September 23 - Big P.U.nit
This is about Randy Johnson, the Yankee lefthander, whom I have never met,
don't expect to meet, and happy I don't have for a son-in-law. Johnson has
been described as surly, rude, and gruff, and I get the impression that's his
good side. More puzzling is that he seems awfully unhappy for a pitcher hurling
for the Yankees, headed for the Hall of Fame, and earning $15 million a year.
Life is tough.
I thought Johnson was wrong, and stupid, to threaten a cameraman during his
first public stroll in Manhattan, shortly after he signed with the Yankees. Worse,
was his attitude. "Don't you hear me?" he reportedly admonished his victim. It
was as if Johnson thought he was really important, like a brain surgeon or a Nobel Prize winner,
instead of someone who, uh, throws a baseball.
But I forgot about it. Heck, I had the second-base situation to worry about, until Robinson Cano came
along. But Johnson just would not quit. Every day, it seemed, someone was writing about Johnson's
lack of cooperation in facing up to the music after a bad start or refusing ”with a snarl” to answer what
sounded like reasonable questions about an injury. Gee, I thought $15 million included being
Now comes word that during a discussion teammate Al Leiter was voluntarily having with reporters,
Johnson walked across the clubhouse, uninvited, and intruded by suggesting to Leiter that the
newspapermen be doused with water so they would scatter like "gerbils."
I am wondering what leads a star athlete living the life of a prince to behave this way. Did he fail ninth-
grade creative writing? Was he kicked off the student newspaper? Did a baseball reporter once
impugn his ability by referring to a 12-hit, three-inning performance as "shaky."
He reminds me of Bill Sudakis, who in his fading years as a slugger in the 1970s was playing out the
string as a Yankee. Sudakis existed in a perpetual state of irritation. I once asked him a question I've
long since forgotten, but his reply I do remember: "I don't talk to reporters."
OK, then. The next day, I was thumbing through the Yankee press guide and looked up Sudakis' bio.
There it was in black and white. Bill Sudakis, who didn't talk to reporters, went to college and majored
So I saw my share of Randy Johnsons during my time covering sports. They were largely ill-bred,
ornery Neanderthals spoiling for a fight. They were convinced that their salaries gave them the
privilege to mistreat fans, writers, and clubhouse attendants. Many of them were vulgar, especially to
women reporters. I find it interesting that New York's two managers - Joe Torre and Willie Randolph -
were just the opposite.
Torre and Randolph were always patient, understanding, even-tempered, and they knew how to
complete a simple sentence. Perhaps that is why they are now in positions of leadership.
I do not have Randy Johnson's fame, his stardom, or his money. But I have something he does not
have, and cannot buy.
I have manners.