clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Perfect Games and Grass Stains: An Interview with Rusty Greer

In which the Red Baron and I discuss Kenny Rogers' perfecto, the Maytag Million Dollar Homerun, and chili.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

When given the opportunity to interview one of my childhood heroes, there was no way I could have passed it up. No, I have never interviewed anyone before. Yes, I was really nervous. And, yes, my own voice annoyed me and I thought I may have rambled a little bit. (Thanks, nerves!) But I had the chance to speak with Rusty Greer and with a little help from my friends, I did not make a fool of myself. So here it is: Rusty Greer answering some of my, and your, pressing questions.

I just want to start off with this because the anniversary of this game just passed and it was a very special game for me and you were a big part of it; it’s the Kenny Rogers perfect game. I was 7 years old at the time and it was the very, very, very first baseball game I went to. The funny thing about it is because I was so young I didn’t really understand the feat Rogers had just completed. What I always remembered was the catch you made, the diving catch going into right center field, and just saving that game. That was always the thing that stayed in my head and it was the exact moment I fell in love with baseball.

[laughs] Well good, I’m glad I could be a part of that.

And I just want to know how do you feel or what goes through your mind when you hear a story like that where you were a big part of someone being turned onto the game?

You know, it’s funny while I don’t think about that game a lot cause it was a long time ago, I get reminded by people all the time that they were at that game or what that meant to them so I get to relive that in my mind a lot. But to know that one play I was a part of turned somebody onto baseball, that’s kind of cool for me.

From then on, you were one of my favorite players growing up. Of course you had people like Pudge and I idolized Pudge because I was a catcher when I ended up playing, but that was literally the defining moment of baseball for me.

That’s awesome. I assume you still like it.

[laughs] Yes, I do. A question a friend of mine wanted me to ask pertaining to this game, is what was going through your mind during that play and also making that final out?

Well, you know, as a player you know what’s going on but it doesn’t really hit you; it hit me what was going on about the sixth inning. And at the point you begin to, even though you’re a major league baseball player, you begin to get a little nervous because of what’s at stake and what’s on the line. As the game progressed, the crowd was into it; every pitch that was called a strike they were cheering and every pitch that was called a ball they were booing. Everybody was on their feet. When that ball was hit, Rex Hudler hit that ball to right center, as I took off for it, I knew I had a chance for it. As I got closer I said, "I’m diving for this ball one way or the other," and as I started the dive I thought to myself, "I’ve got it!" It’s a fast process but at the same time it a slow motion type deal in your mind because that’s what you’re trained to do and catching the last out, that was special. Little story, the ball almost went over my head because the ballpark, that concrete façade, that ball kind of blends in and you lose it for a second, but if you noticed I caught that ball over my head and kind of played it off a little bit.

As I mentioned, when I was growing up I always associated you with diving catches and such and you were always putting your body on the line, day in and day out. A word I am hearing more and more often as I get more into, I guess, the deeper parts of baseball and how people describe players is the word "gritty" and I think everyone would say you were a gritty player. But to you, what exactly is "grit"?

Well "grit" in the scouting world I think they call it "makeup." Grit, to me, means somebody that goes out and plays hard everyday. They’re not afraid to get dirty. They’re not afraid to run into a wall. Basically they give everything they got everyday and do whatever they need to, to help the team win. And in doing so, there comes injury, there comes a lot of different stuff but I think the big thing gained in that manner, or with grit, or with a lot of heart and desire is your respect from your teammates, respect from your colleagues.

On that note, talking about gritty players not afraid of getting dirty, you’re teaming up with Maytag doing this new promotion at Globe Life Park that benefitting the Boys and Girls Club chapter in Arlington. Could you tell me a little more about that and how you got involved with it?

Well Maytag is the newest Major League Baseball sponsor and, yes, they got the power to get the big league stains out. Playing that way over the course of my career, there’s a lot of guys that play that way, that’s what I was kind of known for, getting dirty. Maytag is involved with the Boys and Girls Club of Arlington. They have a top load washer out in centerfield and that’s a Million Dollar ball. If somebody hits a homerun into the washer Maytag will donate a million dollars to the Boys and Girls Club of Arlington and I think that’s a good deal all the way around the boys and girls of Arlington get to benefit of what Maytag is doing with Major League Baseball. Also they have the Filthiest Play of the Week. Fans get to go vote for the filthiest plays and get entered into a drawing for World Series tickets. Everybody gets to participate and everybody benefits. It’s going to be fun watching going forward to see if somebody hits a ball into that washer.

Who do you think is most likely to hit a ball into it?

If I had to make one guess off of the Rangers, I would probably say Prince Fielder.

Yeah, I was thinking possibly Adrian Beltre.

Yeah, he could do it. He could do it. Prince would have to get it cause he’s left-handed. A right-hander may get out there. They got several guys on there that could put a good poke on the ball.

Beltre was just voted into the Rangers Franchise Four along with a couple of your old teammates. Do you agree with that Franchise Four? Just as a reminder it was Beltre, Pudge, Nolan Ryan and Michael Young. Do you think we might have missed somebody or do you think that’s a good set?

Well I think there are a lot of good players that have come through the organization. Yes, some people may have been left off the list, but I think, as a whole, everybody got it right. I think those guys represent what the Rangers stand for and they play the game the right way and have been a big part of what the Rangers have done throughout the course of time. So yeah, it’s good.

Do you think it’s cool a lot of those players, including yourself, have come back and are getting more involved with the organization?

We have the Texas Rangers Alumni Organization so the ballclub does as much as they can to involve former players that have played with the Rangers. I think they do a great job with getting guys older than myself, guys from my era, and the newer era involved once we’ve either retired or left the Rangers. So they do a good job of involving us with fans, with different golf tournaments, with different stuff to help represent what the Rangers want to represent out in the community.

Are you more comfortable doing that side, the community side, nowadays or has the thought ever come into your head about maybe wanting to get back in a coaching capacity?

Right now where my life is and where my kids are, I’m happy doing what I’m doing. But at some point, once they get gone, I wouldn’t mind getting back on the field and doing some coaching, trying to make my way up the chain of command as far as coaches and managers and stuff of that nature. But it’s going to be a little bit until my kids leave the house and once they do, I’ll be free and set to go. Because the big deal of being gone so much, I really want to hang around here until they get out on their own and when that happens, I’ll give it a whirl.

That’s completely understandable; I don’t blame you for staying and concentrating on the family for a while. We have a couple more minutes and I have a couple of silly questions that I have pooled from people. In your opinion, who has the greatest Rangers mustache of all time?

The greatest Rangers mustache of all time: Dick Bosman. Can it be a coach or does it have to be a player?

Dick Bosman

Look at that glorious stache.

Let’s do one of each.

Mustache, as a player goes, I’ll have to give it to Juan Gonzalez.

Yes, that’s a good one. This next one is from a fellow red head: What’s it like being a beacon of hope to redheads all over North Texas?

[I didn’t realize his phone cut out at first. =( ] …and get together, it’s like a fraternity. It’s good to know that I’m up there in representing redheads really well.

I have one final question because this is something that has caused very much heated debates multiple times over the years amongst the regular posters on Lone Star Ball: when it comes to chili, beans or no beans?

[laughs] BEANS. BEANS.

Beans? Half those people are probably going to chew you out about that one, but hey.

BEANS. No onions.

No onions? Okay, I’ll let them know. Thank you for your time and chatting with me.