In this episode of 15 Minutes With Charlie, Charlie Mechem sits down with former MVP with the Cincinnati Reds, Baseball Hall of Famer, as well as an avid golfer, Johnny Bench. Together they explore anecdotes from “Total Anecdotal: A Fun Guide to Help You Become a Better Speaker and Writer” as they apply to Johnny’s exciting career in Major League Baseball.
Growing Old is Mandatory, Growing Up is Optional.
Johnny tells a story of a time when he asked a friend if he looked his age. To which his friend replied, “No, but you used to!” He jokes that the older you get the easier it is to shoot your age in golf.
It’s when he is around his sons that he feels the youngest, Johnny explains, which is a gift he is very grateful for. There is no reason to stop doing the things you love just because of a number. You don’t have to grow up just because you’re growing old.
Are You Going to Fish or Cut Bait?
When you start something you must first evaluate, then, Johnny explains, it comes down to whether you’re going to fish or cut bait. If it’s going well, if the metaphorical fish are biting, then keep going. If it’s not going anywhere, move on. He jokes, why are we trying to find intelligent life on other planets? We can’t find it here!
Getting Into Golf
Johnny and Charlie discuss how Johnny got into baseball, and sports in general, in early childhood. When he was three and a half years old, he’d play in the backyard with his father. His father’s whole desire in life was that he wanted to catch in the Major Leagues, but he abandoned that. He’d given up baseball for the war. And when he came out the other end, he was too old to play. While watching a baseball game on the TV with his dad at just 3-years-old, Johnny declared that he wanted to catch for the Major Leagues—and sure enough he did.
They Don’t Miss a Thing
It’s all statistics, Johnny says. You look around the poker table and in a card game of four guys, there’s always one sucker—you just have to figure which three aren’t.
What they’ve done with the analytics and statistics today is amazing, Johnny says. He tells a story of attending the Gold Glove Award Dinner. He explains, he looked at a man who was called “the stat guy.” This “stat guy” had all these percentages to which Johnny said, “Well, do you ever consider the fact that as a catcher, when another team you’re playing has five base stealers, but only one or two even try against you, isn’t that considered a percentage where you should have at least three of those guys thrown out of the game?” And the stat guy says, “Yeah, we do that.” To which Johnny just says, “My gosh, it’s unbelievable.” They don’t miss a thing, Johnny says.
Sparky, Success, and Leadership
On the topic of success and failure, Charlie and Johnny reminisce about Sparky Anderson, the great manager of the Big Red Machine.
It was Sparky’s first year, Johnny says, and they were in Spring Training and they made the final cutdown. Sparky came to them and said “All right, you 25 players that made the club. And I just want to go over some rules. All right, there are two sets of rules. Pete, Joe, Tony, Johnny, you don’t have rules. You can do whatever you want. Now, you other 20 guys… here’s your curfew. You have to be in and everything else.” Johnny explains that there was an understanding that these four didn’t need a curfew, because they were responsible, they were leaders, they always got the job done and did what needed to be done.
Johnny speaks on the importance of responsibility and leadership, “a leader isn’t a guy who won’t sit for us or anything else, he’s the guy that’s on time. He’s the guy that doesn’t ask for any special quarter. He’s the guy that’s on the field. He’s the guy on the bus, on the plane and he’s never late.”
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