- Ed Botti
SSTN Interviews Former Yankee Ron Blomberg and a Review of “The Captain and Me.”
by Ed Botti
Reprinted from: June 3, 2021
Recently I had the privilege of “interviewing” ex-Yankee Ron Blomberg, and discussing his new memoir “The Captain and Me”. Upon being asked to do the interview, I was sent a copy of the book and immediately read it, and began preparing. I was contacted by one of his representatives at Triumph Books and was told I would have about a half hour or so with Ron.
Once Ron and I began speaking it immediately went from an interview to a very friendly and honest discussion. Ron and I spoke for over 2 hours on various topics such as his career with the Yankees, his strong and personal relationship and bond with the Captain of those great 1970s teams, Thurman Munson, and his insight into what it was like to be a Yankee in the early 1970s and to live through the birth of Free Agency.
Before we get into the “interview” questions, I thought it would be time well spent to bring some of our younger readers up to date on who exactly Ron Blomberg is, and what exactly it was that made him so famous.
Ron Blomberg or “Bloomie” as his teammates would call him was the Number 1 selection in the 1967 MLB amateur draft by the New York Yankees. He was a powerful and athletic left handed hitter who could play outfield or first base.
As it turns out, Ron also had other offers.
During his high school years at Druid Hills High School outside of Atlanta, Georgia Ron received over 125 scholarship offers to play NCAA basketball, including one from UCLA and Coach John Wooden. He also received over 100 scholarship offers to play Football, including one from Alabama and Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
According to Ron, even though his parents wanted him to become a Lawyer or Doctor, as soon as he was selected Number 1 by the Yankees, it was a no-brainer decision. He grew up in Georgia, but was always a Yankee fan. He told me if it wasn’t the Yankees, he would have went to college, most likely Alabama, to play football.
Ron spent only two seasons in the minors before being called up to the Yankees in 1969 for a brief end of the season stint going 3-for-6. One of his teammates on that 1969 Yankee team was rookie catcher Thurman Munson. Ron and Thurman immediately hit it off and became very close friends.
In 1970 because of injuries and an overabundance of outfielders and first basemen on the Yankees, he found himself back in the minors. Thurman went on to become the American League Rookie of the Year.
In 1971, he was a Yankee, and this time he wasn’t going back. The dream was finally a reality. Ron ended up hitting .322 in his rookie season.
Ron, Thurman, Bobby Murcer, Fritz Peterson, Mel Stottlemyre, Roy White, Horace Clarke, Gene Michael and Stan Bahnsen, amongst others, were now set to become the future of the team, as Mantle, Ford, Tresh, Downing and Pepitone, had either retired or moved on.
After winning 93 games in 1970, they fell back to 82 wins in 1971. But it seemed that the future of the team was in place, and Ron was a huge part of it.
In 1973, a change was made to the game that would impact the game and Ron in a way that no one predicted. The Designated Hitter was added to the American League.
On April 5, 1973 at Fenway Park against Luis Tiant, Ron took his at bat as the DH. He walked, and drove in a run. He became the first player in Major League history to have an at bat as the designated hitter.
In the third inning, Ron became the first DH to record a hit. He ended that day going 1-for-3 with a 1 RBI in a 15-5 loss to the Red Sox. But history was made.
At that time he and his teammates viewed the DH as a gimmick.
When the game ended, MLB took his new bat (which he was not very happy about) and Ron would forever have a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Due to injuries, especially a terrible knee injury, Ron’s regular playing time would end after the 1975 season. In 1976 and 1977 Ron would continue rehabbing and being a part of the team, but was too injured to play.
When Ron left the Yankees as a free agent in 1978, his cumulative Yankee stats ended as a lifetime .302 hitter in his 7 seasons in the Bronx.
The two main impressions I took away from my time with him was the genuinely nice, honest and thoughtful person that he is, and the level of respect and admiration he and his Yankee teammates had for their Captain, Thurman Munson.
At one point during our discussion he told me that all of them, beginning in his very first regular season of 1971 recognized Thurman Munson as their leader. They played hard and serious for Thurman. Not a single player ever wanted to disappoint Thurman, and this was five years before George Steinbrenner named him Captain. He was Captain the very first time he stepped on the field. Everyone could sense his leadership and toughness immediately.
