From Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan's Soul

The Whistle Story

When people find out I represent Tommy Lasorda, they usually want to hear a good baseball story. One of my favorites goes back to my graduate-student days, which were filled with complex classes, long nights of study in the law library and midnight treks home to my cramped apartment on Sunset Boulevard. There was very little free time compared to my carefree high-school days back in the Bronx, where schoolwork was broken up by leisurely summers of life guarding at the Castle Hill Community Pool.

The year was 1978 and I had just turned twenty-four. I hadn’t even known Tommy Lasorda then, but under his wing the Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League Pennant that would take them to the World Series. I recall watching the play-off game on TV with the Red Sox and the Yankees, wondering who would get to play against the Dodgers. I still remember the thrill of watching Bucky Dent hit the home run that would take my home team to the World Series.

One night after a particularly grueling day at law school and the usual six hours at the library, I came home, tossed my books on the counter, opened a cold drink and sat down in time to catch the sports on the 11 o’clock news. The announcer was explaining that because of a lack of hotel space near the stadium, the Yankees had checked into a hotel on Sunset Boulevard. Though tired, I grasped this news much as a struggling swimmer grabs onto a pole to be pulled out of the water. As great as school was, sometimes I felt as though I were drowning in work. The Yankees? In my neighborhood? Someone had just tossed me a lifeline.

On impulse, I decided that somehow, I was going to get to that World Series. I was determined. I came up with a plan that I thought was pretty good. I called the hotel where the players were staying and asked to speak to Brian Doyle, one of the more conservative players. They actually put me through to his room and when he answered the phone, I had to talk fast. “I’m a law student, originally from New York,” I said. “I’d like to interview you for the newspaper.” The next thing you know, I was in the hotel lobby waiting for Brian, who had agreed to meet me for an interview.

I waited and watched as players milled around the lobby, giving autographs and trying to get their rooms squared away. I think I saw every team member except Brian Doyle. Dejected, I sat down, resigned to returning to my apartment. All of a sudden I heard my name. “Billy Goldberg,” a young man said, reaching to shake my hand.

“Do I know you?” I asked, certain this was not Brian Doyle.

“It’s Jimmy,” he replied. “You remember me? . . . I know I’ll never forget you. You were the lifeguard at Castle Hill. I remember you were the only one who would stop and talk to us younger kids. You even gave me your whistle to wear. I thought that was the coolest thing.”

“What are you doing here in California?” I asked.

“I’m the bat boy for the Yankees,” he explained. “Say, let me introduce you to some of the team.”

He took me around then, and told the whistle story to one Yankee after another. He made it sound as though I was the nicest guy in the world.

Well, one thing led to another and before you know it, center fielder Mickey Rivers offered me a ticket to the World Series if I would drive him to the ballpark the next day. He ended up giving me tickets for all of the games and I also got invited to a party where they honored the most valuable player—who turned out to be Brian Doyle. I never did get to interview him, but I got my tickets!

I have told this story many times throughout my career as an agent and representative. And for as often as I’ve repeated it, I always thought the main point was the persistence it took to get those tickets. But now as I’ve grown older and have learned a bit more about life, I realize that the real point of my baseball adventure began not with some late night news announcement, but long, long before that, with the small act of sharing a whistle with a little kid.

Bill Goldberg
As told to Anita Gogno

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