I started thinking about it when I was 16 years old. I can remember very vividly standing in the outfield with my best friend at Tate High School in Pensacola (Florida). We were talking about the Hall of Fame and I said, “You know, someday Larry, I’m going to go there.” I’ll always remember his words to me: “Shoot, knowing you, you probably will.”…
My folks were tenant farmers making $25 a month, living in a one-room house when I was born. I don’t think anybody in my family had been beyond the 10th or 11th grade, so to think about wanting to be a major league player itself was far-fetched enough, but to think about it in those terms, if you really want to be realistic about it, it was downright stupid. But I think the recurring theme was that though I was never around anybody who could hand me the key to it, I was also never around anybody that told me it wasn’t possible. Where I grew up and with whom I grew up were all key ingredients in my being able to chase that ridiculous dream. …
I wanted to play from the time we moved (during his childhood), and I found a glove up on the roof of my house. I just loved the game. I followed it as much as I could. I would read about it and listen on the radio, and when I finally got the chance to watch some on TV, I watched on TV, and I wanted to be one of them. I had read an article about the Hall of Fame about the people who were in, the great names, and it was that carrot out there that caused me to want to work harder and study harder and figure out what can I do maybe to be there one day.
“The conventional wisdom for most players is if you’re asked “Well, would you like to go to the Hall of Fame,” “Well, gee whiz, aw shucks, if I’m lucky enough.’ The hemming and hawing around is a natural response from most personalities. But I can remember being asked “Would you like to go to the Hall of Fame?” “Well, yeah. Heck yes.” A lot of my teammates in high school and college misinterpreted that as my being the most selfish person around, but my thought process was I’m doing what it takes to make me better. If I put together a career that gets me into pro ball, don’t we all win?
Every fifth day you know you’re going to have somebody out there that genuinely wants to be good enough to play major league ball and to go to the Hall of Fame, so for me it was that driving force that maybe kept me from having as much fun as other kids that I grew up with playing. For them, it was slap and giggle.
I have been accused of taking it too seriously, but it was my way out of the environment that my mom and dad had to put up with, but it was also just a dream. Thinking about it was like watching a movie about it. I wanted to be there.
As told to Carroll Rogers