His relationship with Thurman would continue until Thurman’s tragic death on August 2, 1979. A day that any of us that were around still vividly remember. For Ron and his ex-teammates, it was devastating.
Ron was twice voted “Most Popular Person in New York” during his playing days with the Yankees. He earned a place in Cooperstown, thanks to becoming the first designated hitter to make a plate appearance in an official MLB game (he walked with the bases loaded), and he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
He is also the author of Designated Hebrew: The Ron Blomberg Story.
The Captain & Me is available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, ronblombergyankees.com, or TriumphBooks.com.
Over the years many have re-counted the Bronx Zoo period of the Yankees. But this book actually brings us back a little further, and goes into great detail the years leading to that period – the building blocks and the relationships involved.
These are the years that I find the most thought provoking and interesting because those were the teams that led me to be a fan of the Yankees, my first Yankee teams.
In 1971 as a little leaguer I had two Baseball cards on my bedroom mirror. #12 and #15 (Blomberg & Munson). They remained there until I moved out of my parents’ house for good at 20.
Since retirement from the game, Ron has worked with numerous charitable organizations, most recently the Israel Cancer Research Fund, where he serves as honorary chairman and spokesperson.
As I mentioned, I spent over two hours with Ron. Here are many of the questions we went through, and his answers.
Ron, what was it like at 18 years old to be sought after by at least 3 of the most famous and prestigious sports programs in the history of US sports?
Well, first thing I appreciate you having me on, and it’s just wonderful for me to be able to talk about my brother, Thurman Munson.
John Wooden recruited me when I was in the 11th grade. He came out from Westwood, where UCLA is, that was the time they had Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Back then you could play a lot of sports, not just a specialty sport, like nowadays where kids play just one sport. I had an opportunity to play all 3 sports. To be honest with you football was number 1. We had the Georgia Bulldogs, Alabama, Miami, all the teams from the south. Basketball has also very big. But, Baseball was really not big. It became big when Atlanta got the Milwaukee Braves. My baseball team in high school played about 12 or so games, and many of my teammates had football scholarships. I was very lucky to be high on the Yankee scouting list when I was in 10th or 11th grade. Bobby Richardson, ex World Series MVP actually scouted me. The only team I would sign with was the New York Yankees. I knew I was going to be the #1 draft pick in the middle of the season. I had already signed a letter of intent with UCLA for Basketball and Alabama for football. It was a no brainer for me. Being Jewish in the Deep South, I was a minority. When I got drafted, I told my parents I wanted to be a Major Leaguer, so I did what I wanted to do. I signed with the Yankees.
Where did your great athletic ability come from? Was your father or grandfather a great athlete?
I have no idea. The guy up above. I started playing sports and when I was 12 I started getting recognition and I could dunk a basketball. Everything just came easy to me. I have no idea why. I had to work at it, I played every single day.
April 6, 1973, the first game of the DH, you mentioned that you were surrounded by the media following the game in the tiny Fenway visitors’ locker room, and you and your teammates were surprised by that. When did the magnitude of this eventually set in?
Probably about 20 years later. I tell people I am the one that screwed up baseball. 50% love it and 50% hate it. I had a really good 1972 season, and I was going to be the opening day first baseman, then I pulled a hamstring four days before we were supposed to break camp. There were two things I could have done – go on the disabled list, was the first, but the first thing I thought of was Wally Pipp. Back then we had 1 year contracts. If you don’t produce, you’re gone. Not like today where you sign 4 or 5 year deals, have one good season, and they still have to pay you. Us, we made no money. I was hitting .400 in 1973 up until August and they gave me a $500 raise. The next year I hit .311 and they took the $500 back. So to be honest, with the DH, we never even thought about it. It was a glorified pinch hitter. But, I convinced them I could at least hit, so I was given the chance to DH.
Did you think at the time the DH would last?
No, we thought it was a gimmick. Now it’s one of the highest paying positions in baseball. I love the DH. It’s one of the only rule changes in the last X amount of years that I like. It’s hard to believe that after 48 years they still don’t have a universal DH.
