- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Ah, yes, his 'Vette. Malone has always driven a red Corvette, which is hardly surprising. He was among the most self-obsessed players of the Me Decade. He dyed his hair and wore a rug, a breathtaking bit of vanity, especially in a hat-intensive sport like baseball. To this day, Malone insists on euphemistically calling his toop a "hair-replacement system," but he isn't fooling anyone.
But then, he never did fool anyone. How painful was it to watch Malone pitch? Perhaps this scene best illustrates the point: In 1992, at age 43, Sammy imprudently returned to the Red Sox Double A affiliate in New Britain, Conn. The notion of Mayday chasing the game again gave Norm Peterson pause for reflection over a beer at Cheers.
"Boy-oh-boy," he said. "The thought of Sammy out there on the mound, chuckin' 'em down. What I wouldn't give to see that, huh?"
"Norm," said Cliff Clavin, a postal worker and Cheers regular. "It's only a $30 train ride."
"Well," said Peterson. "That's what I wouldn't give."
Cliff, curious about Malone's pitching days, once asked him, "Did you have any superstitions, Sammy?" To which Sam replied, "Yeah, I had one crazy little one. I never pitched to anybody named Reggie, Willie or the Bull."
Unfortunately, the control problems that plagued Malone were never confined to the ballpark. He is a recovering alcoholic who was, you might say, line-driven to drink during his last seasons with the Sox. Malone had always hung out with teammates at the Eliot Lounge on Mass. Ave., but by 1977 the highballs were increasing in frequency as the hanging curveballs did the same. In the hideous final days of his career, Malone allows that he was even drinking during games. "Never on the mound," he once pointed out. "It sets a bad example for the catchers."
Mayday still has at least one vice left. "The closest I've ever come to saying no to a woman," explains Malone, "is, 'Not now, we're landing.' "
His wantonness has always masked loneliness. With unknowing but uncanny wisdom, an eight-year-old girl once called him Sam Alone. Sadly, the name rings true long after his retirement from baseball. Not many years ago Malone appeared (via a telephone hookup from Cheers) on Spoils Shorts, a local call-in radio program hosted by his buddy Richards. After opening the phone lines to listeners, Richards was forced to tread dead air for several torturous moments ("It is a toll-free call," he said) before a single line finally lit up.
"Sam," Cheers bartender Woody Boyd asked on the air, "where did you put the olives?"