Garagiola: Setbacks Aside, Baseball Still Swinging Baseball wasn't always this way — blighted by steroids and drug use, weighed down by statistics and science. Legendary sportscaster Joe Garagiola argues that baseball is really about memories and people, and wants to prove that real baseball is still alive and growing.
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Garagiola: Setbacks Aside, Baseball Still Swinging

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan. We're broadcasting from the Arizona Historical Society Museum in Tempe, just outside of Phoenix, a city that's become one of the centers of Major League Baseball. Of course, the Arizona Diamondbacks are based here and Phoenix is home to the Cactus League, rapidly overtaking Florida as the capital of baseball spring training. We'll talk baseball for much of this hour with two gentlemen closely related to the game in this area and each other, Joe Garagiola, Jr. is the former general manager of the Diamondbacks, now a senior official with Major League Baseball. Joe Garagiola, Sr. is - well, let me use his own words from his new book "Just Play Ball." People refer to me as a legend or one of the greats of the game, he writes. That means two things. One, the only thing that kept me out of the Hall Of Fame is that I had to play, and two, I'm old.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: If you'd like to talk with either or both about what's right with the game or what might need reform, our phone number is 800-989-8255; email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. Later on in the program, we'll get back to the financial crisis. Arizona is one of the epicenters of the mortgage meltdown. But first, baseball. Joe Garagiola, Jr. joins us from our bureau in New York where he's senior vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball. And thanks very much for coming in today.

Mr. JOE GARAGIOLA, JR. (Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, Major League Baseball): Neal, thank you. It's my pleasure.

CONAN: And Joe Garagiola, Sr. is with us here at the Arizona Historical Society Museum. He is in the Baseball Hall Of Fame in the broadcast wing and he's the author of the new book "Just Play Ball" and thanks very much for coming over to see us.

Mr. JOE GARAGIOLA, SR. (Sports Broadcaster, Author, "Just Play Ball"): Glad to be here, Neal. Hi, Joe.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. GARAGIOLA, JR.: Hello.

CONAN: I was fascinated to read your book, Joe. I'm going to have to be careful with my Joes this broadcast. But Joe Sr., I was fascinated reading the book that you still come in to the ballpark and check out the same things that you checked out when you were a ballplayer.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR. Absolutely. It's the only way to enjoy the game. There's really a game that goes on that I call the game you never see. But if you know what to look for - and I only learned because I played. I mean, I still look which ways is the flag blowing. I mean working with Vin Scully, for example. People would say things like, you think there's room for two in a booth? I said, we see different things. Vin Scully would see the flag blowing in the center field in the way he had with words, you know. There is old glory in its majestic beauty, pewter gray clouds, azure blue sky. And when he's finished with that you know, I'd say I'm in the same place. And they turn to me and say, what do you think, Joe? I'd say, the wind is blowing out. Pitchers don't like it, but the knuckle ball guy does because the resistance. So, two guys seeing the same thing.

And so, to me, a lot of things are going. I watched the - I used to like to watch batting practices - see what guys were trying to do. To some guys, it's home run derby. The good hitters - they'll go left field, right field, center field. And I check in front the home plate because groundskeeper - they work on the grounds. You know, if you got sinker-ball pitcher, they'll soak it down and see if they can open up the swamps. So when the ball hits, it'll stop. If you got guys that can run, they'll make it hard and it's a handball court. The ball hits, bounces and the jackrabbits are off. So I look at that kind of stuff and there's are a lot of them, Neal, and I don't want to take up too much time. But baseball is a game that unfolds. It really does. And it gives you a chance to manage. I got a call today, what's wrong with the Diamondbacks? I said, hey, first of all they're not going to win. That's wrong.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: OK.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR.: And the other thing, look at your strikeout records. You got three guys in the middle of your lineup at a combined strike out of 482 strikes out. Well, that means they didn't hit the ball. It's as simple as all that. If you don't hit the ball, you're not going to win.

CONAN: You say the first thing you do is check out which way the flag is blowing. Most of the games you see are here in Arizona. It's a domed stadium, Joe.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR.: I know but they keep the roof open.

CONAN: Oh, most of the time?

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR.: As much as they can. And don't underestimate the closed room and air conditioning. DeRocha(ph)was the first guy that checked to see that in Houston Astrodome - when they batted, air conditioning blowing in, and when Houston batted, no air conditioning.

