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Shooting the Bull: Me and My Dad Talk to Greg Luzinski

Greg Luzinski talks to me and my father about high cholesterol, Pete Rose, the 1980 Phillies clubhouse, Larry Bowa, and more.

The man is good.
The man is good.
Rob Carr

So, a week or two ago, we were made aware that Greg Luzinski -- he of the home runs and the muse of our own blog poet laureate -- would be giving interviews in order to spread awareness with AstraZeneca about high cholesterol, an issue he's dealt with in the past.  There were free screenings at the ballpark, and a full court awareness press, which is fantastic, of course. Sounds like it was a success.

More to the blog's point, both Wet Luzinski and John Stolnis were unavailable for the opportunity, so we missed out on name-attachment and professionalism: as a quick fix, I thought I'd try to supply both by volunteering to interview Bull with my dad, a long time Phillies fan who was taken in by the late-seventies team. You'll definitely spot some of that in the conversation below. Also, keep an eye out for some Kalas lore that may be new news, a reasonable and thought out take on Pete Rose's HoF chances, and a scouting report on Connie Mack Field (!!).

Obviously, this was a ton of fun and a real treat to get to do with my dad. I hope you guys enjoy it!

Trevor: Hi, Greg. My name's Trevor and this is my Dad, Keith.

Keith: Hi, Greg. How are you?

Greg Luzinski: Very good. How are you doing?

Keith: We figured we'd do a father and son interview because I happened to be in town. I'm a writer as well. I was just a year out of college when you guys won the World Series. It's father-son fans, if you will [laughter].

Luzinski: All right, very good.

Keith: Actually, we definitely want to go to the cholesterol question, because I've been on [medication] over the years as well, and changed my diet for that sort of thing. So why don't we start there. Because I know it's something you guys are doing. What can you share with us about your experience with high cholesterol?

Luzinski: Probably the same as a lot of people in this country, a little overweight. I actually had a heart skip and that's when it was really determined that my cholesterol was high. Obviously, I've been in constant contact with the doctors and go every three, four months and get it checked. I'm at the Ballpark today for cholesterol education - National Cholesterol Education Month - and we're having free screenings here at the ballpark. So obviously because I've been through it, we're encouraging people to know their number because we think that's very, very important.

Keith: That's great. Have you had success in bringing your numbers down?

Luzinski: Yeah, I have. At the present time, I'm off of it because I've had a few other problems. The diet change - like you talked about, because you also said you're on that cholesterol medicine - is probably one of the big things as well. It's a little bit of exercise to go along with it. It's important like you said to keep our cholesterol within the limits. It's a bad condition that obviously there's no symptoms for, but it increases heart disease.

Keith [with Tilly, my infant daughter chiming in in the background]: Exactly. It's a rough one. Changing the diet's a hard thing, but it's very effective.

Trevor: I was going to switch the topic if that's okay. We were really curious. We were talking about - before the interview - about the different eras, and about how baseball was in the 70s and how it is today. You were the quintessential power hitter, that was really your game, and power's really down in the league now. There are less and less people hitting 30 home runs a year. Why do you think that is? Do you think that there's just one explanation, or a number of them?

Luzinski: Well, I don't know. They went to smaller ballparks obviously, to me, to increase all offensive numbers. This year a lot of power numbers are down, but that just goes to show you that throughout Major League Baseball there is a shortage of good hitters. You look at the National League, per se, and you look at the leading hitter, 315. That's not normal. Usually, someone that wins the title's up in the high .330s, somewhere close to 340.

Trevor: Yeah, it took me by surprise when I saw how close Revere was in the running this year too, because I knew he was around 315.

Luzinski: There's about four or five guys that are real close. Obviously a very good week, could kinda break away from the pack. So again, if you look at offense number throughout the league, they're down compared to where they used to be.

