Bruce Kison, the Pirates' 6'4" baby-faced pitcher, is hunched over the steering wheel of his Volkswagen, his knees jacked up around his ears, his eyes glassy and wide, his pink face pressed close to the windshield and splashed with the green lights and shadows shooting past. The car is traveling through the bowels of Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill Tunnel at over 80 miles per hour in pursuit of a police escort that Kison has lost but whose sirens are echoing off the walls around him. "I've never speeded before," he says, sliding Santana's recording of Black Magic Woman into the stereo tape deck. The music is barely audible over the strung-out whine of the car's engine and the echoing sirens. Kison begins to sing, "She's a black magic woman and she's tryin' to make a devil out of me." His car runs up on the tail of a blue Galaxie. Without missing a note or stabbing the brakes, Kison jerks to the left. There is the shriek and smell of burning rubber, and the Volkswagen, tottering on two wheels, shoots into the left lane, cutting off a Cadillac whose driver nails a palm to his horn. Without looking back, Kison sticks his left hand out the window and extends the middle finger from a clenched fist. He raises the volume of the stereo to full blast. The Cadillac horn blows angrily. Kison sings louder. The sirens grow closer. The walls of the tunnel quake, rumble, seem about to fissure, and the noise so terrifies drivers up ahead that they swerve into the right lane and stop in order to avoid this possessed little Volkswagen hurtling by like a misshapen, misguided missile whose pilot, gone mad, is now—at precisely 8:03 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 17, 1971—33 minutes late for his wedding.
A few hours before, Kison had stood in the visiting team's locker room at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, a towel around his waist, contemplating the chaos around him. The room was packed almost to a standstill with writers, photographers, baseball executives, well-wishers and players celebrating the Pirates' World Series victory. Television cameras were planted in the center of the room, their cables slung overhead like black clotheslines. On a brilliantly lighted platform Roberto Clemente, Steve Blass and Manager Danny Murtaugh were being interviewed by a sleek and nervous-looking Sandy Koufax. Behind them, players jostled for position to be the next interviewed. Photographers, with cameras held high overhead, paused where there were clusters of writers and aimed lenses down at the sweaty, grinning faces of the men being questioned. The reporters moved from player to player in a pack. They pressed their subjects against lockers and recorded in notebooks such comments as: "You can't take anything away from the Orioles. They're a hell of a team"; "Yes, I certainly do think the best team won"; "This is the greatest bunch of guys I've ever been with. The greatest, know what I mean?" The Pirate players not being interviewed or photographed, particularly those whose contributions to the win were negligible, seemed to celebrate the most exuberantly. They slapped open palms, hugged and tousled one another's hair and, when the champagne arrived, they doused anyone within range. Standing by his stall, Kison said to a friend, "I told you to wear old clothes in case we won. You'd better put your coat in my locker. It sure seems an awful waste. I'd rather drink it."
While the celebration swelled, Kison dressed and slipped out of the locker room. A police escort led him through a cheering crowd, across Oriole Boulevard, behind a brick high school to an open field where a helicopter waited to take him and his best man, Bob Moose, to Friendship Airport. There, a needle-nose Lear Jet, provided by Jack B. Piatt, a friend of Pirate Broadcaster Bob Prince and the president of Mill-craft Industries, stood ready to fly Kison, Moose and his wife Alberta, who was eight months pregnant, to Pittsburgh for Kison's evening wedding to Anna Marie Orlando. It was 6:30 p.m. by the time Moose reached the helicopter, weaving unsteadily. His gray baseball uniform was drenched with champagne and his Pirate cap sat on his head at a Howdy Doody angle.
The blades clattered as the helicopter rose slowly. It hovered above the ground and then began moving forward, blowing the tall grasses flat against the ground until they looked almost white in the late afternoon sun. The helicopter rose noisily over telephone wires, trees and houses, until it was above scooped-out Memorial Stadium. It circled the stadium once, twice, each time climbing higher, before finally spinning free of the stadium's orbit. The Plexiglas windows vibrated as gusts of wind buffeted the craft. With an agonizing but relentless slowness the helicopter moved toward the red-orange sunset.