CONAN: Air conditioning.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR.: It's like an edge. That is not cheating. It's circumventing the rules. That's what that is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Joe Jr., I have to ask you. In your whole life, have you ever got a word in?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GARAGIOLA, JR.: Well, I'm not sure, which I guess is three words

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR.: Did good, Joe.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, JR: Thanks. Thanks.

CONAN: Now, you're obviously involved in a different part of the game than your dad was. Your dad as a player and you as an executive in the game. But did you know growing up all the time that this is what you wanted to do with your life?

Mr. GARAGIOLA, JR: Well, baseball has always been, I guess, you'd say the family business and I worked for the Yankees a couple of summers when I was in college. And at that point began to think that this was something that I wanted to do. I went to law school and was fortunate enough when I got out of law school to return to the Yankees and I worked for them - in fact, it's sort of - I don't know what the word is but I was there when the - what I still refer to as the new Yankees Stadium opened up. And of course, the new Yankee Stadium closed Sunday nights so I've out kicked that coverage.

CONAN: Well, a lot of people think your father was there when the first one opened.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, JR: You'd have to discuss that with him, I think.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: Did you know Columbus was lowball hitter?

CONAN: Yeah, that's right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And then, after that, you started working here in Arizona.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, JR: I came back to Arizona in the '80s. You mentioned the spring training, and that was really the first thing that I got very involved with. It's kind of hard to remember. I realize now, when you look at all the beautiful facilities out there and pretty soon 15 teams. But back in the late '80s or early '90s, there was a real possibility that the Cactus League would disappear and we'd have one spring training and that would all be in Florida. But fortunately, we had a governor at the time, Rose Mofford, who was a great person and a great baseball fan, and she mobilized some of the troops and we were able to get some things done that enabled spring training not just to survive but to flourish as it flourishes now.

And that kind of segued into a couple of pursuits with respect to expansion baseball. The first one, not very successful. The second one, led by Jerry Colangelo - very successful, which produced the Arizona Diamondbacks and I was the team's first general manager and we had some pretty good success there. And since the summer of '05, I've been in the commissioner's office as the senior vice president of baseball operations. So that's the Reader's Digest of my story.

CONAN: OK. We'll get some questions for you also about how the game proceeds and the rules of the game and that sort of thing. But we want to get some callers in on the conversation, and we have a question from here in the audience in Tempe.

MARIANNE (Audience Member): Hi. I'm Marianne. I live in Tampa and just because you're the senior, I just want to say I'm old enough to remember when the Dodges were in Brooklyn. But what I want to say to you is thank you so much for all you've brought to the game. I always enjoy it when I hear that you're going to be the color commentator so thank you so much. But my question to you is you've worked on keeping young players from using chew tobacco and you worked to get money for old time players who didn't have a lot for retirement. And I just wanted to know how those two projects are going?

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: Well, the tobacco project - it's chew tobacco. I don't call it snuff. The tobacco companies call it snuff. I call it spit tobacco because that's what it is. Unfortunately, we can't go into clubhouses anymore. Although, I worked with the school superintendent at Tempe and now, Mr. Tom Horn is superintendent all over, he's the big guy. We're bringing in Gruen Von Behrens who's a 31-year-old young man. Started using it when he was 13 years old, Neal and he's had 35 operations.

CONAN: Yeah. Jaw cancer, tongue cancer.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: He has no teeth, no gums. They had a graft from his chest to give him some semblance of decency as far as his looks and he slurs, he talks with a handicap and we're going to go into the high schools. But the thing that bothers me is that the tobacco companies are trying to sell it as a safe alternative to the cigarettes and people know about cigarettes and the thing that really gets to me is that most people worry about second hand smoke rather than first hand dip. And it's not just the baseball players. It's the firefighters, it's the police officers, it's lawyers, it's everybody. This is an insidious, deadly, addictive habit and why do I get so worked up? Because I've lost three close friends and the latest one when I did the eulogy and I - you know, I love to talk obviously. I talk to the post if it's listens to me.