Keith: Now that we're on the subject of baseball in the 70s: We're curious - we were talking back and forth - I started watching the Phils at Connie Mack Stadium when I was a kid, pretty young. One of--

Luzinski: I know [laughing], I played there.

Keith: Did you really? Wow [laughs]. What was that park like to play in?

Luzinski: I played there for a month right when it closed, and obviously played the new Veteran Stadium before Citizens Bank Ballpark was built. It was a great playing field. You had to really drive the ball to get it to get out to center field and hit it high to go to right field because of the tall wall. But it was a good baseball facility and at that time it was out-dated and obviously went to the multipurpose stadiums, that were built in a lot of major cities to do baseball and football. So it did change, but now Citizen's Bank Park is obviously baseball and Lincoln Financial Field is right across the street.

Trevor: Yeah, the sports complex has really simplified that.

Keith: Of course one of the more colorful players that came out of that era was Dick Allen. You played with him for about a year, yeah?

Luzinski: No, I played with him longer than that. He came back to Philly after going to the White Sox and some other ball clubs. I played with him for three years. I know at the present time, there's a campaign to try to get him into the Hall of Fame.

Trevor: How do you feel about that? Are you part of that campaign?

Luzinski: I think you can be part of the campaign for it. I haven't verbally come out and said much. I don't have a say in the vote. He's a tremendous player, but there's been a lot of tremendous players in the big leagues. Now if his numbers qualify him for that, then I would have no problem with it.

Keith: You transitioned out of the league. When you retired you went on to high school coaching, didn't you?l

Luzinski: Yes, I coached high school for about six, seven years. I did baseball and football. It was a year after I retired. Which is -- when did I retire? -- 84 was my last year. It gave me a little something to do, kept me in the game and I thoroughly enjoyed working with young kids.

Keith: That's pretty cool. That's a neat thing to work with kids at that level. In terms of what the kids got out of it. Everybody talks about sports having a positive impact on kids. From your experience working with the high school kids, what did they get out of the game? Other than the game itself?

Luzinski: Obviously, I think what they got out of it was a chance to play. Some of them played a lot higher level. I think because I was the coach, there was some attention drawn to some of the players. Some of the colleges started coming in. I had three, four guys drafted. But I think it was just the idea of education, trying to do things the big league way, teach them to drive a run in, don't worry about a squeeze bunt, learn how to play the game the right way, but most of all have fun playing it.

Trevor: So two quick questions, who do you think was the most underrated player that you played with over all your years in baseball?

Luzinski: It's hard for me to say. I played with a lot of great players. That's a really, really, really tough question. Most of the guys I played with were obviously very quality players and were good.

Keith: How about the toughest pitcher?

Luzinski: I think the best pitcher was Tom Seaver. At that time, it was a little bit different. We faced each other more than they do now. There were less games. But he's obviously a Hall of Famer. He was the type of guy when he didn't have his good stuff, he still knew how to win with his bad stuff and also he didn't play with a quality offensive ballclub.

Keith: You had a lot of interesting players on the team that won the World Series. Steve Carlton comes to mind, Larry Bowa. It's just name after name after name that was really interesting and fun. Was that a calm clubhouse, or was it an intense clubhouse? What was it like?

Luzinski: Well, it was a good clubhouse. We all got along together. We came up through the system, the nucleus of that ballclub came up through the minor league system together. Obviously Paul Owens made a few deals to get a few people in here to get us over the hump and improve our ballclub, which seems to be kind of a model for modern day GMs today. Build from within and bring in people from the outside to get you over the hump. But it was a great club house. The only tough day I think was "win day." Steve Carlton walked in the door and that's what he called it. He said, "It's win day boys, let's go" [laughter from all].

Trevor: Is Bowa as intense as he seems?

Luzinski: Yes, he's a very intense person. That's the way he lives his life, believe it or not. He's that way off the field: he's as intense on the field and on the coaching benches, as he is just walking the street [laughter].