April 10, 1972
The flight to Pittsburgh lasted 22 minutes. As soon as the jet was airborne, Jack Piatt, an immaculately dressed man with graying hair, opened the bar and poured drinks. He offered a toast to Kison's wedding. Then he asked what was happening back in the Pirate locker room.
"Nothing much," said Kison.
For the remainder of the flight Piatt extolled the virtues of his Lear Jet. "It only costs $800,000," he said, pouring second drinks for himself, Kison, Mrs. Moose and her husband, who was falling asleep against her shoulder. "It can climb at 6,000 feet a minute and it cruises at 525 miles an hour. There's no sense of flight in one of these babies." Outside, the plane hung silent and, it seemed, motionless over a field of clouds. The sky was a pale, diminishing blue. Shafts of sunlight hit the left wing and exploded into silver slivers that so blinded the passengers they were forced to draw the curtains and darken the cabin.
When the plane began circling Pittsburgh airport, Piatt brushed back his cuff and checked his watch—7:12 p.m. "God bless Millcraft!" he declared. Kison seemed unsure of the proper response. He thanked Piatt for the trip. "You ought to get one of these, Bruce," the executive said, gesturing toward the Lear. "It's the only way to go." There was not a trace of facetiousness in Piatt's remark.
Bruce Kison had arrived—in baseball if not yet at his wedding.
In the summer of 1970 Kison was struggling along with a sore arm and a 4-4 record in Waterbury, Conn, in the AA Eastern League when he happened to be picked by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED as the subject of an article (June 14,1971 )on minor league life. From the day of his first interview to the end of the 1970 season he did not lose another game for Waterbury. Last year, after being sidelined most of the spring with an infected tendon in his pitching hand, Kison won 10 of 12 starts with the Charlestown Charleys of the AAA International League. He was called up to Pittsburgh just before the All-Star break. At the time, the Pirates were four games ahead in their divisional race but suddenly their pitching talent (which never was very thick) had been thinned when Bob Moose left for military duty. Kison won his first two starts for the Bucs, the second a two-hit shutout. He was 3-2 after a month of starts, before running into a streak of bad luck during which he pitched creditably enough but managed only losses or no decisions. Kison finished the regular season with a 6-5 record, a 3.41 ERA. It was said the very tall, 178-pound sidearmer needed to develop greater stamina and another pitch before he would become a winner in the majors.
Because of his end-of-the-season tailspin, Kison expected to see little action during the National League playoffs against the Giants. He watched from the bullpen as Pittsburgh won two of the first three games. But when Steve Blass failed to last in the fourth game, Kison was called in. It was the third inning, the score was tied at 5 apiece and it seemed obvious that Danny Murtaugh wanted to save his veteran reliever, Dave Giusti, for the crucial later innings. Kison was to be a stopgap performer, who, hopefully, could manage three outs before someone would pinch-hit for him in the next inning. But Kison handily dispatched the Giants, and Murtaugh, sensing a new character was being written into his scenario, did not replace him when he came to bat in the fourth. Nor did Murtaugh seem overly upset when the skinny rookie wiped out a Buc threat in that inning by hitting a routine ground ball. Kison began fleshing out his part with one scoreless inning after another. When he finally left the game in the seventh in favor of Giusti, Kison had created for himself a leading role in the game. Throwing mostly rising and screwballing fast-balls and a small but quick slider, he had limited the Giants to two hits and no runs in 4‚Öî innings, and he was to receive credit for the Bucs' pennant-clinching victory.