But when I stood there in the church and Bob Leslie, 31 years old who asked me a couple of months before if I'd speak at his funeral, that'll tear your heart out. And when he died, his little widow, Amy standing maybe 10, 15 feet from me with a little baby girl. A widow. It didn't have to happen. We have to mobilize - I'm not telling guys to quit. I'm telling you, know what you're doing because the family is affected and I'll stop right there. But if you can do anything at all, I make speeches to groups and they say, well, we're going to write resolutions to the legislature. That isn't what you do. You got to get in the trenches and get dirty. So, I'm going to stop right there because I can go for a week at a time.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: Just let me put your son in the spot. What's Major League Baseball's policy on snuff?

Mr. GARAGIOLA, JR: We have a very rigorous policy in the Minor Leagues. In fact, it's a policy that we revamped pretty substantially about a year and a half ago to put much more of an emphasis in cessation as opposed to being a punitive policy. There's a fine structure, but if players or coaches or umpires attend the cessation program, the fines are rescinded. So, we're very happy about that. One thing that I did when I was with the Diamondbacks that caught on and is now a policy throughout Major League Baseball.

Back in the day, the tobacco companies used to be able to distribute their product free of charge to the clubhouses. They would give the clubhouse managers the same displays you see in the convenient stores and the tins would be right out there in the break room alongside the coffee machine. I stopped that with the Diamondbacks and while we can't regulate at the major league level as we do at the minor league level, we were able to stop the free distribution of the product and to instruct our clubhouse managers that they were not to purchase the product for the benefit of the players. So, if a player wants to use it, he's got to pay for it and he's got to bring it into the clubhouse himself. So, it's - is it enough? No. But it's a lot further than we used to be and we think we're making some pretty good strides in the Minor Leagues.

CONAN: We're talking to Joe Garagiola Junior and Senior. If you'd like to join the conversation, give us a call 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. We're broadcasting today from the Arizona Historical Society Museum in Tempe, Arizona, and we're talking baseball today here in the heart of the Cactus League. Joe Garagiola, the well-known ball player and legendary broadcaster has a new book out, "Just Play Ball." You can read a bit from it on our Web site at npr.org/talk. He's with us here in Tempe. We also have Joe Garagiola, Jr. with us from our bureau in New York where he's senior vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball. If you'd like to talk with either or both about what's right with the game or what might need reform, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org and you can join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. Before we leave the subject, I know Joe, Sr. had something else to say about tobacco.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: Well, I simply want to say that in the Minor Leagues, they're doing a great job stopping it but they come to the big leagues and the first thing they'd do is go for the chew rather than the bat. I would - Ken Kendrick, the president of the Diamondbacks, has a great idea. Let's grandfather it in. Let the guys who are using it, use it until their careers over, but no more after that and the owners and the Players' Association - I tell the Players Association, why don't you let us smoke? So, what are you, crazy? I said no. Arnold Palmer used to do that in the golf. He could hit the ball and when he went to putt, take the cigarette out and flip in. Why can't a guy go up to the home plate that way? Now, you see is as lousy, rotten spitting and everybody's oooh, it's a gross habit. It's a deadly, addictive habit. Thank you for letting me say that.

CONAN: All right. Let's get another caller on the line and we'll go now to - this is Leslie. Leslie with us from West Bloomfield in Michigan.

LESLIE (Caller): Well, first off I'd like to say, shout out to all Tigers fans.

CONAN: All right.

LESLIE: They're already down there. But my big major beef was baseball. Right now, it's really the price of admission. When I was a little girl, my dad used to take us to Tiger Stadium, you know a couple of times, several times a summer, and it was a reasonable family entertainment. When I looked into going down with my daughter this past summer, and by the time I added up the ticket has been everything else, it was just horribly expensive. And it's - there's no cheap seats anymore, there's no cheap or relatively family-friendly admission and you know, my daughter, although she likes to play baseball at home, we got her one of those plastic, you know, baseball and ball sets. She can't go to - I can't take her because of the cost at the stadium to see a real game.

CONAN: Well, one thing, Leslie, you might want to check out. It's not Major League Baseball. Check out the Minor Leagues because there are very reasonably priced but Joe Garagiola...

LESLIE: The Minor League, the nearest Minor League is Toledo and that's a good hour away and with the price of gas...

