August 18, 2010
Bucky Dent was a solid major leaguer — a three-time All-Star — but he embedded himself into the folklore of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox because of an unlikely and unforgettable home run over the Green Monster at Fenway Park on Oct. 2, 1978.
While taking a break from a tour promoting Little League Baseball for Subway, the former Russell Earl O'Dey stopped for an Answer Man session that covered several of Dent's (in)famous moments that stretched from the ballfields to Hollywood's back lot.
Bucky Dent: Ha! I didn't have an Afro, no, but I did have long hair [laughs]. That's the first thing they told me, once I got traded to New York. I walked in the door and Billy Martin says, "Get a haircut."
DB: I read your account in the Sporting News of how you were told you were traded; Steinbrenner called you. At first, who did you think it was really?
Bucky: Yeah, I wasn't sure. I got this call the last day of spring training; I was going to Toronto with the White Sox. Phone rings and I hear this voice in the crowd that goes, "Is this Bucky Dent?" and I go, "Yeah," and he says, "This is George Steinbrenner." Then I go, "Get outta here!"
Then, all of a sudden, I realized it was him; I got quiet and he said, "I have a trade to bring you to New York." I'll never forget that phone call. I thought it was a prank, because all spring I was supposed to be traded and it never happened. I told my good friends to stop calling me about it — "I don't want to worry about it anymore" — and then it really happens.
Bucky: Ha, you know I didn't really watch "Seinfeld," but I've heard stories and seen clips of it and ... Mr. Steinbrenner, he was a character [laughs]. A very flamboyant owner, a guy that had a passion for the Yankees and wanted to win. You did it his way or you didn't do it at all.
DB: How did you come to work for Subway? Did you start on the counter, work your way to the register, etc.?
Bucky: No, no, no [laughs]. They called me last year and I had been involved with Little League baseball for 36 years, and I think it's something that's a passion of mine. So, when Subway called, I said "I'm in." It's a tremendous program. The Subway Baseball DeSigns is a unique way for them to raise money and give back to Little League baseball. It's really neat that they can design a baseball and have a star player, or someone in NASCAR or a movie star sign it and have them auctioned off.
The auction is coming up [on Friday] on eBay so I encourage people to check out the baseballs and bid.
DB: How hard have you fought to keep "The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders" movie off DVD?
Bucky: Not hard at all [laughs]. I'm not sure you can get it on DVD, can you? That was a great experience, though. I had a lot of fun doing it. Every now and then someone asks about it. I think it was one of those things that came about because of what happened in the '78 season — being a part of the World Series and all that.
DB: It's been a while since I've seen it. Did you get to kiss Jane Seymour?
Bucky: I didn't kiss her, but I saw her when we were filming yes. But that's not the only movie I was in. Do you remember "The Slugger's Wife"? I also had a little part in that.
DB: What do you remember about the times the White Sox made you guys wear shorts?
Bucky: Oh, the short pants; I do remember those. We wore them twice. I remember the first time we wore them — I think it was a Sunday against Kansas City — and it just felt weird walking out on the field in short pants.
DB: Did you guys rebel? Did you not have a choice?
Bucky: No, we really didn't have a choice. It was something that Bill Veeck wanted to do. It was a little bit weird but it was one of his great promotional ideas, so we just went out and played in ‘em.
DB: Do you still have a pair of those shorts?
Bucky: Ha, no, I don't. I was at the All-Star Game in Chicago a few years ago (2003), signing autographs and a guy came up to me and showed me the pants that I wore and I was, like, "Oh my gosh! I hadn't seen those things in 30-something years." He had bought them at an auction.
DB: Did you like that, in the early 1970s, the Comiskey Park infield was artificial but the outfield was grass?
Bucky: I remember it being fast, and it came off the turf onto the dirt surface and it made it really tricky; You'd get a lot of quick, tricky hops. It took a little time to get used to it.
DB: Was Dick Allen as complicated a dude as he seems?
Bucky: I tell you what — I loved Dick Allen. I thought he was one of the best players I ever played with. Ability wise; power; the way he ran the bases. And his personality ... I really liked Dick as a person.
DB: Is the home run against Mike Torrez [in '78] still clear in your memory, or as it become clouded with the memories of how others saw it?
Bucky: No, no, no. It's still visible every day. It was a little difficult at the time to see because of the shadows starting to creep across the field. And I never saw the home run because the shadow came over the wall — I never saw the ball go out.
DB: How have you managed to have a good relationship with Red Sox fans after breaking their hearts like that?
Bucky: I have had a good relationship with them. It's like a love-hate thing, you know? It's part of sports history. I think Don Zimmer gave me the nickname "Bucky [Bleepin'] Dent." I know they hated to lose, but I took the ribbing in good fun.
DB: What about your other nickname — "Bucky" — where did it come from?
Bucky: My grandmother gave that one to me. I haven't met a whole lot of Buckys. Some, but not too many.
Bucky: Yeah, that was a long time ago [laughs]. We've had some other, more recent graduates. Dan Uggla(notes) was a student of ours. We ran into him last year and didn't realize it at first that he went to the school until we started talking and he said he was a former student. We lose track of a lot of the players; They come to us so young. We're trying to do a better job of following them because we teach so many kids during the course of time.
DB: One more thing about Steinbrenner. You also know what it's like to have him fire you. How did it happen?
Bucky: I was in Boston [in 1990]. He called me on the phone. They had slipped a note under my door early in the morning and told me to be in my room at noon and he called me about 12 o'clock.
DB: Had you seen it coming? The Yankees changed managers a lot in those days.
Bucky: No, I kind of had a sense that it might happen the night before. I told my wife, actually, I said, "I think I'm going to get fired tomorrow." She kind of looked at me funny, but then when they put the note under the door, I said, "Eh, I'm sensing here that something's gonna happen." And it happened.
DB: You got the job when you were young for a manager. As great of an opportunity as managing the Yankees sounds like, would it have been better for you if you hadn't gotten that job at that time?
Bucky: I don't think you consider that at the time, especially when one of your dreams is to become a major league manager. Once you get there, you're happy to be a part of it. I had an opportunity but the timing wasn't very good because the club was in transition. The bottom line is, if you don't win, you're going to get fired. Just like anybody else. I hope to get back into coaching someday and maybe manage, if the right situation comes along.
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