In your book, you speak quite a bit about your faith, and how New York enabled you to meet many other Jewish people which lead you to be very active in the community. As I read that one name kept coming to my mind; a man I always admired and a man that was also an outstanding athlete like yourself, and to this day is still considered one of the greatest athletes to come out of New York City, Marty Glickman. Did you ever get to meet him, and if so what was that like for you?
Oh Yes, I did. He was announcing the Giants games. I was very lucky. But when I went to NY, I met many wonderful people of all backgrounds, and they took such great care of me because they knew I always gave 100%. I lived a fantasy. I got to play at the old Yankee stadium. I got to play with Mickey Mantle. I put the pinstripes on!
I think the fans are the heroes of this game. These guys now are making so much money, they have taken the joy out of the fans. The money is crazy.
The Yankees signed a 16 year old 2 years ago for $5 million; Jasson Dominguez what do you know about him.
He’s good. But he’s a young kid. They publicized me the same way, and then unfortunately I started to get injured.
Let’s go a back a couple of years. You played for Syracuse Manager Frank Verdi in the international league, who had a different agenda at the time than one would expect. What was it like for you, knowing full well that Verdi was sacrificing your development in favor of personal and selfish reasons?
Managers and coaches were also on one year contracts. So they had to perform as well. When I went to Syracuse, I was almost 20, and was by far the youngest on that team. They would rather play the older guys because that league was an older league.
Was the international league a tough league?
Oh yeah, it was a really good league. The older guys had to win. So they sacrificed me in my development and they only wanted me to play against right handed pitchers. I would hit .260-.270 against lefties in the big leagues. I confronted him and he told me he had to play this guy or that guy. What was I going to do? Say play me or trade me? We all had 1 year contracts. It was a lot of pressure on him to win. Then I go to the big leagues and they didn’t want to play me against lefties because I didn’t have the experience against them. Even Ralph Houk, we all had one year contracts, so the pressure was always on, even when I was hitting .360, they sat me against lefties.
Ron Blomberg #12 & Thurman Munson
Ft Lauderdale, 1969 spring training. Was this your first time meeting Thurman Munson?
Yes, I was the First pick in 1967 and he was first round in 1968. We just hit it off and became very good friends. We would both get called up later that year.
What was Thurman like when you eventually became teammates?
He wasn’t captain yet, but he was the captain. He gained the respect of everybody. He was so tough. As soon as he would get to the ball park he was mean, all business. He didn’t like the media, especially the younger guys that would ask stupid questions. When we left the ball park, he was Jekyll and Hyde. He was a different person. He was a wonderful guy. He loved kids. He would always have time for under privileged kids. That’s why I wanted to write the book, he was just a wonderful person. We were living together in Paramus at the Holiday Inn. Diana, his wife would come, and we just did everything together.
You clearly described Thurman’s abilities on the field, but what was it about Thurman that made him standout, in terms of his leadership abilities?
He just had it. He had the “it” factor. I have seen so many great athletes that had the “it” factor that didn’t want to work to produce. He didn’t have the strongest arm, but he worked at it, and had the quickest release I have ever seen in Baseball. He was one of the best clutch hitters I have ever seen. When he first came up he was trying to pull everything, and then he just got so smart, his baseball IQ was incredible. When he had that uniform on and was out on the field, no one tried harder. He gave everything he had, every single day. He was like a General Patton. That’s the type of guy he was. He led by example. Always had the dirtiest uniform. Never, ever took a single inning, heck he didn’t take a single pitch off. It was always as hard as he could possibly play. We all saw that, and followed his lead.
When you first came up, it was obvious that you, Thurman, Bobby Murcer, Roy White and others were going to be the group to lead the Yankees into the next decade. How did the veterans on that team treat you and Thurman?
They treated us great because we always tried our hardest, and never went out of our way to make the veterans look bad. When we came up, the team wasn’t very good, 3,000 people would come to the games. Then I came up and all of sudden thousands of Jews would start coming because I was doing well. Thurman got a lot of publicity and even more started coming. We had a nucleus being built, we were a team. We all pulled for each other. It’s not like basketball where a LeBron James tries to do everything. Baseball is different. You need everybody.
