"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Growing Pains

After reading Kent Babb’s profile of Allen Iverson I thought of this passage in Mike Bryan’s book, Baseball Lives.

Here’s Dennis Eckesley:

People say baseball players should go out and have fun. No way. To me, baseball is pressure. I always feel it. This is work. The fun is afterwards, when you shake hands.

When I was a rookie I’d tear stuff up. Now I keep it in. What good is smashing a light on the way up the tunnel? But I still can’t sleep at night if I stink. I’ve always tried to change that and act like a normal guy when I got home. “Hi, honey, what’s happening?” I can’t. It’s there. It doesn’t go away. But maybe that’s why I’ve been successful in my career, because I care. I don’t have fun. I pitch scared. That’s what makes me go. Nothing wrong with being scared if you can channel it.

I used to hide behind my cockiness. Don’t let the other team know you’re scared. I got crazy on the mound. Strike a guy out, throw my fist around—”Yeah!” Not real classy, but I was a raw kid. I didn’t care. It wasn’t fake. It was me. This wasn’t taken very kindly by a lot of people. They couldn’t wait to light me up. That’s the price you pay.

I wish I was a little happier in this game. What is so great about this shit? You get the money, and then you’re used to the money. You start making half a million a year, next thing you know you need half a million a year. And the heat is on!

Used to be neat to just be a big-league ballplayer, but that wore off. I’m still proud, but I don’t want people to bother me about it. I wish my personality with people was better. I find myself becoming short with people. Going to the store. Getting gas.

If you’re not happy with when you’re doing lousy, then not happy when you’re doing well, when the hell are you going to be happy? This game will humble you in a heartbeat. Soon as you starting getting happy Boom! For the fans—and this is just a guess—they think the money takes out the feeling. I may be wrong but I think they think, “What the hell is he worrying about? He’s still getting’ paid.” There may be a few players who don’t give 100 percent, but I always thought if you were good enough to make that kind of money, you’d have enough pride to play like that, wouldn’t you think? You don’t just turn it on-or off.



1 garydsimms   ~  Apr 24, 2013 12:19 pm

Babb's story was a terrific piece of writing. Having watched Iverson during his all-to-brief college days, I never thought that someone his size would have such an impact on the pro level. The tale has been told often about the inability of the ex-athlete to find a way in the world, but it rarely has been told more effectively that in Babb's story.

Alex - interesting comparison with Eck. He seemed to have a strong work ethic, while Iverson was always saying "practice? you want me to practice?"

2 Bluenatic   ~  Apr 24, 2013 1:05 pm

A.I. was shopping a memoir a few months back. I was intrigued, because despite all his failings there's still a significantly favorable public sentiment towards A.I., especially in Philadelphia, and because the writer on the project was Michael Eric Dyson. But ultimately I and every other editor in town passed. He's just too risky.

3 RagingTartabull   ~  Apr 24, 2013 1:10 pm

{2} ugh, Dyson...really?

It's sad because I feel like he actually does have something to give back to younger players, you can see it in the Babb story in the sheer number of people (whom he didn't always have a good relationship with) that truly WANT to help him.

I'm hoping there's a semi-redemptive third act here, like Mike Tyson has had in recent years, but he has to want it first.

4 Alex Belth   ~  Apr 24, 2013 1:50 pm

Sounds like it's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better for Iverson.

5 Dimelo   ~  Apr 24, 2013 3:56 pm

I loved what Eck said. I agree 100% with how he feels, I can see myself going through that too.

6 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Apr 24, 2013 5:22 pm

Super busy right now but going to set aside some time to read this, I love AI.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver