Ian O’Connor catches up with Ed Whitson -
Ed Whitson will talk about the booing, the hate mail, the death threats, and what Javier Vazquez needs to do at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon, but first he would like to share a piece of trivia about his turbulent stay in New York.
Every time an athlete struggles to cope with the brightest lights of the biggest city, Whitson’s name is summoned by default.
Drop a critical World Series ball, and you’re Bill Buckner. Miss a critical Super Bowl kick, and you’re Scott Norwood. Blow a 3-foot putt on a Masters Sunday, and you’re Greg Norman.
Let the jeering Yankee Stadium masses rattle you out of your pinstripes, and you’re Eddie Lee Whitson.
“It’s like working in an office and your boss comes in and says, ‘You suck,’ after you’ve tried your best,” Whitson said. “Now multiply that by 50,000 bosses, all of them telling you that you suck, and imagine what that feels like.
“You feel like everybody’s against you, and sometimes you just want to quit. But you can’t ever quit.”
“I was in awe of being in Yankee Stadium and the big city,” Whitson said. “Some people can handle it, and some people can’t. … You dream about pitching in Yankee Stadium as a kid, but it can be pretty overwhelming for a guy coming out of a small hometown and smaller media markets. I was so excited, I tried to overthrow everything.”
Finally, with his world collapsing around him, with the June 11, 1985, crowd booing him on introduction, Whitson decided enough was enough.
“I wasn’t going to put myself under that pressure anymore,” he recalled. “I said to myself, ‘The hell with it. I’m just going to throw it, and wherever it goes it goes.’”
Steinbrenner traded Whitson and his 5-2 record back to the Padres in July, traded the pitcher back to a quieter, saner culture and his favorite fishing spot on Lake Poway.
“George is a great human being,” Whitson said. “He never once said a bad word about me, and he honored every single thing he told me he’d do.”
There’s no sabermetric measure to capture what goes on in a guy’s head. It’s not listed on his Strat-O-Matic card. And, the mental/emotional side of baseball is huge.
Life is easy when you’re living a dream. It’s not easy, at all, when you’re caught in a nightmare.