If it wasn’t that way Mike Trout would be in the World Series every year.
Oh, he’s the best I’ve seen in a long time. He can do it all. He never misses a cut off. He plays very hard.
On August 8, 1969 Thurman was called up to the Yankees. He went 2 for 3 and caught a complete game shut out by Al Downing. On that very same night you hit two 2 run home runs for the Manchester Yankees. The future for the Yankees was taking shape, as a young man, did you sense that impending collision course with stardom?
No, I was there to play baseball. Back then you just wanted to play. If your ability takes you to the big leagues, they wanted you to stay. They didn’t shuffle you off to the minors. Only 3% of the players make it. We never talked about it. We just played hard.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the game?
I am totally against how they play now. Abner Doubleday started the game of baseball, it’s wonderful. What they do with athletes now, it’s the hardest thing in the world. Back and forth to the minors, alternative sites, it’s not easy to do. I am afraid they might do that with Clint. If they do that to Frazier, you might lose a ball player. I hope they don’t because he’s a heck of a good hitter. Look at Sanchez, all of a sudden he tries to only hit home runs. He’s totally changed his hitting approach. Too many things in his mind. They tell him how to catch. They tell him how to hit. If you just play baseball, the way that got you there, you’ll be fine. When we went into a slump, we had Elston Howard. He would just say “see the ball, hit the ball”. As simple as that. They have Sanchez worried about everything, instead of just letting him play baseball. I think his string is pretty well strung, and they might try to trade him. It would best for him because if he gets out of this big market I think you’re going to see a different ball player. He has great talent.
I believe, the Yankees play an all or nothing type of game. Either hit a home run, strike out or take your walk. Do you see it that way?
Oh yeah, this game has become a strike out home run game. That’s all it is now. You look at a game now and there’s 25 or more strike outs. Judge is a totally different hitter now. He is not the hitter he was when he broke in. Why? They are pitching him differently and they all want to hit home runs. Just like Stanton, he was a lot like a guy I played with Dave Kingman. You hit a home run, you run around the bases, and then you have 7 straight strike outs, and then he hits another home run. Is that helping your club? No. Is Judge a number 2 hitter? No he is not because that is a totally different place in the lineup, but it’s all about the home run now.
Today’s players can’t bunt or hit and run, they can’t even run into the catcher. All they want to do is hit home runs. There’s no stealing. That’s not the way Abner Doubleday started this, and what these guys are doing, it’s terrible. And putting the runner on second base is ridiculous. That’s softball or a beer league. They think they are making this game better, but they are making this game worse.
You bring up the lineup, so let’s talk about that. It blows my mind that they continued to hit Aaron Hicks 3rd.
Do you know why? Because they gave him $70 million dollars. They owe Stanton and Hicks almost 300 million, you have to play them. Look at Hick’s body now, He’s so much bigger. His swing is a lot slower now. He’ll hit home runs, but he swings and misses too much. They need to hit the ball to all fields. Now they hit a home run and they watch to see how far it goes, instead of running.
Ron, did you guys stand there to see how far it went?
No, we didn’t want to get decked. Today, they can’t come inside. If they do, they get thrown out of the game.
You averaged only 47 strike out a season, how did you make such great contact all the time?
My job was to get on base. I could and did hit some home runs, but I needed to get on base, so that is what I did. The name of the game is get more runs than the other team. Not more home runs. That is how you win. Look at those 90’s teams. It’s more of entertainment now. With us it was a game.
I always say, the goal of the game is to touch home plate, but the excitement takes places on the field before you touch home plate.
I totally agree. Now it’s become boring. They are changing the game.
You wrote about an incident in spring training where you, Rich McKinney and Jerry Kenney were joking around on the bench and Thurman leaned in on you guys and actually caused the dugout to be flooded by knocking the water cooler of the wall and breaking the plumbing.
Oh Yeah, you didn’t play around like that during a game with Thurman around. But you just knew, he was doing it for you to be a better player, and for the team to be a winner.