CONAN: Well, that adds up too but there might be an independent league team around there somewhere. But anyway, Joe Garagiola.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: Leslie, you're right. But then again, look at the salaries of the ball players by comparison. I remember when I was playing back when the dinosaurs were running around, Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio and Stan Muser were fighting who was going to be the first $100,000 a year player. My first year in the big leagues is 1946 believe it or not, we won the World Series, beat the Red Sox. My salary for the year was $2,800 and don't tell me that that money went a long way in those day. No, no. George Washington had bunions on his feet from walking. So, it's the salaries. It's just like commercials. I mean, you don't go to the bullpen anymore. It's ABC's call to the bullpen. It's this guy's company, that guy's company. But you got to pay these ball players. Minimum salary, Neal, is over $300,000. In the real world, you have to be a talented person to make that kind of money. I mean, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GARAGIOLA JR.: Well, Neal, I think - just to...

Mr. GARAGIOLA SR.: You got to be...

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: I work in public radio, Joe.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR.: I don't know. It's a non-profit organization.

(Soundbite of laugher)

CONAN: Tell me about it.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, JR: You know, just to add on a little bit though. I think if you look at all the major sports, baseball by far, by far does the best job in terms of pricing tickets at a variety of levels and I can't speak specifically about the Tigers, but most, if not all teams over the course of the season are very creative in terms of promotions, two for one. I know a lot of teams sell ticket packages where a family gets tickets, they get hotdogs and soft drink and a program. A lot of half priced kinds of things. Look, we are very, very sensitive to the fact that television is great. All the ancillary things are great. The person who gets in his car, drives down to the ballpark, buys a ticket to the game, that's our backbone and this year, we're going to have either side of 80 million people who went to baseball games. Another 40 million people in the Minor Leagues, that's a 120 million people in this economy who voted with their feet and we're very grateful they showed up and we want to make sure that they can come back and come back more than once a year.

CONAN: Leslie, thanks very much for the call.

LESLIE: Bring her - I'd like to bring her down to the ballpark and let her see a real game.

CONAN: Yeah.

LESLIE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Here's an email we got from Mark in St. Louis. I live in St. Louis. Been a life long Cardinals fan but when in 1952, I remembered Joe and Yogi playing a little, Joe as a broadcaster, much better. I always thought Joe was funnier than Yogi. My favorite Yogi Berra story was one year in the 1950s at the Yankee Spring Training Sportswriter asked him for an interview and tried to get a new angle on the story, asked Yogi what his hat size was. Yogi's reply, how do I know? I'm not in shape yet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: What's Joe's favorite Yogi story he has?

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: Yogi is not funny. Yogi says things funny.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: Yeah. I mean he'll say - yeah. I mean, for example, like I was recuperating, lying in bed, he calls me, what are you doing? I said, I'm trying to get better. He said, you're playing any golf? I said, no. I'm sick. He said well, don't worry about it. You play better when you don't play.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: He loves the movies. I got a favorite. I just give you an idea that he says things funny, loves the movies. And he calls me, Willy, I went to the movies. What'd you see? I said, I saw "The Client" but I didn't like it as much as the book. He said, I didn't see the book.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: So, you walk away and I mean...

CONAN: You knew him as a kid.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: I grew up across the street. I don't remember a day not knowing him. Here, I'll give you the latest. When we were growing up, everybody had a Jalopy in the neighborhood, right?

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: And we had this thing and you couldn't get it out of the neighborhood and you took turns driving. This winter night, Yogi's turn, he's driving it. Hits the fire plug. We got old faithful shooting up all over the streets, cops are there and everything. I said, yo, what happened? He said, well, you know, there's ice down there. I hit the breaks and the horn didn't work.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: What does that mean? I'll give you a short one. This is - looking for a house in New York and he always gets lost. He'd get lost in the car wash I'm telling you, but I call him and I said, Yogi, I'm lost. Tell me so we can meet this real estate lady, and so, he says, where are you? I said, I just went into the building and it's the Museum of Science but you guys call it the library. Here's what I heard folks, he said, don't go that way. Come this way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: I mean, that's Yogi, but a lot of things that they put on Yogi are not his. He's not Ned the third reader. He's not a Joe Bazooka guy. I mean, I have once asked Tommy Hendrick, I said, Tommy, what's Yogi like in the meetings? He said, he listens and then finds a - Yogi, what do you think? He said, well, if you want to pitch him, it's OK. But if you want to get him out, you better do this. I mean, that's him. He knows what he's doing. He's got a great memory but when it comes to expressing himself, maybe he's a little short.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: We - he used to come back every year because they used to win the pennant in World Series and it would have banquets. He'd get the trophies, I'd make the speech and that's what he'd say. I'll come if Joey talks. I mean, that's why we were a team.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Now, let's get Wes on the line and Wes is with us from Fort Myers in Florida.

