From Deadspin.com May 5, 2008
DAULERIO — Former major leaguer Fred Lynn is probably one of the nicest guys on the planet. He’s a man who’s brimming with self-contentedness and is disarmingly friendly. After you speak with him for two minutes, it’s no surprise that seemingly every dude who grew up in New England in the past 40 years is so overtly smitten with the man. During a phone conversation with Fred Lynn last week, as part of his promotional duties forMLB.com’s “Rookie Of The Month” campaign, we discussed a few topics, but mostly talked about ESPN’s BIll Simmons’ obsession with him. Or, rather, I dwelled on that fact. It’s safe to say I probably won’t be hosting my own podcast show in the near future.
DS:Now. Have you made up with the Boston fans? I remember when you left to sign with the Angels, it was a little contentious.
FL:You know what happened? When the new ownership took over the Sox, the first thing that they did was give me a call, and they wanted me to be in the Red Sox Hall of Fame. And that would have never happened under the old regime. I was kind of persona non grata with that group – same as Rick Burleson, Carlton Fisk and a few other guys, which kind of grew as the years went on. For me personally, it was just a bad situation and these guys made it right and I’m very grateful to the existing ownership of the Sox for giving me that opportunity to go back to the fans again.
Speaking of fans…how do you feel about one fan in particular, Bill Simmons? He just absolutely loves you.
Ummmm…I don’t recall that name, but should I know him?
The Sports Fella? The columnist for ESPN? Really? You don’t know him? He, like, worships you?
Oh! Wait a minute! I know where this is going. Yes, I do know him! Yes, I do know him! Yeah, yeah, yeah! I don’t know that we’ve met more than once, but one time I think it was pretty interesting if it was the right meeting…
The one at the celebrity softball game?
That’s the one! Yeah! He’s got my baseball card in his wallet!
Did you think that was weird?
Um…I thought it was kind of different. I think I had Farrah Fawcett in my wallet.
It appears that everyone born in New England in the late sixties regarded you as their first honest to goodness man crush.
Here’s how it works: My baseball demographic right now is probably people aged 38 and older. And in the years when they’re 10-13, those are pretty impressionable years, and any kid who is that age gets interested in music, baseball or anything latches on to you. That’s when I was quote-unquote a star, and these kids saw me then. That’s my crowd. That’s my group.
Yeah, Simmons dressed up as you for Halloween apparently.
Yeah. And that’s what happens. It doesn’t matter if it’s male or female – those are my guys. That’s just like I was growing up with Willie Mays. That’s when you’re impressionable and you begin to like somebody at that age and you like them for the rest of your life.
But you’ve never spoken with Simmons again after that? He’s a pretty legit writer for ESPN now.
I know that, I know that. And ESPN and I parted ways in about ’99, so he’s post-that, I believe. Yeah, and he’s doing some pretty good things and he has a good baseball mind I know that.
Well, how about Peter Gammons? Are you friends with him?
You mean The Commissioner?
No, Peter Gammons.
I know, that’s what we call him…
Come on, man! You should know that. I thought you knew stuff.
I don’t. I don’t know anything.
But Pete’s a great guy. He was the Boston beat writer when I first got there. And Peter Gammons, if you recall, was the first one to make up the back page, the sporting page for the Boston Globe, with all of the statistics and everything you needed to know. That was Peter’s deal.
So, you see Peter Gammons more regularly than you do Bill Simmons?
I see Peter when I go back to Boston when I do some games for the Sox. So, I’m there three or four times a year and I bump into Peter for different events. Yeah, so I don’t do that with Bill.
So, do you think if you were an athlete in today’s media environment, that you could handle all the scrutiny of player’s personal lives?
I think I could. I think it takes some of the fun out of the game for the guys because they really can’t let their hair down like we did – literally in the 70s, hair was a big thing. I watch guys play and they do all the right things, they still play well, but I don’t see laughter. I see it with certain guys, like Manny, but there are no more Bill Lees. There are no characters of the game. They’re all homogenized almost, and that’s too bad. That’s what’s fun about baseball. I like to see the individual.
It doesn’t seem like it’s worth anyone’s while to have a personality in this day and age, though, because it could come back and bite them in the ass, though.