If you and Thurman were playing in today’s game, how do you think he would have handled teammates using social media constantly to connect with fans, even after a tough loss?
Well I can tell you right now, Thurman would not play in a game like this. Like Billy Martin would not manage today. That is why Joe Girardi left New York, He did not want to be told what lineup to put in every single night.
Ron, I am glad you brought that up, because I have been saying and writing that for years now and some disagree with me. Is that really what happened?
I know it is. It’s all analytics now. It’s not great baseball minds, its all stats and numbers. But it’s a different at bat every time you get up to hit. If you have a good outfielder, you don’t have to be told where to play. Now we see fielders take little pieces of paper out of their pockets telling them where to play. Your center fielder is the captain of the outfield, he tells everyone where to play. Move over a step or two. Or the bench coach. He would get told by the manager to have us move over a foot or two. Now they pull notes out of their pocket. That’s not baseball. Analytics has taken a lot out of this game.
In your book you wrote “analytics would have helped us some, but Thurman and I were both natural hitters—and if you’re a natural hitter, thinking can actually really mess you up. When a baseball is coming at you 100 MPH, you can’t take your eye off the ball even for a millisecond, or you’re never going to hit it. And if you start really thinking about it, you’re done.
Thurman was always known as a very smart player and you spoke to in your book. He memorized opposing hitter’s tendencies and weaknesses. Do you think he would have been amenable to all of the analytics and statistical data that today’s players rely so heavily upon?
Well, the Thurman that I knew wouldn’t have even listened to them. I am being honest. Just like Billy, he wouldn’t have listened to them. I couldn’t do it. You play baseball. You know how to throw to the cutoff guys, you know when to steal, and you know when to go from first to third. These guys don’t know how to run from first to third. They are waiting for the guy behind them to hit a home run. We didn’t play that way. We used our heads and our abilities.
How do you feel about the “shift”? Would you have changed your approach?
Absolutely, I would have bunted down the third base line every time.
Ron, these guys today won’t do that. Why not?
I scouted Mark Teixeira when he was at Georgia Tech. He was a great hitter, I asked him one time when he was with the Yankees, why are you trying to pull everything? And he told me “because they are paying me to do so. That’s what they want me to do”. Buy the fans, they are getting bored with that. Players strike out 4 times, and today, they don’t even care about it. They just want the home runs. It’s not baseball. They have taken the whole game away with this analytics.
Thinking back to the starting pitchers you played with and Thurman led, do you think a pitch limit would have been as widely accepted amongst them as it is with current pitchers?
(Laughs) Ed, you know the answer to that. Absolutely not. Thurman would have told Ralph, or Billy, no way, I’m pitching, get out of here. The only guy they don’t do that to is Gerrit Cole. They ask him. He’s one of our guys. Just like deGrom. Give me the ball, I want to pitch. I don’t care if I have to throw 130 pitches. No problem. There’s maybe 10 guys in the league like that today.
You didn’t see the injuries like you do today. Like the oblique. I never knew what it was until 3 or 4 years ago. How do you hurt your side? You swing and swing every day. How does that happen? I’ll tell you the reason why, these guys are so jacked. So muscular. They don’t have any fat between their ribs. It’s very hard to heal muscle on muscle. David Cone once said to me, “Hey Ron, you ever see a fat guy pull a muscle”? I said no. Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle they may pull a hamstring or something like that, but an oblique? No way. These guys pull obliques and there out for 2 months. I swung and swung and swung. Never once felt anything in an oblique, none of us did.
What type of off season conditioning did you do?
We didn’t do anything. I used to do some construction. I used to run stadiums. I used to play basketball. I never threw until I got down to spring training. Now they have a routine, they train 12 months a year. When they come down to spring training, they shouldn’t be wearing a baseball uniform, they should be wearing a swim suit. A lot of these guys work out as soon as they get to the ballpark, and they work out again after the game.
You and Thurman both had a very strong relationship with Elston Howard during your playing career. At that point did either of you discuss his chances of becoming Yankee manager?
