We’re Contacted By  Former Cub Batboy, Greg Carlton!

We’re Contacted By Former Cub Batboy, Greg Carlton!

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 We’re Contacted By Former Cub Batboy, Greg Carlton!

We’ve mentioned many times that we always love it when we’re contacted by descendants of former major leaguers. It’s one of the great side benefits of running the Old Time Baseball Photos Facebook page. It really doesn’t matter to us if the player was a star or just a marginal player. We’re always glad to shine the spotlight on them if only for a brief moment before they’re forgotten over the passage of time.

But here’s a first: We were recently contacted by Greg Carlton, who was a part-time batboy for the Cubs during the Durocher years from 1966-72. As you can imagine, Greg has some interesting tales to relate and he was kind enough to share a few of them with me.

You might be wondering how this nine year old kid, a native of Harrison, Arkansas, was selected for such a once-in-a lifetime opportunity, one that guys his age would’ve killed for. It all started innocently enough in 1966 while he and his family were on vacation in Mesa, Arizona.They decided to take in a Cub Spring training game against the Angels. It can probably be filed under “being in the right place at the right time.”

“As we were going in to the park, someone approached Greg and asked him to be the Angels batboy for the day,’ his mother recalled, “and Greg quickly said yes.” Apparently, though, he had second thoughts while in the Angles’ clubhouse. Greg changed his mind because he decided he’d rather be a batboy for the Cubs or even the Giants. “I thought that if he had that much faith, I’d ask for him,” his mother continued, “so I talked to one of the Cub coaches and they said to bring him on in the next day.”

And just like that young Greg Carlton began his six-year journey into the world of major league baseball, an experience that provided him with a lifetime of memories. He was allowed to travel to different cites to meet the team, as the Cubs didn’t take their regular batboy with them on the road. Many of the games Greg worked were in St. Louis.

Greg’s mother talked to his principal and he was given permission to miss school during the spring while he was in Arizona with the Cubs. The deal was Greg had to make up his school work upon his return, and also had to maintain a good average.This was a volunteer “job,” as he wasn’t the regular hired batboy who worked games at Wrigley Field. Greg said the only compensation he received was “the opportunity to be around the players, and the admiration I got from my friends.” This was more than enough for a wide-eyed youth who was given the chance to hang around major leaguers. What kid wouldn’t relish that! Plus Greg got to keep cracked bats, which he generously divvied up among his envious and grateful buddies. Needless to say, they all thought Greg was the luckiest kid on earth!

Over the years, Greg had the opportunity to view the Cubs “up close and personal,” and of course, he had his favorites.There were other guys that, shall we say, he didn’t particularly care for. At the top of his favorable list was – no surprise here – Ernie Banks; followed closely by fellow Arkansan, the straight-laced Don Kessinger. True to his sunny disposition, Ernie was always kind to Greg. He related that after one series sweep in St. Louis, Ernie walked into the clubhouse and proclaimed out loud for all to hear: “We won the series because Greg was here!” Greg recalled the happy day:

“Ernie kept saying it until the players started looking over at me and as they left they would come up to me and leave me tips. I still have the dollar that Ron Santo gave me.”

Also not surprising was that Greg was not particularly fond of the irascible, loud-mouthed Leo Durocher along with his side-kick from their Brooklyn days, Coach Pete Reiser. Greg remembered his unflattering nicknames for them – Hitler and Mussolini:

“Leo never once said hello to me, and jumped on me for what he saw as shortcomings. Reiser would make me run laps if I was a little late for practice. Leo loved to hear himself talk. In the clubhouse whether playing cards or talking on the phone his voice would boom out over everybody. Once when Leo asked Willie Mays for one of his gloves to give to his stepson [who Greg described as “rather awkward”], Willie won’t do it, in spite of Leo begging him! Durocher would argue, but Willie wouldn’t budge. So Durocher finally gave in. It’s one of the few times Durocher would give in about anything.”

And, of course, over the years of hanging around major league ball players in hotels away from home, he saw things most young guys his age would never have seen. Like the time he found himself sharing an awkward elevator ride with Joe Pepitone and some pretty young thing. They were on their way to Pepitone’s room which was on the same floor as Greg’s. And then, as luck would have it, about an hour later Greg was on the same elevator going down to the lobby with the same gal, now departing from Pepitone’s room. Another time, Greg recalled, he saw Pete Reiser, who he described as a real “ladies man,” cruising through the hotel lobby with two good-looking blondes hanging on his arms. And speaking again of Pepitone, Greg confirmed all the crazy stories we’ve heard over the years about Pepitone and his use of a hair dryer in the clubhouse.

There were also many “intangible” benefits Greg will always treasure. One such remembrance involved Greg’s favorite coach, Vernon “Rube” Walker. Rube was a nice guy and Greg was always glad to shag balls for him during infield practice. His brother, also called “Rube” was the Dodger catcher when Ralph Bianca threw the pitch that Bobby Thomson hit for the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” Greg related a touching story involving Coach Rube Walker and his daughter Leigh Ann:

“Shortly after getting married in 1966, Rube was diagnosed with leukemia. Treatment sent it into remission, and Leigh Ann was born in 1968. But two years later – just after Walker had been promoted to pitching coach for the 1971 season – the leukemia returned. Within a few short months, Walker had passed away.”

“I have been in contact with Leigh Ann Walker since I ran across her blog on the web. Leigh Ann has written a book about the travails of missing out on her father who died too soon for her to remember. As the Cub batboy, I was able to relate many wonderful memories to Leigh Ann about her father. She was especially glad to hear through me that her father was such a good man and that he drew me to him as my favorite coach.”

I think all of us baseball fans can agree that Greg Carlton was one lucky kid. What would any of us given to have been in his shoes!

 

-Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from the personal collection of Greg Carlton

Information: Excerpts edited from e-mails sent to me from Greg Carlton, March 30, 2017

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

2 Comments

  1. Gary J · March 30, 2017 Reply

    Way to go Dad!

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