FameBooking had the opportunity to interview Boston Celebrity Skip Lockwood, former Major League Baseball 1st round pick and MIT graduate. If you think you know everything there is to know about this FameBooking Boston celebrity, this interview may surprise you.
On your 1964 signing bonus out of high school, you changed the proposed contract from $35,000 to $135,000 by adding a “1” - did you actually think the team would go for it?
It was just a brash spur of the moment decision on my part. I was very young and perhaps a little too egotistical after being courted by multiple teams throughout the day. On my own, without my dad at my side, I guess a was naievely overconfident. As the conversation between Pat Friday and Charlie Finley seemed to take an eternity I remember wondering if I had made a grave mistake in asking for such a large bonus.
As a reference Willie Mays, the highest paid player in the league, made $105,000 in 1964. Was it common for top prospects to get $100k+ signing bonus in 1964?
Not at all. Charlie Finley was an exception to the rule as he made a concerted effort to sign exceptional young talent in 1964. Before free agency salaries were pretty low across the board. My first Major League salary was $7,000 and it took over 10 years before I received a salary of $20,000.
What was the lowest amount you would have signed for?
Before the bidding day started I would have been thrilled with $25,000. However, the Houston Colts, who had shown little previous interest, offered $35,000 on the phone at the beginning of the day. I quickly adjusted my expectations up as the scouts from various teams came to visit in person throughout the day.
Given your post playing days degrees, was it a difficult decision to pass up college and choose baseball?
While I always valued education, like almost any athletic seventeen-year-old, I loved the game of baseball more. I did make a commitment to continue my education in the off season and I’m pretty sure I still lead the league in number of colleges attended: Merrimack, Boston College, Carrol College, Marquette, Emerson, Fairfield University, Columbia University and MIT.
Do you remember the first time you were asked for an autograph (year/where)?
I believe it was the first day I joined the KC Athletics in Cleveland a few days after I signed in 1964. My career started off by being warmly welcomed by some enthusiastic young fans hanging over the railing by the dugout. Unfortunately, if you have read my book, you know how my initial elation spiraled downhill fast once batting practice began.
Were you receptive when the Athletics asked you to change from a third baseman to a pitcher?
I had been scouted as a pitcher, an infielder and an outfielder and so the idea really didn’t come out of left field. Dimly lit fields, combined with very poor eyesight, resulted in a less than stellar batting average. After missing spring training and most of the 1966 season due to military basic training and AIT, I had not only lost my timing but my “guaranteed” third base position to Sal Bando. I was totally open to changing positions and getting the chance to reinvent my career.
What is the most common thing people say to you when they recognize you?
Most people remember me from my time as the NY Mets closer in the mid-1970’s. The #1 question that I am asked is: “What is it like to stand on the mound and face a batter with the game of the line. How did you handle the pressure?” Sharing those intense emotions was the catalyst for my writing Insight Pitch.
A great chance for readers to learn more about your experience is to read your memoir, Insight Pitch. How difficult was it to write the book and who was the first person you had read it?
The biggest challenge was to narrow all the stories down to a cohesive narrative. Once I started writing the book took on a life of its own and so many stories surfaced from my subconscious it became hard to decide what to keep in and what to edit out. I wanted to tell the story by myself as I brought the readers onto the field. I wanted them to share in the intensity. During the process, my wife, who is also an author, offered welcomed (and unwelcomed) critiques. I also valued the input from my old sports psychologist colleague Harvey Dulburg.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I received pretty much the same advice from numerous coaches and teammates such as Luke Appling, Satchel Paige, Willie Mays and Tom Seaver - stay focused but enjoy the ride. I have passed this same “Carpe Diem” advice on to others but, I must admit, I didn’t always take my own advice to heart. Before free agency there were no long term contracts and so it was pretty hard to enjoy the moment when you knew your career was only as secure as your last outing.