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Ain’t No Sense Worryin’: The Wit and Wisdom of “Mick the Quick” Rivers

Ain’t No Sense Worryin’: The Wit and Wisdom of “Mick the Quick” Rivers

Ain’t No Sense Worryin’: The Wit and Wisdom of “Mick the Quick” Rivers
For you baseball fans out there, who said, "We'll do all right if we can capitalize on our mistakes." Yogi Berra? Casey Stengel?

Guess again. That’s a gem from Mick the Quick himself. Mickey Rivers is one of baseball's alltime great characters and loveable legendary New York Yankee. An All-Star and a two-time world champion during the days of the "Bronx Zoo" Yankees of the 1970s, the man who once told teammate Reggie Jackson that he should "stop readin' and writin' and start hitting" himself
put pen to paper in this collaboration with American Journeys.

In Ain't No Sense Worryin', "Mick the Quick" took readers back to a time when the world champion Yankees were wild, free agency was young, and his goals in the game were to "hit .300, score 100 runs, and stay injury-prone." Mick the Quick’s collection of quotations, stories and memories have had readers cracking up even as they scratched their heads in confusion. But
more importantly, Mick could play. A beloved baseball legend, Mickey batted .295 over a long career as a speedy leadoff man with the Angels, Yankees, and Rangers.

In this passage, one of the fastest runners in baseball history shares some of his thoughts on base stealing:

Now, ’74 was a good season for me—my first full season as a regular. I hit .285 and stole me about 30 bases or so, ‘til I got hurt late in the year. We had a big lefty on that team, Andy Hassler. Andy’s a good guy, and I’ll never forget what his mom told me.

She said, “Mickey you can run. You can do this. You can do that. You can be a team leader.”

I said, “Well Mom, I just want to steal me 40 bases.”

She said, “No, no. You’re better than that. You can do better.

I said, “Naw, I can’t do it. I just want to play ball. I don’t try to overshine nobody.”

But, she convinced me; she said, “Mickey, you can steal bases.”

And sure enough, I went out next year and stole 70 bases—led the league!
I loved to hit a home run, but mainly I loved stealing a base. I got the biggest thrill out of swiping a base.

I guess that love started early, when Dick Williams gave me the green light to steal on my own. I had to know the situations. I liked the green light ‘cause it gave me a little bit more authority and the confidence in myself that I’m not going to hurt the team in certain situations. But the older I got, I learned to pick the spots, then set up the tone more.

In New York, Billy Martin would give me the sign. But the key thing—the strategy to me —is to have the self control and then know when to pick a spot, when you have to have that stolen base in order to win.

At first I stole bases with my speed, but after a while I learned a lot about pitching. Like I said, I kept a notebook on a lot of the pitchers. You got to know. When a pitcher gets in trouble, he’s comin’ with his best pitch. It’s little things like that. You learn to see. You watch his move. You watch his leg. You watch him break off his knee. Certain pitchers do certain things. You’ve got to watch ‘em, ‘cause you steal mostly off the pitchers.

But, I could see that by getting a little edge on the pitchers, I could make the catchers erratic too. You didn’t want to brag too much about having an edge on the catchers, though, because we had good catchers. Most catchers could throw the ball consistently right there on the bag. Guys like Rick Dempsey and Ray Fosse. I tell ya, Ray had that kind of accuracy.

Now, sliding into the bag, you got to know how to position yourself. If you see the second baseman standing right there, you don’t want to go too much out of the way.

Probably take that extra step away, and slide away from him.

So, you watch your positioning, and it’s not that hard. It wasn’t that fundamental. You just have to look at the catcher, and the pitcher, and then run and slide.

Now, stealing third is an easy art, but a lot of the guys don’t like stealing third because they think the pitcher’s looking at ‘em. But you can steal third base easy, because pitchers get in the habit of not really looking at you. The pitcher’s doing the same thing he always does, they’ll follow the same pattern for —they don’t even stop.

But you have to determine timing with a pitcher. If it’s the two pitch—a curve ball—it’s automatic. You can time it.

I stole home a couple of times, too. The key to stealing home is the same as stealing any other base—you just have to watch the pitcher. They ain’t worried about you stealing home; they’re just trying to get the ball over the plate and get the hitter out.

You surprise ‘em with the elements. They ain’t looking for it, so then it’s the elements of surprise, and that’s what I’m saying about the elements of surprise.

In another passage, Mick talked about his friendship with teammate Jim “Catfish” Hunter, a Hall of Famer, five-time World Champion, true hero on the field and off, and baseball’s first megabuck free-agent. Neither the money nor injuries ever changed Catfish as a person, something his teammates appreciated. Sadly, Catfish died in 1999 of Lou Gehrig’s Disease at
only 53 years of age:

Ohhh, that Country Catfish, he’d always been the same. He never wanted nobody to treat him nothing different. I remember coming into the clubhouse, and I’d known Catfish a long time before, from Oakland when I played against Catfish.

He always was a sweetheart of a guy and whatever you needed, he always made sure you got it.

He’d say, “What you want to do now? There’s something you gotta do?”
I’d say, “Oh now, you know. I got a girl, you know, I want to take her out.”
Cat’d say, “So what do you want? Fifty dollars? You want to take her to a movie or something like that?”

And he always would look out for you like that. He didn’t think about himself. He always put the guys first. And that’s what made you feel good, that a guy of that caliber cared about me. And Catfish to me is one of the top pitchers of all time.

I knew his arm started hurting him in ’77, and it was time for him to start slowing down. But he didn’t want to rest. They had to make Cat rest.

One day I had just come in tothe clubhouse, and Cat and Steinbrenner were arguing.

George was saying, “Aw, I think you need to go here and rest.”

And Cat would say, , “I ain’t going nowhere!”

And they were in there arguing, they had the door closed a little bit.

I shouted, “Get him Catfish! Get him Catfish!” And I ran away.

George came out saying, “Who said that? Who said that?”

That was funny.

But I tell you what, Catfish went and did what he had to do to come back.

And during that ’78 stretch run, he did an outstanding job, and it was all on guts.

Even when Catfish was sick with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, he’d still come down to Tampa for spring training. We’d see him, and we’d act no different. What I did for him was I did the same things, I said the same things as we had during the glory days.

He’d laugh, and he’d say, “Oh, you never change.”

I’d say, “No. For what? I didn’t change with you before, and I ain’t going to change now.”

And he liked it like that, you see. He didn’t want me to be phoney about his sickness. If I saw him sick, and I felt depressed or I felt like crying in the dugout, but we’d hold hands, and we’d do the same thing as always, rip on each other and just joke around.

Me and Goose, Nettles, and Gator.

And I’d say, “Look, we love you, Cat. We love you.”

Always loved him.