Years ago, while he was a pitching coach in the Midwest League, Ross Grimsley was kind enough to take a minute to sign his 1981 Topps card for me.
The former big leaguer said something along the lines of “I don’t see too many of those” but for me, I’m seeing it every day. Truth is, the thing looms over me while I write most of the stuff here for The Hall of Very Good™. Grimsley’s autograph is by far not the most valuable piece in my collection, but for some reason, it has easily become my most prized. So much so, that the logo here (designed by my good friend Foodstamp Davis) at this site is a dedication to him.
In May 2011, I set aside a week here at The Hall site to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Grimsley’s Major League debut. I had always hoped to conclude that weeklong celebration with an interview with “Scuz” himself, but, for some reason (and an entirely different story), it never panned out. Now, nearly two years removed from that experience, Jon Laaser, the Director of Broadcasting for the Richmond Flying Squirrels got me hooked up with Grimsley who, I found out, is actually a mutual fan.
The questions are yours, the answers his and the honor…all mine.
HOVG: Right out of the gate, you had some success early on with the Cincinnati Reds. In the 1972 World Series, you were victorious in back-to-back games to force a Game Seven. David Jordan from Instream Sports wants to know what that’s like, at age 22, to be on such a grand stage?
ROSS: It was a great thrill for me and especially my parents, relatives and friends. The playoffs were a bit more exciting for me, because we had to win that to get to the World Series. I was young, had just got married before spring training and my wife was expecting our son. It actually took me several years to realize I pitched in the World Series. I think it was a bigger thrill for my father and mother. My dad pitched 16 years in minor leagues and about two months in the Majors with the Chicago White Sox.
HOVG: During that 1972 World Series, you were across the diamond from Oakland’s famed “Mustache Gang”. Knowing the look you adopted once you left Cincy…Kevin Mann wonders how you felt playing under the ultra-conservative Sparky Anderson and general manager Bob Howsam? Did you feel constricted?
ROSS: When we played the 1972 Series, it was said to be the conservatives against the long hairs. That was pretty funny at the time. The Reds had several rules, which they wanted followed. Some I could see at the time and others were hard to understand. I had no problem following the rules and did. At no time did I have long hair or facial hair. I did not like some of the rules, but I did what they asked during the season.
HOVG: And speaking of your former skipper…Stevo Sama is dying to know what the story behind the “witch” Sparky asked you to stop working with is.
ROSS: Just like several other stories about me, this one has been embellished as well. I received a rock wrapped in wire from a fan and went on to win three games in a row. I believe a reporter started that story, saying it was from a witch and it was a charm. I lost the rock and someone said to get another one from the witch. Well, one thing led to another, the reporter ran with the story. Sparky, got wind of it, called me in the office and read me the riot act. All over a rock I got in the mail.
HOVG: After three successful seasons in Cincinnati, you were traded to the Baltimore Orioles. For four seasons, you played for Earl Weaver. Dave Sawtelle is curious…what was your favorite memory of the late Hall of Fame skipper?
ROSS: Earl was my favorite manager to play for. He was very fair with his players. We all had run-ins with him from time to time, but it was forgotten the next day. The crusty old guy mellowed with age. He would always thank the players that played for him for getting him in the Hall of Fame. When I first arrived in Baltimore in 1974, I struggled badly in Spring Training. I gave up 12 runs in an inning and a third against the New York Yankees. I had an 18 ERA that spring. Earl was very patient and showed confidence in me. I went on to have one of my better years, thanks to his confidence. I always remembered that. He always said if the team loses, it was not the player’s fault, but his for choosing the players. RIP “Weave”.
HOVG: While with Baltimore, you adopted what became your signature look. David Jordan, again, wants to know how that come about? Product of the environment…sign of the times?!?
ROSS: My parents were Air Force parents and served in England during WWII. My dad believed in a clean-cut look. When I was drafted and signed by the Reds, the rules continued, especially the one about hair. Long hair was a sign of the time. When I went to the Orioles, there were less rules and none about hair or facial hair. I went a little crazy with both. Something my parents did not like. If I could do it over, I think I wouldn’t have had that much hair.
HOVG: Good friend of The Hall, Gar Ryness (aka “Batting Stance Guy”) wants to know if you wish that look was more popular today?
ROSS: I think we went a little too far back then with the hair. We were young. I look at it now and get somewhat embarrassed. You can go too far with it and some of us did.
HOVG: After a stint in the American League, it was back to the DH-less National League. Michael Ivey wants to know if you enjoyed hitting? If so, what was your favorite moment at the plate?
ROSS: I loved to hit or attempt to hit. I got a hit off Bob Gibson and also James Rodney Richards. Both hits were ground balls to center on Astro turf. I had a lifetime batting average of .118. No home runs, but I did hit fly ball to warning track off Tom Seaver. A hit I remember most was a double in a 1972 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. I pitched a two-hitter and drove in two runs with two hits.
HOVG: Lastly, I know you’ve seen the site and the artwork by Foodstamp Davis. As a longtime fan of yours, he’s curious what you think of the logo and if you have any requests for him.
ROSS: The art work is outstanding! I’d love some of the work to hang up in my home. The Burt Reynolds thing was great.
Ross Grimsley is currently the pitching coach for the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels. He pitched eleven years in the Majors compiling a 124-99 record and a 3.81 ERA. Grimsley holds the distinction of being the last 20 game winner for the Montreal Expos...and is my newest best friend. Okay, so maybe that last part is not true.