Tuesday, July 8, 2014

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: BILLY SAMPLE

I love and respect the grind.  I know it's hard to make it to the major leagues and stay there and I admire many of the great ball players past, present and future for being able to make it and stay along as long as they have and will.  When I was growing up, there were many guys that played the game with the same club for a long time.  There were others, that as a Yankee fan, you wanted on your club, be it because of their talent, scrappiness, toughness, whatever it was.  One of those guys that I always admired was Billy Sample


Now, full disclosure; Once my first son was born, I made it a mission of mine to send out baseball cards to players present and past to get their autographs. The goal was to give each of my kids a binder full of baseball card autographs when they were old enough to enjoy it and understand the game. It was something I did as a kid, and something I hoped to pass onto them. One of those players was Billy Sample, and for a short time, we wrote letters back and forth to each other.  He answered my questions openly. He was, and is, a great, honest man and we became "friends"... in my head.  Now, years later, we met up again, this time because of a movie he put together called Reunion 108.

I recently wrote A SAMPLE OF BILLY SAMPLE. I wanted to share my recent connection with the BYB audience, an audience that didn't exist when I started my baseball card collection for my children. Now, these days, it nice to tell the stories to our audience, and so, when I asked Billy to do an interview with us, he agreed, and I was thrilled.

So here it is. A great interview with a smart baseball mind, a former pro baseball player, a movie maker and my friend, Mr. Billy Sample. Enjoy this ladies and gentlemen... I sure did:

BYB: Mr. Sample, you played 1 season with the Yankees, 1985. Tell the audience about playing for Billy Martin.


Billy Sample: In my opinion and that of others, Billy was a tremendous tactician, and he played an aggressive, small ball type of game.  Not that he shunned the three run homer, but he would force pressure on the defense by maximizing the smaller parts of the offense.

BYB: What teammates were you close with on that '85 Yankees team and why?

(In Photo: Don Baylor)

Billy Sample: By nature I am not a close, "makes friends" type of person.  I dressed on the side of the room with Andre Robertson, Don Baylor and Ken Griffey Sr., so I probably conversed more with them during the day than most.  


Ken Sr., had a fifteen year old son, who turned out to be a pretty good ballplayer too.

BYB: Yogi Berra was also your manager for 16 games in 1985. What was he like in a setting like that?


Billy Sample: Yogi was and is a super respected person.  Similar to what the public sees, he has a very easy demeanor with an understated humor.

BYB: I followed your career before the Yankees, when you were with the Rangers.  Tell me about your experience in baseball back then in Texas. What is your fondest memory of playing there?


Billy Sample: From Texas, I just remember the heat, oppressive temperatures. It was hard to maintain weight and energy. I believe one year we had forty-three consecutive days of over a hundred degrees.  The newer stadium, with its better infrastructure can shield the players better than the minor league stadium that the team inherited after its move from Washington

BYB: Growing up, who did you idolize in baseball and why?

Billy Sample: I didn't have any baseball idols growing up.  My models were people of whom I had interacted; like teachers, Cub scout leaders, coaches, etc.  I did admire the quiet dignity of Roy White


When I was traded to the Yankees, while Roy was in some front office capacity, I called him to my locker one day as he was walking through the clubhouse and told him. He didn't believe me... ha ha.


BYB: You shared a great nugget about Don Zimmer recently and we printed it on Bleeding Yankee Blue. Any other stories you want to share about the great Mr. Zimmer?

Billy Sample: Rangers' management had decided to replace Don Zimmer mid-way through the 1982 season, but as this was happening, Amon Carter, one of the minority owners of the club, died unexpectedly.  Owner Eddie Chiles didn't want the firing of Don to overshadow the homage paid to recently departed part owner, so he asked the manager to stay on through the weekend, even though he had been unofficially fired. Let's just say that press conference after the weekend was priceless.






BYB: We recently chatted about the movie "Reunion 108" you put together.  Tell me about it, I'm sure the BYB audience would love to hear about it.

Billy Sample: I wrote a script. It's an edgy, satirical, R-rated comedy with a baseball clubhouse backdrop.  I submitted it to the Hoboken Film Festival and it took top honors in it's category and then I decided to produce it.  The jury is still out on that decision, but it's what I wanted, and now I have the task of getting it into as many theaters as possible and educate the audiences while eliciting quite a few laughs.

BYB: Is making movies something that you always had in the back of your mind, even when you were a major league ballplayer?

Billy Sample: No, not at all. I thought about journalism from time to time, but never thought about a movie during my playing days.  I doubt if making a movie even entered my mine before the last five years or so.


BYB: Billy, who was the 1 pitcher that you hated to face the most and why?

Billy Sample: I had trouble with a number of pitchers; Shane Rawley, Dave Stieb, Neal Heaton, Paul Splittorff, Jack Morris, Sammy Stewart. How did I stay in the league? Ha ha.  However, the late Tom Underwood and I both knew that I had trouble with him.   Once I got a cheap infield hit off of him in Baltimore. He with the Orioles and me with the Yankees. We both nodded because that's the only hit I remember getting off of him.  Officially I was 2 for 21 off of him.

BYB: Finally... anything you want to say to Bleeding Yankee Blue?

Billy Sample: Continued success with Bleeding Yankee Blue.

Thank you Mr. Sample, and all the best to you sir.  I would like to help promote Reunion 108 right now ladies and gentlemen.  Billy Sample is on Facebook.

I suggest you reach out to him.  Tell him you want to help him promote his film.  It's takes alot of courage and confidence to step out into a brand new field after baseball, but Mr. Sample is doing it, and I tip my cap.

I truly appreciate Mr. Sample taking the time.  And Billy, if you need anything, you reach out to us at BYB. You are now, officially, part of the Bleeding Yankee Blue family.

You've made BYB the fastest growing Yankees fan site in history. Now shop at the Bleeding Yankee Blue store!  Follow me on Twitter @BleednYankeeBlu and LIKE Bleeding Yankee Blue on Facebook!

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