SAN DIEGO — So my sports editor told me “The Padres got a new pitcher and he reported today, go get an interview with LaMarr.”
LaMarr Hoyt, that is.
The 1983 AL Cy Young Award-winner. Traded from the Chicago White Sox. I knew who he was.
He was my favorite player of all time.
Not bad for my first assignment on the beat in 1985. I was barely out of my teens and I had just moved to San Diego from New York City. So far, this wasn’t bad at all.
I sped down the I-15 like a blur to interview the guy I had always remembered as the overweight Chicago White Sox pitcher, with a “Duck Dynasty”-style beard and an arm like a rocket.
I was looking forward to this.
What would I ask the Windy City ace whose 24-10 record and 3.66 ERA earned him the 1983 AL Cy Young Award? Okay, 1984 wasn’t so great for him, but I didn’t care.
Even at my young age, I had interviewed plenty of baseball players, football players, celebrities and politicians, but this was different. I couldn’t gush. I would keep my dignity.
I ran down the stairs and into the bowels of San Diego Stadium, through the cement halls and into a virtually empty locker room.
It was far from the first time I had been in a team locker room. But it was one of the few times I went into a locker room that had no one in it.
Looking for LaMarr, I was expecting to see a chunky guy, the bearded southern powerhouse, but he was nowhere in sight.
What would I tell my editor? What story could I write instead? Maybe I’d do a story on Goose Gossage and how he was faring in San Diego since leaving the Yankees, or maybe get the colorful Eric Show for a story.
Dejected and disappointed, I turned to leave, when a lanky player, good-looking, lean, and rather serious, came up to me.
“May I help you with something, Ma’am,” he asked.
“Oh,” I said, head hanging low. “I was looking for LaMarr Hoyt, you don’t know where he is, do you?”
Then there was a long pause, then the drawl.
“Why are you looking for him?”
I looked up. There was a devilish smile behind that furrowed brow.
“Holy Moley! You must have lost 50 pounds!” I blurted out. “What the heck happened?”
And then we sat down and he told me. The whole story. Most of it I couldn’t write.
We also talked about how he missed Chicago. I missed New York City. We both missed the pizza.
The next day, while I was deep in thought-provoking conversation with Steve Garvey, I heard someone call out, “Hey, New York.” It was LaMarr.
“I’d like to see your story,” he said. “You didn’t mess me up, did you?”
“Just so long as she spells your name right,” Garvey said with a wide All-American smile.
I gave LaMarr my copy of the paper. He looked it over thoughtfully, nodding.
“Okay…okay,” he said. He handed the paper back to me.
“White Sox is spelled with an ‘X,’ but we’ll work on it.”