Kison's performance had been an unexpectedly adept, professional effort, yet the rookie pitcher seemed not the least impressed either by the circumstances in which he now found himself (besieged by writers) or the batters he had just faced. It was assumed that Kison's coolness on the mound and in postgame interviews was really nothing but a naively constructed facade. This notion sprang in part from Kison's manner (he is quiet to the point of taciturnity) but mostly from his deceptive appearance. At 21, he looks 15. He has a gawky adolescent's body, all arms and legs and little torso. His face is long and fine-boned and dusted with a peachlike fuzz. It is dominated by eyes so wide and blue as to appear unblinking, stunned, with the three-dimensional quality of those animals like gazelles that are only one twitch from flight. Yet Kison is neither timid nor stunned. Nor does he possess an unfathoming innocence akin to Billy Budd's. He is simply a direct, if slightly unfinished, young man, whose parts are well formed if too few. His directness owes only a small debt to innocence and more to an instinct so blunt as to be, at times, brutal. He does or says nothing that is superfluous and, in fact, seems as straight and simple and obvious as the age in which he lives is circuitous and convoluted and devious.
His performance in the playoffs was viewed as the aberration of a novice, owing more to luck and propitious circumstances than to any talent he might possess. So when the World Series began, few people expected Kison to play a prominent part in its resolution. He remained the fledgling rookie on whom a team could hardly rely in the Great American Classic. (Oddly enough, Kison was only eight months younger than Vida Blue, a pitcher of whom people expected a great deal more than he delivered in a similar situation.) Heroics in the World Series were to be the private reserve of veterans like Dock Ellis and were certainly not the domain of a youth who, some said, divested himself of his beard each morning with the aid of only a hot towel. Kison himself did not expect to be used much in the Series. He was even apologetic for the good fortune that had brought him into an event that some of his teammates, like Bob Veale, had worked for a decade to reach. And Veale, who had fallen out of favor with the Pirate management for not having fulfilled his potential, would probably see as little action as Kison.
Bruce enjoyed his anonymity as the Series began in Baltimore. It allowed him to eat his meals in peace and sit unnoticed in the chaotic, baggage-strewn lobby of the Bucs' hotel, watching the spectacle of his first World Series with a detachment that was being denied his more famous teammates. Manny Sanguillen, for instance, could not step from an elevator without being besieged by autograph seekers who were drawn to him as much by his perpetual grin as by his blindingly white panama suit with its lapels approaching the wingspan of a 747. On the other hand, Dock Ellis, a heavy-lidded, petulant-faced man who seemed always bored or angry or maybe just in need of sleep, was too foreboding a presence to be approached for autographs. He always was striding across the lobby with a high-waisted, stomach-thrusting strut to answer a page's "Call for Mr. Dock Ellis!"; or else he was surrounded by sportswriters to whom he was expounding on the qualities of his hotel accommodations, as if he were not just Pittsburgh's starting pitcher in the first game but also a dark-skinned Temple Fielding in wedge-heeled boots. Kison was left largely to himself. He sprawled across his bed and watched television or telephoned his fiancée in Pittsburgh.
The heavily favored Orioles took the first game handily. They knocked Ellis out of the game in the third inning. In the second game Baltimore was ahead 3-0 when Murtaugh relieved starter Bob Johnson in the fourth. The new pitcher was Bruce Kison. Kison threw nine pitches. Eight of them were balls; he walked one run in and was promptly replaced by Moose. The Orioles won that contest 11-3.
In the locker room after the game, Kison was asked by sportswriters if he had been jittery in his first World Series appearance, and if that hadn't accounted for his wildness. "No," he said, "I just wasn't used to the mound. That might have thrown my control off. But I wasn't nervous." The following day newspapers around the country explained that Kison's wildness was caused by his nervousness at pitching in his first World Series; it was to be expected of a rookie, the writers noted.
