Reading Eagle - March 18, 1980
Bernstein Gets Carlton Brushoff
By Ralph Bernstein, AP Sportswriter
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) – This baseball reporter has one nightmare. He wakes up shaking because he’s just dreamed that Steve Carlton pitched a one-hitter and George Hendrick got the only hit.
For the uninitiated, Carlton and Hendrick are members of a minority of athletes who refuse to talk with the media. It’s a vexing problem, one that ought to be solved by the league presidents, or Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
The individual clubs claim they can’t make a player talk with reporters. Frankly, it’s a cop out by baseball.
When you pay players in the millions of dollars you have the right to expect them to promote your business. It should be part of every athlete’s contract.
After all, what you’re dealing with is not a reporter’s right to know, but fan interest. The people who buy the tickets want to read what their heroes have to say about themselves and their approach to the game, or their problems.
Whether the Steve Carltons or George Hendricks, or others in the silent minority realize it or not they’re public figures. They owe what they have to the fans who pay their inflated salaries.
True, some reporters constantly are seeking controversy. Some go too far into the personal lives of the athletes. The athlete has the same right of privacy away from the business as we do. But he knows who they are, and can be careful in their presence.
A reporter, however, does have the right of fair criticism under the laws handed down by the United States Supreme Court. It’s a way of life in a democracy.
It’s been three or four years since Carlton of the Philadelphia Phillies granted an interview, although he’ll go on post game radio or television shows controlled by the club. Why does he refuse to speak with reporters covering the team?
This reporter swallowed his pride in the best interest of his job and tried to talk to Carlton in spring training recently. I reasoned that some effort should be made to get some thoughts about the 1980 season from possibly the most consistent pitching winner in major league baseball.
I walked to Carlton’s locker and said, “Steve, my tape recorder is off, my note book is closed, my pen is in my pocket, this is not an interview. Would you give me a minute to see if we can’t break down the barrier between you and the media?”
The response was, “policy is policy.” And he turned his back on me. I was burning inside. But I retained my professionalism. I said, “thanks” and walked away. What good could come from a loud confrontation and some words later regretted.
Before I approached Carlton, I advised Phillies’ Manager Dallas Green of my intentions, and he was delighted that I was willing to try. Obviously, referring to my 35 years of experience, Green said, “it’s worth a try, but if the reaction is negative, back off.”
It wasn’t only negative. I was downright rude. I’d say ignorant, but I know Carlton is no dummy. I respect him as a pitcher. I pity him as a human being. He ignores the suggestions of his manager that he be a leader of the club, and try to handle the media. He says something about having been burned a few times by writers.
So what? Haven’t all of us been burned at one time or another in our lives? Do we dig a hole and pull the dirt over us shut out the world? Carlton wants to be a private man in a public life, which is hogwash.
Carlton can talk. He recently called a news conference to promote an auto agency in which he has an interest.
Breathe easy, Steve. To reverse a worn out phrase, I won’t call you, you call me.
Phils Top Boston
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) – Veteran Dick Ruthven, who underwent elbow surgery last summer, pitched three impressive innings and rookie catcher Keith Moreland drilled three hits Monday in leading the Philadelphia Phillies to a 9-3 exhibition victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Ruthven allowed only three hits, all singles, and one run, scored on a double play grounder, in his first appearance of the season. He was followed on the mound by four pitchers.
Moreland, bidding for a major league berth for the third year in a row, had a long triple and two singles. He also stole a base and scored three runs.
The Phillies nailed down the victory with five runs off rookie Keith MacWhorter.
The Red Sox had 11 hits, all but one singles, but hit into two double plays and left 10 runners on base.
Philadelphia improved its record to 3-1. Boston slipped to 2-3.