WES (Caller): Yeah. I just - while I've been listening so long here to - Joe, I wonder if the Museum there is for, you know, for old things - are you the announcer there or are you on display in a case?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: What's your name?

(Soundbite of laughter)

WES: Wes.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: I want to make a record of it because - no, I'm not the announcer here. I do some Diamondbacks baseball. But I'm yet...

WES: But you're out on display, are you?

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: Yes, I am.

WES: Oh, OK.

Mr. GARAGIOLA SR.: I'm here from eight to five standing up - no, I'm not on display.

CONAN: They did put out a case of a Joe Garagiola memorabilia out in front of the museum tour.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: But I was honored by being put in here because I get at least five calls a day to be Italian-American of the year, humanitarian of the year, good guy - those all mean that you're not playing and you're old. That's all that means, you know, like you're an icon. What's an icon? Come on. And - but the historical society did put me and it was a tremendous thrill because I was in with some great people. I've had a great ride. Let me tell you something.

Down at the mission, we got a library finished. Two of the blessings of my life are going to have a display that I insisted on. Charles Schultz from "Peanuts," one of the greatest guys in the world. We all - I see you all nodding your head. There's always a message in Peanuts, right? And Bill Keane. What a guy, he's "Family Circus." So we're going to have this display with their pictures up and - sure they write once in a while, they had me in the thing, but that isn't it. We've got to work with the kids. The kids are the things and these are (unintelligible) kids, not having a library in the school is ludicrous.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: It's ludicrous. And those guys are helping me - but they're also the kind of people who when I'm around, in addition to Yogi. So...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: God has blessed me. God has blessed me.

WES: I would like to ask your son something.

CONAN: Go ahead.

WES: Yeah. Just, I should never ask a lawyer anything, expect a straight answer. But...

Mr. GARAGIOLA, JR: Well there you go. You're ready for it then.

WES: Yeah. Is your dad really the writer for those Yogi-isms? I believe he is.

CONAN: Why don't you ask his dad?

(Soundbite of laughter)

WES: Well, because I...

Mr. GARAGIOLA, JR.: Clearly, I figured you would need advise of counsel on this, I don't know.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: Atta boy, Joe. That's why I sent you to school, baby. You can use those big words.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. GARAGIOLA, SR: Let me tell you something I don't write that - I get upset when people say that like, I've heard Yogi say things like it ain't over till it's over. He said that but he doesn't say like some of the things they got him, saying like he's not in shape.

CONAN: Probably the hat size, yeah.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR.: The hat size kind of thing. But when somebody's got a - what they think is a Yogi-ism and they don't know who to hang it on, they go to Yogi, they don't even fool around. Some of the stuff is pure fiction. That's I think...

CONAN: I think probably he best way is to separate them is the ones that are just plain dopey, those are made up.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: Right.

CONAN: The ones that you take about three steps and then say, oh yeah. Those are real.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Let's see, we got a question from the audience here in Tempe.

JULIA PATRI:CK (Audience Member) Hi, my name is Julia Patrick and I'm from Phoenix. Welcome to Arizona, Neal.

CONAN: Thank you.

JULIA: I've a question for Joe, Jr. and Joe, Sr. There are so many women that are sports fanatics, and particularly in our city in Phoenix, we follow the Diamondbacks, we're season ticket holders. And yet we wonder what Major League is doing to attract more women fans. And will there ever be a time when maybe we see women playing?

CONAN: Hmm. What do you think, Joe, Jr.?

Mr. GARAGIOLA, JR.: The women playing question, I'll - well, I'll defer that one. But in terms of what Major League baseball does, there's a number of things. At the Minor League level where there are a lot of women executives, there is, among other things, there's the annual word presented to the outstanding woman executive which is a very nice recognition. At the Major League level, the commissioner for many years has had a program where teams are required to consider for positions of significance within an organization, qualified women candidates. And if they can't think of any, we provide the names. So, it's like anything else. People should get jobs because they're qualified to do them and they're deserving of them. But if that sometimes requires us bringing names to people's attention that they might not - not otherwise have thought of, we're ready, willing and more than able to do that are arguing it.

