On Thursday baseball star Cal McLish, 84, died. McLish pitched 15 seasons in the majors and coached many more. And than as a scout and instructor, likely gave many players a start in their careers.
And while he probably never knew, McLish was my first journalistic interview. It was back in sixth or seventh grade and we probably had some type of assignment to interview somebody noteworthy. I believe it was for English class, but those details are vague in my mind.
What I do remember is thinking how much I didn’t want to interview somebody. That was until my dad suggested McLish. My dad, and also my little league baseball coach, knew I was baseball crazy. And he knew McLish from the golf course.
I don’t remember everything McLish told me during that interview, but I do remember how he made a wide-eyed, baseball-crazy boy feel at ease.
I remember what he told me when I asked him how he pitched Ted Williams: “Throw him low fastballs and hope he just got a single.”
I remember thinking how hard it was going to be to spell his whole name, Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish.
I remember him telling me how he pitched in an all-star game and retired Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks, among others.
I remember making an “A” on the report.
And I remember what a nice man he was. I’m pretty sure I left with his autograph that day.
I probably would have gotten into journalism even if I hadn’t interviewed McLish all those years ago.
But what I do know is that when I’m getting ready to do a difficult interview, I often flashback to that first one. And for a moment I smile.
So, thanks Mr. McLish for making a young boy an experience he never forgot.