TigsTown Q&A: Former Tiger Ted Lepcio Part 2

In continuing with part two in our talks with former Tiger Ted Lepcio, we move on to current topics, including some of the major differences between contract disputes between now and then, and what changes Ted would like to see in the game he dedicated much of his time to.

TigsTown: I mentioned playing with Al Kaline and Ted Williams, and you mentioned Harmon Killebrew. What were you able to take away from your time with each of those baseball legends?

Ted Lepcio: Well, a lot of ability for one. I saw that perhaps they all had a little more dedication than the average player. We're talking about Hall of Fame players, and I sort of refuse to talk too much about Hall of Fame players, because what's there to talk about. They've all been great. The three that we mentioned were also great human beings. They were just great guys.

I played with Williams for so long; he used to get angry at us, wondering why we all weren't better hitters. Well, I don't know how to answer that. We used to get a little angry at him for telling us we ought to be better hitters.

TT: In 1956, you discovered a bit of a homerun stroke; where did that come from?

TL: Well, I was always considered a pretty strong hitter. Really and truly. You saw where I always hit some homeruns. In my stats, for the amount of at-bats I had, I think I did pretty credible for extra base hits and the homeruns I hit. I was considered kind of dangerous to pitch to, because I could reach the fences in the Major Leagues.

TT: After the trade to Detroit, you promptly put together one of your best all-around seasons. Were you driven by a desire to show the Red Sox they should have kept you?

TL: I tell you what; I'm glad you brought that up because I consider that one of my better years in the Major Leagues, with the Tigers. It's probably because I played a lot more, I played more steadily. With Boston, you never knew when you were going to be in the lineup. In Detroit, I don't know whether it was a combination a few serious injuries or what, but I did play a considerable amount of games that year. And it reflected in my play.

TT: The final two years of your career saw you play for three different teams, was this a difficult way to end to your career?

TL: Yes. The biggest disappointment was when the Tigers traded me to Philadelphia. That was a year I should have sat out. I got into some contractual arguments with Philadelphia, and I didn't go to spring training until March 23rd. I think I should have stayed home. There was no way any player was going to catch up physically and mentally that year, reporting so late to spring training.

TT: You mention catching up in spring training. When you played, was there the year round commitment to training and keeping in shape that you see now?

TL: Well, yeah. Some of us were gifted with pretty strong bodies. We were kind of the first crew that shouldn't be labeled as the old timers. Not that I'm denigrating the old timers about their habits of drinking and all that stuff. We were the first wave of college players. You know, myself, Gernert, a bunch of guys that went to college. Not that we didn't have a beer or two, but we were lumped into the guys in the ‘40s and ‘50s as guys out of shape and all that stuff, which was not true.

But still, reporting that late; Opening Day was April 6th, and I got there March 23rd. There was no way I was getting in game shape in ten days. That one kind of got me sour, because that was a wasted year for me, even though I reported and played with them. It was a terrible year all the way around. I wasn't mentally fit to play that year. Once that settled in, it was very difficult to get out of that frame of mind.

TT: Speaking of the struggles in Philadelphia; in 1960, Philadelphia manager Eddie Sawyer called you "the worst player I ever saw." What provoked such a statement, and how did you react?

TL: I understand through a writer that he got mad I didn't sign and that I didn't get there until March 23rd. It happened to be at a cocktail party that the writer told me he got half smashed and made that comment. It was just one of those things. At that time, I had just gotten there. It happened a couple of days after I had gotten there. I should have probably went home. I should have said ‘The hell with it!' That's how that scenario got put together.

TT: You touched on one of those things that was probably the sore spot of your career, with the Phillies. On the other end of the spectrum, what was the highlight of your career?

TL: Being able to play as long as I had in the Major Leagues. I had I think three grand slams, and several winning hits. The most memorable one was probably being in the starting lineup in 1952 in Washington, where we played the Senators.

TT: Turning our attention to the present; you are named Commissioner for a day. What changes do you make, and why?

TL: If it were possible, I'd get rid of the DH! I think the DH changed the game completely. It changed the strategy of the game, and all the other domino fallout from getting away from the way it's played in the National League.

I think the introduction, for whatever reason, of Astroturf has had an effect on playing. I don't know what I'd do. That probably would be out of my hands as Commissioner, because the owners can do what they want with a ballpark. I think Astroturf definitely changed the careers of some players.

TT: In closing, knowing what you know now; you look back on your time in baseball, what would you give as a piece of advice to a young player?

TL: First of all, I'm kind of inclined to have the kid go to school as long as he possibly can. Until he's such an outstanding prospect that the money gets prohibitive. If he's in the ballpark of a million dollar bonus, then he'd have to reconsider. I think I'd like to see the guy enjoy college. Enjoy a pretty good schedule. See the rest of the country, and then decide if he wants to play. Certainly, if he's good enough to be drafted, I'm sure there will be time enough to let him enjoy playing college. But like I said, if the bonus money is tremendous, then it's a different ball game.

TigsTown.com would like to thank Ted for taking the time to talk with us, and we wish him the best in the future.

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