Bob Botz was kind enough to let me give him a call to discuss his baseball career. What a great guy! Bob and I had a nice chat about his playing days, teammates, and the towns where he played. Bob seemed to enjoy talking about baseball.
Bob had one of those fun careers, spending time in some of the very historically significant baseball cities like Atlanta, and two of my favorites, Louisville and Indianapolis.
I tried to take notes during my conversation with Bob, but I always have trouble writing and holding a phone.
Bob mentioned that he signed his first contract for $3,000. He said that he was happy to be getting a contract, and he said that he signed because he wanted to play baseball.
I asked Bob about the differences in playing then compared to now. He said that in earlier decades, one thing he noticed was that baseballs were used in the game longer. They had more wear on them as the game went on. They were more conservative with the balls. So, when guys like Babe Ruth were hitting home runs, they were doing it with a softer, and harder to hit for distance ball. This really would have added to the challenge of hitting a home run.
Mr. Botz said that he remembered talking to the late Joe Hauser about Ty Cobb, and how tough of a player he was back then.
I did ask Bob about his being around the game when it was segregated. Bob talked about those days, and he even said that he asked some of his black teammates how they felt. He mentioned a conversation with one teammate about the fact that the white players were able to stay in the nicer hotels. The teammate did say that this bothered him.
Bob did bring up a recent trip he took to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. He spent a great deal of time talking about how great the place is. This was funny, because I am planning a trip there myself this summer! Bob also likes Jazz, and added that a trip through the Vine Street area was a must.
Bob talked about his playing days in Louisville. Fairgrounds Stadium (later Cardinal Stadium) was their venue. Bob said he had a lot of big league teammates there. Also, they had a good team. He did say that the crowds were small.
Future Hall of Famer Phil Niekro was a teammate at Louisville. Bob said that he and Phil are still friends, and that Phil is a great guy. Bob said that he was very impressed with the all girl Silver Bullets traveling team that Niekro had the too brief opportunity to manage.
Bob was traded to the Cardinals organization for Bob Duliba, and was sent to the Atlanta Crackers team. Bob said he stopped playing at that time.
Bob was proud to spend much of his career in the Braves system, being from Milwaukee. Still, at that time, players had to have another job in the off season or whenever.
I asked Mr. Botz about some of the many characters and talents he played with during his career. He gave me these great stories:
My favorite involved his 1957 Boise Braves manager, George McQuinn. George loved fishing, and would actually have his fishing equipment with him as they travelled. If the team bus stopped, or there was a break, George would get off the bus and look for a place to go fishing.
Ben Geraghty is another manager that Bob mentions. Ben was managing the Louisville team, and was great at evaluating talent and making recommendations to the big league club. Bob actually got the recommendation, but the club decided to call up Claude Raymond. Though Bob did not get the call up, he was happy for his friend Claude.
Mr. Botz mentioned that some of the catchers that most impressed him were Joe Torre and Bob Uecker (another Louisville teammate).
He says Ryne Duren was a good pitcher.
Gene Conley was a great pitcher, who went on to have an impressive NBA career.
Bob notes that he was always impressed with Satchel Paige. Bob says that he would do a little bit of talking to the hitter to intimidate them!
Thanks for taking the time to chat Bob!