The third Series game was played in Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium, one of those perfectly proportioned ovals similar to ancient coliseums but so oppressively modern as to be without odor (except of fresh gypsum); without blemish (no worn patches on the billiard-table surface, no obstructing pillars, no garish advertisements on the outfield fences); and without character (private, glass-enclosed booths are available but are so removed from the action that the occupants can be seen watching the game on portable TV sets). The stadium has rows of brightly painted seats that incline almost straight back, rising away from the playing field like the seats in a movie theater. This puts the spectators beyond the first few rows at a great distance from the field. At such a distance on a muggy afternoon the athletes become blurs of gray and white, gliding in slow motion over a perfect, pale-green cloth, pursuing a baseball that can be heard but not seen, seeming to perform an eerie ballet akin to that of the tennis players in the movie Blow-Up.
In that third game the Orioles managed to get only three hits off Steve Blass and the Bucs had a win at last. Blass, a 29-year-old veteran of modest successes, is regarded by sportswriters as the Bucs' resident wit and intellectual (he is excellent "copy"). He is also a pitcher of only adequate talent but great desire, and he throws the ball with such a flurry of arms and legs that he resembles a young boy trying to impress his elders and willing to fall on his face, if necessary, to do it. Still the Pirate victory was looked upon by many as simply a delaying action, a postponement of the inevitable Oriole triumph.
The fourth game was to be the first night game ever played in a World Series. During batting practice Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn was led to a spot near home plate by some photographers. He was given the monstrous metal World Series trophy to hold and told to stand in that spot until pictures could be taken with the rival managers. When Earl Weaver and Danny Murtaugh appeared on either side of Kuhn, one of the photographers yelled, "O.K., smile, Commissioner," which he did, obligingly. While the commissioner grunted under the immense weight of the trophy and tried to smile at the same time, Murtaugh and Weaver chatted across him and the trophy, as if the trophy, one empty vessel, was suspended solely by another. When the photographers finished, they unceremoniously left the commissioner. Weaver trotted back to his dugout and Murtaugh, his hands stuffed in his back pockets, walked deliberately back to his. The commissioner, still smiling, stood by himself with his prize for a long moment before finally saying, "Dammit, somebody help me with this thing or I'll be standing here all night." Things seemed to be going awry in Pittsburgh and for Pittsburgh.
Starting the game did not help at all. The Orioles scored three runs in the top of the first before Pirate Pitcher Luke Walker was taken out of the game. When his replacement, Bruce Kison, arrived from the bullpen there was an audible groan from the fans. It was as if the appearance of the pink-cheeked rookie signaled Murtaugh's resignation to a Baltimore triumph, and the fact that Kison retired the side with one pitch did little to dissipate the feeling of despair. However, when the Bucs scored two runs in the bottom of the first, the hometown crowd, expecting a speedy substitute for Kison, was encouraged. If Bruce could just manage three outs, Murtaugh could send in a pinch hitter for him in the bottom of the second. Kison, working quickly with his sweeping right-to-left, sidearmed delivery, retired the first two batters. Then Paul Blair hit a pop fly that bounced on the Tartan Turf in front of Roberto Clemente and sprang over his head for a double. Kison, unfazed, got the next batter out on an infield fly.
Murtaugh did not pinch-hit for Kison in the second; nor in the fourth (by which time the score stood 3 all); nor in the sixth. During those innings, before the largest audience ever to watch a baseball game (62.3 million TV viewers and 51,378 in the stadium), Kison pitched flawless baseball. In his flawless performance one must include, not exclude, the three batters he hit with pitches, setting a World Series record. Those Orioles were simply being served notice that despite Kison's virginal appearance he was not one to treat idly. Kison had hit a high porportion of batsmen in his three-year professional career. He hit seven batters in one minor league game, which he won. His difficulty stems from a fastball that breaks sharply in on a right-handed batter at the last second. This break is often misjudged and can result in bruised ribs. Also, because his curveball is such a brief affair and anxious batters tend to lean far over the plate hoping to paste it to the right-field wall, Kison must protect himself by firing an occasional pitch inside. This combination of a batter leaning one way and a fastball breaking the other accounts for the knockdowns. There is a feeling among Kison's friends that he is not particularly upset when he hits a batter, that he feels it helps compensate for his limited repertoire (two basic pitches) and his boyish appearance. Yet, in the fourth game of the Series, he claimed his youthful wildness was responsible for the three hit batters—Dave Johnson, Andy Etchebarren and Frank Robinson. Strangely enough, he did not walk a single batter during that span.