Keith: It's funny, there were so many personalities on the team. And from our experience from on our side listening to the games Harry Kalas was a wonderful voice of the team.

Luzinski: We came on together. He came from Houston and I was coming up in the minor leagues. And he opened the Vet in, what was it, in 71? He became, obviously, a hall fame announcer for Philly and along with Richie Ashburn, who was a hall of famer on the baseball side. The great partnership that they had was, I think, the best combo of Philly announcers in Philly history, whether it be baseball or football or whatever sport you want to talk about.

Keith: He was, that's very true. He seemed to enjoy it tremendously. Whenever you guys would hit a home run, that whole like, "loooong drive, waaaay back." One time you hit a home run actually. I remember listening to it on the radio, and Kalas goes, "There's Luzinski up to bat, there's the hit, and looong drive- gone!" Because apparently you hit it directly over the fence [laughter]. Like a line drive.

Luzinski: Basically, that's where it came from during batting practice. So Larry Bowa used to say that out on the field and Harry picked up on it and it became this signature call.

Trevor: Oh, that's pretty funny. [chuckles] So we asked you about the Dick Allen Hall of Fame question. I want to ask you one that's a little more controversial. It's another guy you played with. What do you think about Pete Rose? Do you think Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame? Any opinion?

Luzinski: I think it's pretty simple for me. Statistically Pete Rose is a Hall of fame player. I think for the rules that everybody saw coming in the clubhouse for years and years, written in three different languages: it was pretty clear about the gambling rule. But, obviously, it affected him. He had a chance, at different times, to come out and speak publicly on it, and he didn't. It's a shame, but obviously he hasn't been put into the Hall.

Trevor: Makes sense.

Keith: Being in the position you're in, being a baseball player and in the public eye the way you were. Of course, there's a lot of pressure to that, I imagine. You rose to a wonderful height, in terms of what did and what you accomplished in the game. But I do remember, there was a really rough moment, an error, in 1977, in Game Three of the NLCS. As a player, you got way past that. How did you get past that and excel the way you did?

Luzinski: As far as the game, I don't make the managerial moves. Danny [Ozark] did, and I was put back out there in a situation where the ball really never hit the wall. It went straight up in the air. But the umpire was out of position position or whatever, and didn't call it there. But I think the biggest thing about that game was throwing the ball in like that. The ball came in to second base, hit the seam, and [Ted] Sizemore missed it, which allowed the guy to go to third. But I think we're still out of the inning if the ball doesn't hit the seam and he gets it. But that's all part of the game. It's part of history and, obviously being able to come back in 1980 and win it all and bring a championship to the city that was definitely a redeemer.

Trevor: Yes absolutely.

Keith: Big time.

Trevor: So last question. Tell us something, just anything that you think the average fan of baseball in the 70s or now wouldn't know about the game, about the players, about the Phillies, just anything that from your position as a player you think we fans are not in a position to see.

Luzinski: I think that, as far players go, it's that you have to do it for 162 games and you have to be ready to step up there for 9 innings every day. And the camaraderie in the clubhouse is a great experience that the fans aren't able to experience because they're not there. But that's all part of the nine innings, part of the game is how you get along and how you perform on the field.

Keith: That's great. You know, I started really watching baseball in college because of buddies of mine that got me into it. Your team was the team that I got drawn in with. I was watching, as a kid, Connie Mack and that sort of thing, but I didn't really get into it until I was in College. I want to thank you for the excitement, for the fun that you provided over all those years.

Luzinski: All right, thank you. Let's don't forget it's cholesterol night here at the ball park.

Trevor: Absolutely.

Luzinski: We do have free screenings for people. Everybody should know their number because it is a disease that we need to keep control of to keep our heart functioning the proper way.

Trevor: We'll definitely spread the word. Continued success.

Luzinski: You guys keep your diet going.

Trevor: We will. We'll do it [chuckles]. Thank you.

Keith: Thanks Greg, very much.

Luzinski: Thank you.