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"Because I've never seen it done. It's the thing that's kept me concentrating on batting practice all these years."
Phil and Marion Yount moved from Covington, Ind., to the upper-middle-class town of Woodland Hills in Southern California in 1956, the year after Robin was born. Phil was an engineer with Rocket-dyne, and education was foremost on his list of priorities for his three kids. "I have two brothers who got nothing but A's in school," says Robin. (The older of the two, Jim, 44, has a Ph.D. in oceanography and works for the U.S. Geological Survey.) "I created the family curve. In high school I spent all my time on the baseball field and in the machine shop—working on motorcycles."
Robin often interjects into conversation the phrase "I'm not smart," but Larry is quick to come to his defense. "We grew up with an engineering mind-set because of my father," Larry says. "We're all analytical in our own way. Robin looks at things and figures out why they work. When he was 12, he took apart a motorcycle without anyone telling him how. On the golf course, he'd study a putt for five hours if he had to. He would be one of the world's great teachers, because he sees why things work and can explain them to kids so they understand."
As kids, Robin and Larry were both outstanding all-around athletes; not until his senior year at Taft High did Robin decide on baseball as a career choice. Larry developed into enough of a pitching prospect that the Houston Astros selected him in the fifth round of the 1968 draft; Karl Kuehl, now director of player personnel for Oakland, was the Astro scout who signed him. "Larry had a great curve-ball, a good 87- to 89-mile-an-hour fastball," says Kuehl, "and could have been really good if he hadn't been so hard on himself. He had unrealistic expectations." Says Larry, "I thought too much about things that might happen. In that way, I was just the opposite of Robin."
Larry is listed in The Baseball Encyclopedia with these peculiar stats: one appearance, no innings. He was called up to the Astros in September 1971. When he came on in relief to make his major league debut, he hurt his elbow while warming up and had to depart before throwing a pitch in the game. He never made it back to the big leagues, though he continued pitching until '76.
Larry and Robin have always been close. In the summers following Robin's sophomore and junior years at Taft High, Robin went to Oklahoma City and lived with his brother, who was then in Triple A. "That exposed me to the professional life," says Robin. "I lived it—went to the park early, hit, took grounders, hung around the clubhouse, hung out with the guys."
Says former Brewers scout Gordon Goldsberry, who signed Robin after Milwaukee made him its first round draft pick (No. 3 overall) in 1973, "One reason Robin adapted to the major leagues at age 18 [he played only 64 games in the minors] was that he had been exposed to professional ball by Larry. Robin had worked out with Triple A players and had seen that he could do all the things they could do."
Goldsberry, a scout for 24 years, also points out that "Robin is the best athlete I've ever been associated with." It is that athleticism, more than anything else, that has allowed Yount to survive his high-risk style of play, off the field and on. "Living on the edge is the only way to play—baseball or whatever," says Yount.
Unfortunately, what is often out there on the edge of baseball is a fence or a wall, and Yount is forever scaring his employers by running into one or the other. Last year, his club-record consecutive-games-played streak came to an end at 276 when he injured his knees by running into an outfield fence.
Larry, however, maintains that Robin understands the limits. "He knows what he can and cannot do," Larry says. "He hits walls, but he doesn't crash stupidly into them. He is intense; when we fought as kids, he'd do anything to win—baseball bats, golf clubs, chairs, tire irons. But he's not dumb. He's such an incredible athlete that he can drive along the edge with no danger of going over."