It’s very difficult because of all the media. At any point you can be seen. I mean, you’ve got your phones and you can photograph guys with your phones. So, where do you go? I was a fisherman, if I got away from the game for a little bit, I’d go fishing. So, it would just be me and the fish.
Yeah, that’s not an interesting photo.
I would’ve not been very much fun to follow around like that.
Do you think you deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?
That’s not really for me to say, but let’s put it this way. On the defensive side, I’d throw my glove in there with anybody that’s ever played. On the offensive side? You throw out the injuries that happened to me the second part of my career basically, I did some things that people had never done before. Now today, people are doing the things all the time that I started doing, running into walls, those types of things. I really didn’t have any holes in my game other than the fact that I couldn’t stay on the field for the second half of my career. It was probably a culmination of all the sports that I did as a kid, kind of catching up to me.
Now that Boston has won two World Series recently, do you feel like they’re now the most annoying fans on the planet?
It’s a little different when you’re the lovable loser – now the Cubs have that mantra. But Boston’s like bullies now. Because they’ve won, and the Yankees, even though they’re always contenders haven’t won in a while, and all of the sudden, Boston is the team to beat. And I don’t know if they know how to wear that hat.
So you notice the shift in fandom?
Oh, absolutely. But, you know, there were a lot of people following the Sox when I was playing. I mean, we didn’t have a “Nation.” It might have been a couple of counties.
Do you think “The Red Sox Nation” is retarded?
It’s pretty supportive. I was at a game in San Diego and there were more Red Sox fans there than Pads fans.
Did the crazed Nation people tackle you?
No, they were very polite about it. Like, “Hey, Freddie. What are you doing here? Why are you in San Diego? Why aren’t you in Boston?” They were just fans. I really have a good time with the fans. I don’t shy away from them like I did as a kid.
But no fan came up to you showing off a baseball card in his wallet or telling you that they dressed like Fred Lynn for Halloween?
No, no, no. Nothing like that. Ha! That was weird, the card was all worn down, like it’d been run through the washing machine or something. It wasn’t pristine. The wallet had seen its better days to – he probably got the card and the wallet around the same time.
And you never stayed in touch with Simmons, that’s a shame.
You know, no, we never exchanged information. I don’t think I even had email back then. He can always contact me through my website.
Do you think you’d go fishing with him?
You never know. If somebody offers me a fishing trip, I’m pretty easily coerced into doing that.
So you would go fishing with Bill Simmons?
How about you just go fishing with me instead?
There you go.
Alright, I think that’s enough…
You don’t want to talk about anything else? About why I’m here?
I got it, I got it. MLB.com “Rookie of the Month”, sponsored by Gillette, blah, blah, blah. It’s all right here in the press release.
Yeah, they have a website, MLB.com/Gillette. And what I think’s neat about is the fans are voting. I think this is a big thing and I tell you why: Not only are fans voting for this but I think it’s going to be an avenue for young people to vote. Because let’s face it, young people are the ones that are going to be online.
You don’t say….
Yeah. They are. If you told my dad about a website, he’d go “What’s that? Is there a spider in the room?” So this is an avenue to get young people involved with baseball at a primary level. The fact they have a say into who’s going to win these awards. Plus, they could win some pretty cool things…a trip to the All-Star game, a trip to the World Series. I mean, these are pretty cool things, right? I mean, Gillete’s a great sponsor, and I’m glad they’ve partnered up with MLB.com…
Speaking of Gillette, what was the worst shaving experience you’ve ever had in your life?
Uh…it was the first time I ever shaved. Because I didn’t know what I was doing and every guy when they’re 15 wants to shave even if there is nothing there. And I kind of attacked myself a little bit roughly and in those days….oooooh…the razors. There was nothing there to prevent you from slashing yourself.
But now with Gillette razors, that doesn’t happen…
Yeah. That was not a Gillette product I slashed myself with.
Have you ever tried the Gillette manscaping product?
You know what? I use the Fusion.
Ah, yes. “The Fusion.”
Yeah. There’s about 6,000 blades in there and you can’t go wrong.
Do you shave your whole entire body?
No, no, no….I don’t do that. I’m from California, but I don’t do that.
That’s a different generation. I’m actually shaving myself right now.
Oh…oh, no. Oh, oh. I’m glad this is not a picture phone.