Kison won the game that night by allowing the Orioles only Blair's bloop double and no runs in 6 1/3 innings. Giusti finished the game and preserved Kisort's 4-3 victory. Four days later, after the Bucs won the world championship in the seventh game, Earl Weaver would say that the fourth was the turning point of the Series, and that Kison had been the pivotal figure. Weaver explained that with a three-run lead in the first inning and a rookie pitcher at their disposal, the Orioles never should have lost. A victory would have given them a 3-1 edge.
The moment Kison entered the locker room after the fourth game, the press surrounded and immobilized him. Flash-bulbs exploded in his face. People shouted orders and questions at him. A TV cameraman, his equipment slung over his shoulder like a bazooka, yelled at Kison to look his way, and when Bruce did his face was flooded with a light. A television commentator stuck a microphone under Kison's nose and began asking questions. Sportswriters grumbled and fidgeted as they waited their turn and, when the cameraman extinguished his lights, they let loose with a dozen questions simultaneously. For an instant a look flickered in Kison's eyes suggesting he was about to flee, and just as quickly it was gone, replaced by a gaze devoid of all expression. Kison folded his arms across his narrow chest and, towering above the writers, began to answer their queues.
"Were you as nervous today as you were in the second game?"
"I don't know," said Kison. "I had trouble getting the ball over the plate in the second game so they said I was nervous. If I'd have gotten it over they would have said I was calm. So I guess you can say I was nervous in the second game, but I was calm today."
"What's your telephone number?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know your own telephone number?"
"I never have had to call myself."
"Do you mean to tell us you weren't nervous in that second game?"
"Everybody brings in nerves, nerves, nerves," said Kison. "I don't think about being nervous. I just tried to do better this game than in the last, that's all."
"If the Series goes seven games," said another writer, "do you think you'll make your wedding?"
"When I set the date I had been told by some of my teammates that the Series would be over by the second week of October. I should have checked myself. But if I'm in Baltimore Sunday then that's where I'm supposed to be. I'm here to help win I he Series first and get married afterward."
"Bruce," said one writer, "now that you're famous, do people recognize you when you walk the streets?"
"I don't walk the streets."
"Is your fiancée good looking?"
"I mean is she a really good-looking girl?"
"What do you think? Boy, that was a stupid one."
"What do you think of major league sportswriters?"
"They're all right. They haven't stuck a knife in me yet."
While Kison was talking, two reporters directly under his nose began arguing over who had rights to the next question. The argument grew louder and louder until Kison broke off in mid-sentence and rolled his eyes heavenward. Kison was asked if his childhood dreams had come true.
"Yes, and then some."
For a third time a writer asked him about his wedding.
"Why is everyone making such a big deal about the wedding?" Kison said. "If I can't make it back to Pittsburgh Sunday we'll have to change it, that's all."
"How often do you shave?"
"Every day," replied Kison.
"Do you need to?"
"I wouldn't shave if I didn't." Suddenly there was a commotion by the telephone. One of the Pirate trainers motioned for Kison to answer the phone. While Bruce talked the writers edged closer. Someone said, "He's talking to President Nixon." Kison hung up and returned.
"Who were you talking to, Bruce?"
"That was my father and mother and some friends of the family, and, oh, yes, my dog."
"What'd they say?"
"Nothing much. My mother and father and the friends congratulated me. The dog didn't say anything. He can't talk."
On the outer edge of the group a writer was saying, "It's hard to tell if he's a bright kid or not. I thought he'd say his fiancée was sensational, a knockout, something I could use. But he doesn't say what you'd expect. I don't know. Maybe he just isn't too bright."
"How do you show pressure inside?" asked a writer.