Oh Absolutely. He should have been. He was one of my best friends even after I was retired. But Ellie was so smart. People respected him. He knew baseball. He knew hitting. He knew how to catch, people liked to listen to Ellie. Chris Chambliss also should have been a manager. A gentle giant respected by everybody, and let me tell you, he knew baseball. But again, this analytics stuff is ruining it for good managers. I see them every game in the press level. They have their computers. Numbers are good, but you got to play baseball.
Ron you see this first hand. Sending numbers down to Boone and all that?
Yes, they send them down before the game. Numbers and stats. But look, if you’re a smart pitcher you already know what pitch a certain hitter can handle, so they would just adjust. That’s why Thurman was so good. He knew exactly how to pitch to each hitter. The pitchers loved to pitch to him. I always tell people, if you see a catcher putting down multiple signs and getting shaken off by the pitcher, he isn’t calling a good game. With Thurman, you might have had 1 or 2 pitches the entire game shaken off, if that. They should have kept Romine, he called a great game. People don’t realize, a lot of hitters stand in different parts of the batter’s box from at bat to at bat. A good catcher, like Thurman would memorize where they stood the last at bat, and use that to get him out.
The other night, Fernando Tatis Jr. was caught sneaking a peak at the catcher and hit the next pitch 400 feet over the right center field wall. How do you think Thurman would have responded?
It wouldn’t have happened to Thurman. He knew how to hide the signs and shift his positioning and all of that. Even if you know what’s coming, you still have to hit it.
Would you have liked to have known what pitch was coming?
No way. I was never a guess hitter. I was the type of player, you see the ball you hit the ball. I looked for a pitch, and was ready. Same with Thurman. We played situational baseball. Used the whole field. We hit it where it needed to be hit.
You and Thurman had a great relationship with music mogul Nat Tarnopol, who tried to buy the Yankees before George Steinbrenner. How much different would things have turned out.
For one he would have hired Dick Williams as his manager. Dick Williams tried to trade for me in Oakland, but I didn’t want to go, and I was off limits by the Yankees. But he would also have made Elston Howard the next manager and Williams would have become the General Manager.
The Thurman & Fisk Rivalry, you had a front row seat for it.
Peter Gammons told a story that in September of 1971. Fisk, an enthusiastic late-season call-up had a routine of racing hitters down the first baseline to back up the play at first base. On one particular play, Munson grounded to first baseman Carl Yastrzemski who attempted a 3-6-3 double play. Fisk came close to beating Munson to the bag. Thurman prided himself on his hustle and appeared to be annoyed at this rookie chasing him down the line.
Do you remember that play? If so, how did Thurman actually feel?
Honestly no, But I know him and Thurman did not get along. He never liked to let his guard down around Fisk. They would go at it in the media a lot. Lots of fights, etc… That was a rivalry. Now, these guys shake hands before games and plan dinner together.
I am going to read you a quote by Fisk.
“People always said Boston-New York was Fisk vs. Munson and there was a personal rivalry. If we were, as people said, the worst of the best enemies, it was because we had the highest amount of respect for one another. We both thought for a while that we were the two best catchers in the league, and we tried to prove to one another that each of us was better than the other. I talked to him more than anyone else when we played them. We’d talk about catching, about how we hurt. I’ll really miss him.”
Since you had a front row seat to this rivalry, and were brothers with Thurman, how do you think he would react to hearing that?
He might have been shocked a little bit. I know they did not talk too much. They didn’t like each other. It was total competition. Like Forman and Ali. Thurman was the best leader in the game. Period. Toughest guy on the Feld, sweetheart off the field. That is why I am doing everything I can to get Thurman in the Hall of Fame.
Photo: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Following the 1973 season, much would change. Ralph Houk would resign, you had to play your home games at Shea Stadium for two years, and now you had Billy Martin as your manager. What was it like playing for Billy Martin?
Billy was tough. But he wasn’t tough. Billy would always have his lineup card posted the night before. So you knew you were going to play. A lot of managers didn’t do that. We appreciated that. You could always go up to him and talk to him. His door was always open. If he didn’t like you, it was tough. If you didn’t play hard, he would hold it against you. That’s what happened to Reggie out in Boston. But you know what, that made us better. Billy was never afraid to say what he had to say. Billy had his rules. Billy liked to stay out late at night. But that was how the older ballplayers were. He liked to unwind. Sometimes it was good, and sometimes it was bad. But, he knew how to play baseball. He knew when to run, he knew where to play his players. I liked him. I always got along great with him. He was a very good guy, so knowledgeable. He knew how to win, and that was how he was when he played.
