Saturday, March 12, 2011

Catching up with an old ex-Reds batboy

I was fortunate to catch up with former Reds batboy Mike Holzinger recently. Holzinger, who is now a representative for a surgical laser company, was batboy for the Cincinnati Reds in 1964 as a 15 year old. He describes that time as "the best summer of my life."
Along with the long hours and work--making five bucks a day--he got the unforgettable opportunity to get to know the Reds players. As batboy he had the run of Crosley Field and both clubhouses, mixing with players and coaches. He fondly recalls watching one game sitting next to Dodgers Sandy Koufax and Pee Wee Reese (who was a coach then).
He remembers Reds pitcher Jim O'Toole as an extremely tough competitor on days he pitched, but an irrepressible joker on the other days. O'Toole also was guilty of snitching Holzinger's lunches on occasion. "I used to get a sandwich and leave it in the clubhouse for after the games," says Holzinger. "But they kept disappearing. I finally caught O'Toole. He told me, 'Start ordering two sandwiches.' Then he quickly added, 'But don't tell Hutch.'"
Cuban shortstop Leo Cardenas caused some headaches for the batboy due to his refusal to ever use a bat which he thought "didn't have any hits in it." If Cardenas used a bat and went hitless for the day, he would discard that bat. "One time I had to complain to hitting coach Dick Sisler," says Holzinger. "Cardenas had a stack of 32 bats but wouldn't use any of them because he thought they didn't have any hits in them."
A special treat for the batboys was to accompany the team on two road trips a year. Holzinger went to New York and St. Louis with the Reds. He recalls what a nice guy first baseman Gordy Coleman was, taking the youngster under his wing and helping him get around New York City. Also, he warmly recalls listening to old baseball stories over breakfast in St. Louis with venerable Reds radio man Waite Hoyt, whose favorite team mate during his playing days with the Yankees was a certain hot dog-eating, home run-hitting right fielder.
One of the neat things Mike showed me from his batboy days was an official letter he received, addressed "to the Cincinnati National League Club Players," from then commissioner Ford Frick, dated October 28, 1964, which noted that the second place Reds' share of the 1964 World Series Receipts was $42,661.86 and showed how the money was to be distributed according to the teams' vote. Each regular player and coach received a full share of $1,254.76. The bat boys were voted a share of $209.13--not a bad bonus for a 15-year-old. Of interest on the list was one Atanasio Perez--known to most later as Tony--who played in a handful of games that year. He was voted a share of $250.95. So, for one season, Mike Holzinger was worth only $41.82 less to the Reds than a future Hall of Famer. How many 62-year-old medical laser reps can say that? 

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