Willie James: COMEBACK STORY

I had been suspended for the year, but I think we all sort of knew that when the commissioner reviewed the suspension in May, I would be reinstated. Otherwise they wouldnt have let me go through spring training. They let me be with the team in the first part of the season. I would make all the trips with the team when we went on the road. I would work out, take batting practice, take infield and do my running before the games. Then, when they were all getting ready to play, I would get showered, get dressed and go upstairs to the press box or in the stands to watch the game. When the game was over I would go back down and get on the bus and go with the team I can truly say that my teammates were very good to me. Back in those days you had the same core group of players for several years, and we were all sort of like family. I remember one game down in Texas, they were really getting on me – yelling at me and throwing stuff. The guys in the dugout all stood up and looked back into the stands. You were family. When you were hurting one of us, you were hurting everybody. If you were yelling at one of us, you were yelling at all of us.

The first day I came back, I think I was in Chicago. It was really funny. The first plate appearance I got a walk. Floyd Bannister was pitching, and Carlton Fisk was behind the plate. Afer Darryl Motley struck out, I stole second when Frank White was at the plate. Fisk overthrew the ball, and I scored from second on the overthrow. Thats when I knew I was really ready to play. People looked at me a little differently. I got called more names in 1984 … people were just beating me up. They were crucifying me. You know, they talk about how bad it is in New York with the fans. It was bad everywhere. No place was worse than the other. Everybody was saying the same thing. After a while I just got immune to it. At Royals Stadium, it was usually OK because we were winning. I was doing good, so they were cool with me most of the time. But even that was a surprise to me because anything that was good that happened to me was a surprise. I didnt expect anything good to happen. I also felt like I had to prove myself to everybody all over again and I had to hit .300. I just had to be a really good baseball player. I also thought the people in the Royalsfront office looked at me differently then, didnt quit trust me. John Schuerholz would look at me, and would be looking AT me trying to see if Im high. He wouldnt be looking me in the eyes. He would be looking everywhere else. That year was also the beginning of my divorce proceedings. There was just so much attention on us all the time. She was starting to question herself. She always used to tell me that she had a first name. She wasnt just Willies wife or Mrs. Wilson. I think she felt like she was losing her identity, and she was hearing what people in the stands were saying. I think it probably hurt her more than it hurt me. It kind of made her crazy. When people were writing stuff, they didnt think about how they may be messing with people who werent even involved.

I also lost a lot of money – not only during the suspension when I didnt get my salary for 45 days. I also got fined. I lost a contract with New Balance shoes. I also came to the realization that I was never going to get any awards anymore or get voted to any All-Star games or anything like that no matter what I did. It was like people made a decision that they were not going to put me on TV or show any of my highlights. That seemed to last the rest of my career. I hit .301 that season, second on the team behind Hal McRae who batted .303. We went to the playoffs, but we lost in three straight games to the Detroit Tigers. Nobody on the team had a good series. We only scored four runs in three games. Getting to the playoffs and having that year started letting me put stuff behind me. I won Player of the Year for the second time that season, and actually that was a surprise to me that the Royals would honor me that way. When youve gone through what I went through and what I put the team through I thought nothing good was ever going to happen. But people like a good comeback story, and I know thats what I was that year. I was very surprised they gave it to me – happy, but very surprised. Its always good to be Player of the Year because you got to hang with Mr. and Mrs. K. At the banquets, they would introduce them, and then introduce the Player of the Year. So, that was very cool. But I knew I had to do something special that year to make up for what I had put the team through. It didnt cover everything up because people are still going to talk, but it was a good way to come back that year. I knew I was clean, and the Royals knew I was clean because I had to go through being tested for drugs on every road trip. It was quite an ordeal to know what people were putting you out to be. You have to live with it. How am I going to live with it? Im going to be as cold to them as they are to me. So, I became cold.

Willie James: COMEBACK STORY

Maybe You Like Them Too

Leave a Reply

8 + = 15