"I don't know," said Kison. "You tell me."
"Don't you feel anything inside?"
Another writer told Kison that Frank Robinson was furious at being hit. The writer asked Kison to comment on Robby's anger.
"I think you're just trying to cause friction there," said Kison. "I don't want to answer that question."
Off to one side a few people were watching the young pitcher being grilled. "Ballplayers build up a tolerance to some questions and automatic responses to others," remarked one longtime observer of these scenes. "Kison hasn't cultivated this yet, but he will, and maybe that's a shame. Right now he refuses to answer dumb questions in a clever way but is willing to answer good questions in a fresh new way. Soon he'll answer them all with safe clichés."
"Bruce will have to learn how to handle writers," Steve Blass said. "Sometimes he makes judgments too soon, not considering all the possibilities. I've tried to tell him he can't be too quick in evaluating people, especially writers. But Bruce is flexible. He'll learn as he gets older. He'll become more aware, which is a shame. It's a loss of innocence. He won't be this Bruce Kison anymore; he'll be a new Bruce Kison, because people demand more from us than we're capable of giving."
It was midnight when Kison finally emerged from a shower into an all-but-deserted locker room. Dripping, he moved to his stall and began drying himself. He is incredibly long and bony. His ribs showed.
"Jeez, I hated all that attention," he said. "I must have acted like a fool in front of those writers. Did I? Jeez, I hope not. Aw, I know I did. A real fool." He threw his towel into the center of the room and muttered as he dressed. Bob Veale, the only other player in the room, came over to Kison and said, with mock solemnity, holding an imaginary microphone in front of Bruce, "Tell me, Kison? How's it feel to set a World Series record by hitting eight batters in three innings?" Kison smiled and said nothing. "And to be such a big hit with all those sportswriters, too?" Veale added. "My goodness, Kison, tell me, how's it feel?"
When Veale was gone Kison said of him, "He told me to go into the locker room between innings so my arm wouldn't stiffen up. He's always helping me like that. I feel sorry for him. I wonder why I'm so lucky. I see him sitting alone at his locker, not saying anything, and I wonder what he's thinking. He has to watch me get all this attention in my first year and he's been here 10."
On the morning after his big win, Kison arrived at Three Rivers Stadium at nine o'clock for a television interview with Sandy Koufax. He was smoking a cigar, which made one feel one ought to tell his father on him.
Kison and Koufax stood halfway down the third-base line and chatted while television cameramen set up equipment in the visitors' dugout. The sun hung over the center-field bleachers, cutting through the morning mist. It will directly behind Kison, making him seem a dark silhouette. Koufax, at 35, looked tense and strained as a greyhound. He wore a navy blazer with an NBC crest on the breast pocket, a red shirt and a patterned tie, double-knit slacks and alligator loafers. As he talked with Kison, he constantly tugged at his shirt collar, stretched his neck, smoothed his already smooth hair and glanced toward the cameramen. Kison stood spread-legged and motionless. His hands were stuffed into his back pockets. His shirt hung outside of his pants and he wore cowboy boots. When the cameraman signaled Koufax to begin he raised the microphone to his lips, assumed a smile and began asking Kison questions. Kison replied in a monotonous voice. His hands remained in his pockets and his eyes drifted over Koufax' head to the deserted stadium. The first three lakes were unsuccessful and with each Koufax became increasingly annoyed. Finally, when Koufax blew a fourth take the cameraman signaled for him to continue. Koufax yanked the microphone away from his mouth and said. "No, we won't! Bruce doesn't want to live with that, do you, Bruce? And I am not going to make a fool of myself in front of millions of viewers."
The fifth take began with Kison saying, "I was very displeased with my performance in Baltimore in the second game...."
On the morning of the seventh and final Series game in Baltimore, Kison sat at a table in a coffee shop and waited impatiently for his scrambled eggs. In the deciding contest, Kison realized he might be the first reliever if Steve Blass faltered, and that, with the uncertainty of reaching his own wedding that night in Pittsburgh, made him unusually irritable. Kison's irritation had also grown from what he considered to be undue attention heaped on him ever since his fourth-game win. He did not like his instant notoriety, he said.
