I enjoy historical research, and last winter I was doing something on the old California League, going back to the 19th century. For example, in 1892 the San Jose ball club played a 177-game season, and except for three or four games, two pitchers pitched the entire season. One pitcher pitched over 800 innings. That's a career for most pitchers nowadays. I don't know what their arms were made of. One of the two actually got to the majors. His name was George Harper. The one who pitched the 800-plus innings, J.D. Lookabaugh, kind of disappeared a couple of years down the road. Probably threw his arm out.
Santarone's office is the playing field of Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, where he is the head groundskeeper
I got started in baseball because I was born into baseball. My dad was a professional baseball groundskeeper in Elmira, N.Y., in the old Eastern League. Twenty feet past the rightfield fence is where I was born and raised. My two brothers and I would go with our dad—sweep the stadium, shag balls.
We had a herd of goats right in the ballpark, where we used to pasture them. We had anywhere from four to 12 goats. The players bellyached about the droppings, so we had to clean that up before batting practice. The old Eastern League scorecard had a picture on the cover of the goats in the outfield.
My dad was a helluva groundskeeper; really, really good. He was from the old country, of course, a man of the earth, a farmer, a laborer in Italy. He got into groundskeeping when he emigrated to the United States, and he taught me. He understood dirt and what dirt did. He died in 1952 and I took over the team in Elmira, in the Dodger organization. I was 22 or so.
In 1959-60 Baltimore took over the franchise, and that's when Earl Weaver came to Elmira as the manager. Weaver moved up to the big leagues during the '68 season. We had guys in Elmira who moved quickly up to Baltimore—Davey Johnson and Mark Belanger and those fellows—and they raved about my infield. So Earl thought, "Why not transfer that to Baltimore?" The Orioles called and asked if I would come up to the big leagues.
I played 17 years of semipro baseball myself—pretty fair pitcher, back when we got $35 if we won, $25 if we lost—so I know what it takes to have a decent infield: what the dirt should consist of, what makes a bad hop, that kind of thing. Hands-on knowledge and intuition. It's just getting a feel—it's hard to discuss.
If I see a bad hop, I remember it and take a look after the game, hoping it's not a matter of the infield being too dry or too wet, too hard or too soft. I can tell by walking on it. I'm a big fan, darn right. I love baseball. I really do.
But the players aren't the same. Way back in my earliest time, most of the players weren't college players. They weren't spoiled as much as these players are. In those days if you came to the park with a briefcase you'd get your head knocked off.