I’m writing a baseball book called Chasing Greats (McFarland Publishing 2011 release) featuring my 20-plus interviews with the oldest living MLB players. I dragged my feet for several months when it came to traveling south to Oxnard to interview the oldest living baseball player. He's 101 years old and is name Tony Malinosky. One night my wife said, “You better get down there and interview this guy. If he dies while you’re sitting here, it it’ll mess up your book.” (With so many retired players out there, there’s only one who’s 101.) She’s right, I thought. So I called Malinosky’s house (actually it’s a trailer) and made arrangements with his caregiver Becky to come down that following Sunday. I drove 12 hours round trip to get the interview and it was a pleasure. Malinosky played only one season for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and one of his college buddies was Richard Nixon. He's lived an amazing life and next month he'll turn 101!
Some amusing things he shared with me:
About his late buddy Richard Nixon: “We knew each other while attending Whittier College. Many years later, he insisted that I start calling him Mr. President, but I wasn’t doing that. I called him Dick and he didn’t like it, but that’s just tough, now isn’t it?”
About his old friend Tommy Lasorda: “He spews out so much B.S., that guy. When he managed the Dodgers, he kept referring to the ‘Big Dodger in the Sky.’ What a bunch of… He’s talking to grown men this way, not high school kids. They don’t go for that crap. They’re out there for the dough, instead of worrying about the ‘Big Dodger in the Sky” or the ‘Little Dodger down below!’”
His salary in 1935: “These players today get more money playing one inning than I made my entire career. Do you know how much the Brooklyn Dodgers paid me back then? 400 bucks a month, can you imagine that? We lived on White Castle hamburgers and coffee back then, because we were sending our checks home.”
About his longevity: “How did I do it? It’s simple. It’s called continuous breathing. I’m so tired of that question. What else do you want me to say? It’s a dumb question. All my friends from college, my baseball teammates and my war buddies are long gone, but me. So what do I do about it? I get old, what the hell can I do? Next question.”