Rocky Rhodes: How to Play Ball Without Playing Ball

Grant “Rocky” Rhodes is America’s oldest living sportswriter. He rose to prominence with his 1921 column “Eight Men Way Out”, in which he proposed that the White Sox who threw the World Series should be publicly immolated. His weekly sports column, “The Cat’s Pajamas”, appears in 7000 newspapers nationwide when not bumped for “Love Is… ” or “This Week In Bridge “. Today, he graces Scratchbomb with his nine decades of sports wisdom to comment on the stewing Alex Rodiguez controversy.


Everyone needs to lay off Alex Rodriguez. I ain’t gonna call him A-Rod, because that’s not a proper baseball nickname. Baseball nicknames should be no nonsense and to the point, like a good pair of slacks. Killer Killebrew. Hamerrin’ Hank. Stan The Man. “A-Rod” sounds like a nickname for some god damn Brazilian model, not a third baseman.

Still, the press needs to get off the man’s back. Whatever went on in that Toronto “gentleman’s establishment” is between him and his wife. Or perhaps between him, a thong, and a strategically placed towel.

In my day, this kind of garbage would never make its way into the papers. Not because it could damage a man’s marriage, or because it might tarnish a player’s reputation for all the wide-eyed kiddies out there. Screw the kids, I say. Let ’em learn about life the hard way, the way I did–by having every one of their illusions shattered like Faberge eggs.

And if you think that ballplayers were more moral back then, I got three words for you: HAR DE HAR. They were the same wife swappin’, dog fight organizin’, wife and children threatenin’ sons of bitches they are now.

But in my day, athletes knew how to play ball. And I don’t mean on the field.

True story. Jack Dempsey’s restaurant, 1932. The Yankees just finished sweeping the Cubs in the World Series, and the whole team’s waiting around for the Babe to show up and join the party. At a quarter to midnight, Babe finally breezes through the front door, three sheets to the wind, wearing a raccoon coat and a straw hat. He’s got two chorus girls under each arm. “Boys,” he says, “the missus is at home with the kids, so tonight, I’m gonna take these chippies over to my suite at the Ritz and stuff ’em all like Thanksgiving turkeys!”

The guys in the press laughed, and then they launched into their questions. “Hey Babe,” said some squeaky-voiced cub reporter, “did you really call your home run in game 3?”

The Babe snickered and said, “Nah, kid. I was just pointing out the place on Waveland Avenue where I once punched a nun in the throat.”

Then The Babe reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a funny looking, ivory-colored pipe. “Ah, there’s nothing like fine Chinese opium,” he said. “I love it almost as much as I love Satan. Yes, all of my home run power comes straight from The Dark Lord himself.”

Sounds like a juicy story, huh? Sure, until the Babe started throwing twenties around like Kleenex. Then our memories got real hazy real fast. “Listen, all you boys in the press,” he said, “the first one of you that writes up another ‘Ruth hits home run for sick kids’ story gets The Babe’s sloppy seconds.” Lucky for me, I brought along my portable Underwood that night.

That’s why I can’t cotton to today’s athlete. Not because they’re rich and spoiled, but because they’re so god damn cheap. They make millions of dollars a year, and they can’t peel off some change to buy off the beat reporters? It wouldn’t take a lot of scratch, trust me. I once helped Rocky Marciano dispose of a body in exchange for a slice of rhubarb

My advice to you, Mr. Rodriguez, is to loosen them purse strings and take care of the boys in the press corps. It ain’t too late for you to turn your image around. Invite the beat reporters to come with you to the Brass Rail, buy them a few lap dances. The next thing you know the press forgets about the whole “bush league play” angle.

I’ll be glad to do it, Alex. My rates are reasonable. At my age, a lap dance won’t do me any good. But I’d pen a piece on you building orphanages in the ghetto if you could promise me a good BM.