Do you think teams take on the personality of their manager?
No, because I don’t think managers do that much anymore. In my time, no because we had Thurman. If Thurman had something to say, everyone listed, He was the leader.
In 2007 you managed the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox in the inaugural season of the Israel Baseball League and led them to a league-leading 29–12 (.707) regular season record, as well as to the IBL Championship. Tell us what that meant for you to manage in Israel?
It was different. But it was on my bucket list to go to Israel. I loved it. It was very meaningful to me.
The date I need to bring up, and wish I didn’t have to bring up, is August 2, 1979. It must have been devastating for you. When you were going through the mourning process back then, did you have a different set of recollections and emotions than you do now? If so, how?
No. I think when you lose somebody that close, like a parent, it’s the same thing. In Thurman I lost a brother. It was very difficult. Even to this day, when I wrote the book, it brought my feelings back about how I felt about him. It was the toughest day of my career. To this day, I hope I see him up above and he’ll be my Captain again.
When I was reading Diana Munson’s forward in the book she wrote; “Neither of them were ever ashamed to be themselves; they definitely had that in common. But I think part of Thurman wished he could have been a little more like Ron.”
When you read that for the first time, how did that make you feel? And do you also share a similar feeling for Thurman’s demeanor?
He was very introverted, I am very extroverted. That’s why writers would come to me. I was always good for giving quotes. We got along so well because we were very different. But, we loved the same things. We loved baseball. We loved music. We loved the Yankees. We loved the fans. He would tell me I am not like you, I can’t go out and talk to tons of people. But he always had time for the kids. He loved them. He would stop everything to speak with kids when we were out.
How proud of Thurman were you when you saw him play in the World Series, the goal the two of you set years earlier?
I knew he would perform in the playoffs. He always did so when he had to. And if he failed he would work even harder. No one worked harder. He was all about winning.
In our series, we have some standard quick questions. You ready?
In looking at the history of the Yankees, or baseball in general, what person or event would you like to see a book written about?
I got to think about that. You caught me off guard. I would say 1961 and Roger Maris.
In the book and the movie The Natural, the main character wants nothing more than to walk down the street and have people say, “There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was.” Who was the best baseball player you ever saw?
I am going to give you a different answer then most. The guy I loved to watch play was Rod Carew. The smoothest hitter. He could hit anything anywhere. Let’s see them put the shift on him!
Our final question is really just a collection of short answers…
I think I know the answer to this, but tell our audience, what was your favorite baseball team growing up?
Yankees, by far.
Who was your favorite player?
What is your most prized collectible?
My 1977 World Series ring. I didn’t play, I was hurt. But I was on the team.
Who is your favorite musical group or artist?
The Temptations, Four Tops, Smokey Robinson. All that, Otis Redding. I Love it!
What is your favorite food?
Pastrami, corn beef, steak and potatoes, Dr. Browns.
Who was the toughest pitcher you ever hit against?
None of them. I was the toughest hitter they ever faced. That was my mindset. But Bert Blyleven was tough.
When my discussion with Ron ended, I felt that not only had I spoken to an ex-Yankee, the actual person whose baseball card was on my bedroom mirror many years ago, but that I had been given an honest up close and personal look into the lives of the Yankee players in the early 1970s.
Sometimes, they say when you meet someone that you admired from a far, it ends up in a rude awakening. You realize that they are nothing like you thought, and it actually ruins your imagined perception of them. I can tell you that was not the case with Ron Blomberg.
Again folks, if you haven’t already done so, go out and pick up a copy of The Captain and Me by Ron Blomberg with Dan Epstein. It’s available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, ronblombergyankees.com or TriumphBooks.com.
It’s a great look into the lives of Thurman Munson and Ron Blomberg and what it was like to be young and a Yankee.