Brown says, “It’s like a business now. Ballplayers, back when I played, seemed like we were together. We went out and ate dinner together and stuff. Seems like now you can’t get to a ballplayer unless you go through his agent.” Brown laughs, sort of.
“Did you negotiate your own contract?”
“Everybody did. Toward the end of my career, players started getting agents, but before then everybody negotiated their own contracts. At the time, it didn’t matter; if you had a decent year you got a raise, if you had a so-so year you hoped they didn’t cut you. Contracts were a one-year deal.”
A one-year deal at $625 a month. “When I look at the hitting records of some of the big stars in baseball today, I see a guy who hit 23 home runs, 28 home runs, 26 home runs, right in there, for 15 years, and then, suddenly, out of nowhere, he hits 63 home runs, and the guy is 36, 37, 38 years old.”
“It makes me think that steroids have become part of the game. Was it that obvious when you were playing?”
Brown says, “You tried to stay in halfway decent shape during the off-season, and once spring training started we’d work extra to get in shape. But no, we weren’t into that kind of bodybuilding or whatever these guys do nowadays.”
“Do baseball records seem less than honest now?”
“Well, I know ballplayers are getting bigger and stronger and ballparks are getting smaller. When I played in San Diego, I hit 23 home runs one year . We had to hit the ball all the way up into the stands. Later, they moved the fences inside of that. So I figure I might have lost 15 home runs a year.”
In 1982, the outfield at Jack Murphy Stadium was modified. Center field was brought in 15 feet, and the outfield wall was reduced from its 17-foot height to approximately 9.
Brown continues, “Today, in a lot of ballparks, you hit a pop-up behind home plate or down first-base or third-base lines, because the stands are so close to the field, the ball is unplayable, so you get another shot at bat. If Willie Mays or Henry Aaron were playing now…Henry Aaron might have hit 800 home runs.”
I laugh. “How about Babe Ruth?”
“He might have hit 1000.” Brown laughs.
“Let’s say it’s 1973. You were playing with the Milwaukee Brewers. And let’s say you’re playing an away game in St. Louis. What do ballplayers do when they’re not at the park? Do you read, walk around town, go to the movies, watch TV?”
“Most of the games were played at night,” Brown says. “Once the game is over, you get back to the hotel, and you’re looking at midnight. If you want to get a bite to eat, you go do that, and you’re looking at two o’clock in the morning. Most ballplayers get to bed late, so they sleep all day. You wake up at one or two o’clock in the afternoon, get a meal, and you’re back at the ballpark.”
“When you were playing, did you realize that it could end in the next heartbeat?”
“Most of the guys who get to the major leagues get there at a relatively young age. You hope you’re going to be there for a few years. But as time goes by you’re going to become that 37-year-old, and there will be a 20-year-old standing there, waiting on his turn. You have to prepare yourself for that day.”
“Were you prepared?”
“I could see it, but like a lot of ballplayers, I thought I could play another two or three years.”
Nobody leaves on his own. “What happened after baseball?”
“When I first got out I did a little scouting for a few teams. Then my wife and I got into promotional products, and that’s what we’ve been doing up until today.”
“Do people still remember you?”
Brown laughs again. “Yeah, to this day I get fan mail from people who want me to sign baseball cards. It’s amazing. I never give out my address, but somehow, baseball fans can find your address.”
On Opening Day 1969, Edward Wayne Spiezio, playing third base, went to bat three times, hit a solo home run in the fifth inning, which scored the first of San Diego’s two runs. He was born October 31, 1941, in Joliet, Illinois. Spiezio played nine years of major league ball on three different teams. He spent 1969, ’70, ’71, and part of the 1972 season with the Padres. Currently lives in Joliet, Illinois.
A woman’s voice hollers, “Pick up line ONE!”
Now comes the soft, relaxed voice of Ed Spiezio. “Hello.”
I introduce myself and after a pleasant exchange, ask, “When did you know that you were going to be great at baseball?”
“You have a good idea when you’re in Little League and you make all the All-Star teams. We won the Pony League World Series. I was the most valuable player, even though they didn’t have an official category for that at that time. I set a lot of records. You pretty well know when you’re young because of the way other people treat you and when you get into national tournaments. If you do well so many different times, you have a pretty good idea that you can play the game.”
“You expected to play pro ball?”
“Yeah, I did.” Quiet. “But a lot of guys are that way. You’re naive. You don’t know how difficult it is. If you ever looked at the numbers, you’d get discouraged.” Quiet. “But when you’re young, you don’t have any idea. All you know is you’ve got this goal, you’re going to do it, and nothing is going to stop you. It’s simple to you, but if you ever thought about it,” Spiezio laughs, “it’s very difficult.”
“You went to Lewis University [located in Romeoville, Illinois, 30 miles southwest of Chicago]. Were you drafted into baseball from there?”