CONAN: Joe, do you expect to see women ever playing the game of baseball?

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: I - when I was doing "The Today Show" I did a spot where the young lady from California - I was sitting here trying to think of her name or picture - and I'm telling you she had as good a sinker as I've seen.

CONAN: Hmm. Yeah, now - as to where they play, I don't know. You're going to need separate locker rooms, although from what I read in the paper sometimes there must a room when together now. But, I don't know. Umpires, yes. That I cannot understand. But - what is your name again, ma'am?

JULIA: Julia Patrick.

Mr. GARAGIOLA SR: Julia. I don't want to say, Hey. Julia, you know what bothers me though? It - one - I watched the umpire's work like Christine Renn. I did a whole show on her when I was in the baseball world. She was a good umpire. But there's always some smart alec guy who was going to - you know, he's going to be - and he said, I don't know whether to argue with you or hug you. I don't know whether to argue with you or kiss you, that kind of stuff.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: If they would just give them the chance. And that's what this country is built on, giving a guy a chance. I would have no objection and you know, I said, we'll she's not pretty enough. What's that got to do? I've seen some umpires and look like block geeks(ph) for crying out loud. And I - I'm going to say good bye.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: No, not quite yet. We're talking with Garagiolas, Joe, Sr. and Junior. You're listening to the talk of the nation from NPR News. And let's see, we get another caller on the line. And this is going to be Bryan. Bryan with us from Louis, Delaware.

BRYAN (Caller): Hey, Joe. Pleasure to talk to you. I grew up listening to you. I coach a middle school baseball from my middle school and I remember your message, and I tell the kids about the tobacco. But I'm more interested in another question. What are your feelings about the steroid area and was that circumventing the rules like you mentioned earlier...

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR.: No.

BRYAN: Or how - what are your feelings on that?

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR.: Well, that's why I wrote the book, "Just Play Ball." I got sick and tired of steroids, human growth hormones and that kind of thing. And so I said, why don't we just play ball? If you strike out, you strike out. You hit a home run, you hit. I didn't like it at all and I think that they're going to get that - get rid of it. I don't like it. I don't know how else to say it. Maybe Joe, Jr. has got a better way of saying it but steroids to me don't belong in baseball. And what's sad to me, Mark McGwire, I'll never forget that picture when he broke the record, his young son standing at home plate. I could have cried when I saw that. That's what it's all about. And now, Mark McGwire might as well be in the witness protection program. We heard nothing about him. And everybody says, well, you used this or use that. We don't know. I - that's a subject that is so sad, it was a bad time in baseball and I'm glad we don't have that. And, I hope that your kids are not using tobacco, I hope your kids are not using steroids. Because steroids and tobacco are not going to help you hit the ball and catch it.

CONAN: We just have about a minute and a half left. Let's see if we get a quick questions from here in Tempe.

TOM (Audience member): Thank you, Neal. This is Tom from Tempe. Long time Diamondback fan from the very beginning, but that's not the question. This is a two-part question.

CONAN: Tom, we're only going to have time for one part.

TONY: All right. Do you expect baseball salaries to continue to escalate?

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: Yes.

TONY: And is it possible for teams that have a 50 to 80 million dollar payroll to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox, Angel's, Dodgers...

CONAN: Aren't they called the Rays this year?

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: It all depends on the farm system and the scouts that you got. The scouts, the underrated part of baseball and it's going to take better scouting. But, hey, you know, ever since you were born, and I was born, money talks. And you know what walks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Thanks very much for the question. And we'd like to thank everybody who called. We apologize, we didn't have time to get to everybody's question and email. Joe, Sr., thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, SR: I enjoyed it very much, the time went by too fast, though.

CONAN: I think so, too. The name of the book is "Just Play Ball: Joe Garagiola." Also with us today, Joe Garagiola, Jr., senior vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball with us from our bureau in New York. Thanks very much.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, JR: Neal, thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: The name of the book is "Just Play Ball," Joe Garagiola. Also with us today, Joe Garagiola, Jr., senior vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, with us from our bureau in New York. Thanks very much.

Mr. GARAGIOLA, JR.: Neal, thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: Coming up, how the mortgage meltdown is hitting neighborhoods here in Arizona, Florida, and California and is it spreading elsewhere around the country. I'm Neal Conan, it's the Talk of the Nation. Stay with us from NPR News.

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