Friday, November 27, 2009
A Great Centerfielder Interviewed: Jim Landis
Jim Landis was signed by the Chicago White Sox as an amateur free agent in 1952 and played for 8 years before being traded to Kansas City Athletics on January 20, 1965 where he played for one year. He then moved to the Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, and finally the Boston Red Sox . He was a member of the American League 1962 All-Star team, a 5 time Gold Glove Award winner from 1960 to 1964 and played in the 1959 World Series. Landis played his final major league game with the Houston Astros on June 28, 1967.
Jim Landis, 75, now lives in Napa, California with his wife Sandy (Foster).
His First MLB game in ’57: “I was a scared rabbit. Half the time I didn’t even realize I was on the field. That’s how nervous I was. All I can remember was facing Herb Score, who was throwing 100 miles per hour up there. My first impression was I better get my lunch pail out if I’m going to be facing guys like this all the time. I figured I better get a job doing something else. I was so nervous it was unbelievable. It was a problem for a while. That was an issue for me, because being in the big leagues was like a dream, but I couldn’t wake up. I was sent out to Indianapolis, because I was playing so bad that first year.”
My relationship with Manager Al Lopez: “Let’s put it this way, there are two sides to everything. He was one of the best managers for understanding how to handle people. He was like my psychiatrist. He knew when to pat players on the back and when kick ‘em in the butt. Those were one of his best assets, I believe. He knew how to handle each player very well. On the other hand, he wasn’t always a great judge of talent, in my opinion. If he didn’t like a certain style of player, he’d bench ‘em and leave ‘em there.”
Three Hall of Famers on his White Sox Teams: “Luis Aparacio, Nellie Fox and Early Wynn were amazing just to be around. Aparacio was our team’s leader, Nellie was one of the best all-around players I ever saw and I was happy that Wynn was on my team, because he was literally unhittable most of the time.”
Toughest Pitchers He Ever Faced: “Wow, there were so many great pitchers in the major leagues back then, different than it is today. We could go up against the last place team and we’d face three good pitchers on that team. We only had 18 teams, so it was more compact. As far as the great ones, like Whitey Ford, he had to battle your fanny off every time you faced that guy. He never gave in and he was just a darn good pitcher. Others I recall are guys you won’t remember who were decent starters for so-so teams, like Dick Donovan (Cleveland), Hank Aguirre (Detroit), Bill Monbouquette (Boston) and Camilo Pascual (Minnesota).”
Performance Enhancing Drugs Back Then: “One day at the park I was tired and a couple of guys gave me some speed. They called them greens or blues--I don’t know what it was. But, it didn’t do anything except that night I couldn’t sleep a lick. I laid there tossing and turning and waiting for the sun to come up staring at the wall. And then I had a game the next day. I was beat that afternoon and I told myself right there that I would never take those silly pills ever again.”
Landis vs. the Outfield Wall: “I was never afraid of the wall and I think in some ways it was an asset. I remember running into that wall in Chicago and it was solid concrete. It was so bad, you know. I recall one time I ran into the wall so hard I was drowsy for the rest of the game. I was stumbling around and I don’t know how I ever kept in that game. I didn’t come around until that evening. If I had been afraid of that wall, I wouldn’t have been able to make some of the plays I made, I believe.”
Beaned in the 1959 World Series: “Podres of the Dodgers hit me pretty good and years later I saw Podres at an event and he told me that he was throwing at me that day. “I have to admit,” Podres told me. “We were trying to shake you guys up a little bit and they told me to brush you off.” Well he brushed me off a little too close. Pitchers throw at you and it’s part of the game. Most of the time they would hit me in the legs or on my back. I never got injured by a bean ball. I was very fortunate in that way.”
Won 5 Golden Gloves in a Row: “I’m very proud of that accomplishment. I always got a quick jump on the ball and it made my life in centerfield a lot easier. I anticipated well and I studied the hitters, trying to figure out where they might be hitting that ball. That helped a lot. You learn as you play more and you get better. I was very proud to play vs. Mickey Mantle, but he lost a few steps in the field when he hurt his knee. When he was healthy, he was the best-fielding centerfielder I ever saw. He was my idol, really. I don’t know how Mick played that huge centerfield, that cavern at Yankee Stadium. The monuments never bothered me that much, but it was a big outfield. Left center was plus 400 feet and it had this drainage out there where the ground dropped off a little for drainage. I lost my balance twice over that drainage area in one game. It was dangerous and that’s where Mickey blew out his knee. ”