To pass the time while he waited for breakfast, Kison tried to reevaluate, objectively, his pitching of the past year, so as to be able to negotiate his 1972 contract with the front office. He decided that his 10 victories in AAA, his six during the regular season with Pittsburgh and his playoff and Series victories qualified him as an 18-game winner. Furthermore, the playoff and Series triumphs would be worth a lot of money to the Pirates and, if they won that afternoon, a great deal more. He deserved a small portion of this cash, he said, and he wondered just how much he should ask for. (Ironically, when the Bucs divided up their World Series and playoff booty, they failed to give Bruce Kison a full share.)
"It's funny," said Kison, "but I don't care that much about money. Here I am talking so much about it and if I had to, I'd play for nothing back home in Pasco, Washington. I wouldn't play every day for nothing, bin still I'd play. Money doesn't mean that much to me yet. I'm not a clotheshound like some guys on the club. To me, clothes are necessities, like food. I don't love to eat. I eat until I'm content, that's all. But it seems the more you taste big-league life the more you want—or think you want. You get caught up in things that never meant much to you before. You become something different. I'm not the same person I was a year ago, six months ago or even a few weeks ago.
"When I was a kid I admired the milkman. I wanted to be just like him someday. Then you grow up and your sights change. Your goals get larger than they were, and Pasco is no longer enough for you. I still love to go back and hunt, but I don't think I could go back and drink beer on Saturday nights for the rest of my life. Once I said I could never stay in baseball unless I was in the major leagues, that if I didn't make it, I'd return to college and get my degree. College is getting farther and farther away. I can see myself as an organization man in the minors now. I wouldn't like it much, but still I can see myself doing it. It doesn't take long in baseball before you become like everyone else. I mean, when you first come to the majors, you hear guys talking about things, like girls and stuff, and you think, that isn't me. I'll never be like that. But pretty soon you realize you'll evolve into what everybody else is. I don't think I'll mind that. It doesn't look so bad now. And when it happens all I'll think about is protecting myself up here. I know that right now there's some kid in the weeds, some kid riding a bus someplace, and he's checking my ERA in The Sporting News just like I did when I was in Waterbury."
Kison looked around for his waitress. "Jeez, where is she? I only ordered eggs." He sighed disgustedly and then continued, "I guess I've learned a lot. I've learned that baseball is for the owners and sportswriters and fans, and not the players. We just perform. For instance, the other night a guy came to my hotel room and asked if he could come in and talk. He said he was a Pirate fan, that he followed me closely and thought I was great. So what could I say? Anyway, he kept talking and talking about how great I was and how no one will believe it when he tells them he was in Bruce Kison's room, and all the while he's looking at me with these big eyes like I'm some kind of hero or something. Finally, I said to him, 'It isn't that big a deal, you know.' He said, 'It is to me.' Then he left.
"People idolize us too much. They give us importance we don't deserve. I am the first pitcher ever to win a night World Series game, but I don't feel important. I still think of myself as a kid. Baseball is still a sport to me. But it's a business. I'm just a piece of property. I know that. But that doesn't mean I want people to make a living off me. Take my wedding, for instance. I don't want people to make a living off my wedding. That's a helluva way to start out."
The waitress appeared with his eggs. She placed the platter in front of Kison and he looked at them for a second. He picked up his fork, picked at the eggs and then said, "I wanted them well done. These aren't well done." The waitress took the plate back to the kitchen.
"They'll probably just throw them on another plate and bring them out again," said Kison. Then he laughed a little. "That's funny. I'd never have done that a year ago. But there are a lot of things I used to do I'd never do now. When everybody's looking at you, you can't always express what you feel. I think that's the most important thing I have learned up here. I mean, you don't tell everything you know anymore."