get out. When I feel I'm no longer able to give 100 percent on the field, when I'm no longer helping the team I'm playing with... it will be time to try something else."
In other words, when the whispers finally come true, McBride will leave.
Quietly, no doubt.