AUTHOR : ELDRIDGE MILES
Affectionately, known as "Big E," Eldridge Miles has spent more than 50 years as a PGA professional in Dallas. He's been the head professional at Dallas County Club, Bent Tree Country Club and Gleneagles Country Club. In 1978, he was the first recipient of the PGA of America/Sports Illustrated Merchandiser of the Year.
A personal friend and playing partner of Ben Hogan for 20 years, Big E has given golf lessons to the likes of Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Don Meredith, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Dan Reeves and Yogi Berra.
Last month I had the honor of playing in the Harmon Killebrew Foundation's celebrity golf tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz. In my many years of teaching the game of golf, I've been fortunate enough to make many friends in the baseball world. I've taught the likes of Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron and Bobby Murcer.
I never gave Harmon "Killer" Killebrew a lesson, but I was a big fan of his. The former Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals slugger was a 13-time All Star, a six-time American League home run champion and the 1969 MVP. In 1984, Killebrew was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame. What an honor!
Killebrew was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2010 and died this May at the age of 74. He was a great man and a wonderful athlete.
Back in 1990, he moved to Arizona and started his foundation, which raises money to give children the chance to experience the joy of baseball that Killebrew so dearly cherished.
I really enjoyed my time in Scottsdale for the celebrity golf tournament. We played some great golf, but even better than that were all the great stories I heard from my playing partners.
I played in the golf tournament with two of Killebrew's contemporaries. Gene Tenace played on four teams from 1969-83 and won four World Series championships, including three in a row with the Oakland A's from 1972-74 and the last one in 1982 in St. Louis. Tenace, a catcher and first baseman, also won a pair of World Series rings as a coach in 1992-93 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
I also played golf with Tenace's Oakland teammate Joe Rudi, who played left field on the A's three championship teams from 1972-74.
Gene, who served as a coach for Hal Lanier's Houston Astros in 1986-87 and was a coach for several teams on the major-league and minor league level, told many great stories during our round of golf. My favorite was about the "millionaire rookie." Gene, being a great hitter, was trying unsuccessfully years ago to coach this 19-year-old rookie, who had been given a million-dollar signing bonus. Gene was working with the rookie—Gene didn't say his name—on how to hit various pitches. Gene was getting frustrated because the rookie wasn't paying attention. Gene finally asked him why he couldn't do what he was being told.
This millionaire rookie said, "Coach, I don't know where my hands are."
"Well, let's start looking for them," Gene said sarcastically. "They're not in the batter's box. Let's look in the dugout or maybe you left them in the locker room."
Gene was so frustrated with this rookie that he gave up coaching for awhile.
He told another great story about Thurman Munson, the all-time great Yankees catcher. During the years they played against each other, Munson used to needle Gene when he came to the batter's box. One time Gene said, "Thurman, quit talking to me. I'm trying to hit. And don't ever talk to me again when I'm in the batter's box."
The next time Gene came to bat, Thurman threw dirt on Gene's shoes. But Gene was prepared. He had been chewing a huge chaw of tobacco. So when Thurman tossed the dirt on his shoes, Gene spat the entire chaw in Thurman's facemask. The trainers had to call time out and take a few minutes to wipe the tobacco off Thurman's face and out of his eyes.
Gene said Thurman never needled him again.