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THE SECRET LIFE OF ROCKY PERONE
Eliot Asinof
June 18, 1979
The author tells the story of one Richard Pohle, who at 36 felt he could still play ball well enough to make it to the majors. Knowing that no team would take a chance on a rookie that old, Pohle, with the help of a friend, hit on a scheme to step backward in time
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June 18, 1979

The Secret Life Of Rocky Perone

The author tells the story of one Richard Pohle, who at 36 felt he could still play ball well enough to make it to the majors. Knowing that no team would take a chance on a rookie that old, Pohle, with the help of a friend, hit on a scheme to step backward in time

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I never got that tryout, I never played Little League ball, but I did get a solid thrashing from my mom.

You may think, so what? But as Lister said, suppose I had made the club. Suppose I'd played great ball as a kid and showed everyone how good I was. A 10-year-old phenom, right? Who knows? Wouldn't that have been an important beginning?

Confidence. Lister kept building up my confidence. He knew I was sensitive about being only 5'7", but he kept telling me how it wasn't that important. "Think of Rizzuto," he said. "Think of Freddie Patek. You're only 5'7", but every inch is loaded with dynamite. The only thing that matters is that you're good!"

O.K., I knew that. I'd always known that. I'd proved it enough times. Seventeen years ago, both the Dodgers and the Kansas City A's wanted to sign me, and when Arthur Lilly, a scout for the A's, offered me a contract and a spot on the roster at Class D Daytona Beach, I accepted. I was set to start my professional career. But I got the flu and ran a 104� temperature; I had to go into the hospital. I almost died! I lost 16 pounds, and when I got out, I was too weak. The A's knew I could play ball, but they had to release me. They didn't have the funds to hold me, they said. So I had to go back to my sister in California a failure. I remember how I arrived at the bus station at two in the morning with my Kansas City A's travel bag and walked eight miles to her home, and when I saw her, I broke into tears.

"It wasn't your fault," Doc kept saying to me. "The breaks went against you. You have to believe you can make it in spite of the breaks. You can, Rich. You're good enough so you can."

Every day that winter we worked out. There is a lot of good baseball played around Los Angeles in the winter. You could put together a first-rate semipro team from the gang that hangs around Sawtelle Park, for instance. Lister was my coach and trainer as well as my shrink. He had me running my butt off. Hit, field, throw, bunt, slide. And I had to play like a kid. Dumb, not cocky. I had to tone down my savvy. Like a kid, for example, I'd pull the bill of my cap over my eyes so that I had to raise my head to see. I even had to change my jargon because kids have new ways of saying things. They no longer say that a fastball pitcher throws "aspirin tablets" or "BBs"; they say, "He throws heat" or "He brings it." And the old superstitions—like the one about not crossing bats—well, kids don't care about those sorts of things anymore. If I went around uncrossing bats, it would tend to give away my age, Lister said.

This went on for weeks, a combination of field workouts and hypnosis, body and mind, all of me conditioned into a whole new person. A couple of times, Doc even pulled me aside and put me under light hypnosis right on the ball field, because he thought I was dogging it.

Meanwhile, with my sister's help, I learned how to work on my face. I made a study of cosmetic creams and powders. I visited beauty parlors and cosmetic specialists. I got facials and massages and mudpacks. I used Essence of Youth, Dermassage, baby oils—even butter—trying to make myself look more youthful. Because I have a heavy black beard, I figured out how to shave close without cutting up my skin, first working in hot soap and cream to open up the pores. It would take me at least 25 minutes to shave, but my skin would end up as smooth as a baby's butt. Then I'd pat tinted baby powder on my cheeks to cover the pores.

On top, I got fixed up with a rug that was styled sort of the way Pete Rose wears his hair. I learned how to dye the exposed hair beneath it with a mixture that would leave it dark and shining.

I was careful about what I ate. Mostly I stuck with fruits and vegetables. I got lots of sleep. It helped that I had never smoked or drunk, not even beer. And I kept my face out of the sun as much as possible, protecting my skin with creams whenever I played.

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