Last night, Bob Costas hosted a baseball-themed episode of his Costas Now town hall meeting-style show live on HBO. Among the topics discussed were the dearth of black baseballers, the hall of fame candidacy of alleged steroid users and Pete Rose, and the economic divide between rich teams and poor teams. Numerous ballplayers, both current and legendary, dotted the audience and panel discussions but none shone brighter than the greatest living ballplayer himself, Willie Mays.
The show started at 9PM but it went off HBO at 10:30, just as Mays and Hank Aaron were getting into the groove answering questions. Luckily, a live video feed went up at HBO.com so Costas could continue peppering the heroes with questions. Mays and, to a lesser extent, Aaron provided the audience with 40 more minutes of fantastic reminiscing and forward-thinking opinions about current issues. At age 77, Mays is at the perfect point in his golden years. Still young enough to tell an anecdote that keeps me engaged and fascinated, and just old enough to remind me of my own grandfather.
Mays and Aaron were both asked (by audience member and actor Robert Wuhl) if they had ever taken any performance-enhancing drugs in their careers, specifically about something called "red juice" (allegedly amphetamines). Aaron pointedly answered no and denied ever seeing anyone take anything; he joked that they weren't getting paid enough to afford anything like that. He then went off on a tangent about players drinking too much back in his day, but that was off point. Mays had a far more interesting answer. No, he said, he never needed to take anything, referring to his "32 inch waist and 189 pound body" that he kept for 20 years. He did admit to seeing a doctor and asking for vitamins, stating a need to "keep going", and when the doctor produced something for him to drink, he didn't ask what was in there. Was Willie Mays juicing? Probably not. Does it matter? Definitely not. Willie and the audience laughed the matter off.
Mays simply stole the show while talking about the racism he encountered, about how many more homers he'd have hit if he played in the Phillies new stadium, about all the tater tots he knocked out during his two year stint in the Army and why they should count in the record books, and about playing the full nine innings in eleven of his 24 All Star Game appearances, all for the love of baseball. You'll have to check the website to see when this will be re-aired or if it can be viewed online. Trust me, it's worth it.