It's been a banner year in Red Reporter interviews. We only do them tria-annually, but that's because we only deign to speak to the Élites. I don't know how we've managed to waste the time of some of the greatest, most beloved and most affable Reds this year - who also happen to be among my favorites to ever wear the uniform. Maybe some key publicist took the title of this blog too literally? "A Reporter on the Reds? And since 1869? That dog will hunt."
In truth, all praise goes to Ken and JCH. I can't take any credit for these beyond saying, "You're going to interview (Awesome Player)? You'll have my full approval of that idea... No, you can't have an expense account. No one gets an expense account."
Red Reporter: Earlier this week, former Reds' owner Carl Lindner passed away. Did you deal a lot with him, with promotions and that sort of thing? What sort of man was he?
Johnny Bench: He was fabulous. There were so many things that were good about him. First of all, as a business person, he was the top of the line. People complained about him making deals. But that's what business was to him: he was trying to make the best deal for his company and for his stockholders.
Now, as a philanthropist, I don't think anybody contributed more or gave more of (their) heart. You know, when the Reds' (ownership) was in question and Marge was going to sell the ballclub, they needed somebody to keep the ball club in Cincinnati. Carl stepped up again. He contributed to the symphony, the zoo, you name it, he was there.
You'd never meet a nicer man or (one) more soft-spoken, more unassuming, more humble than Carl was. It was a privilege to know him. He did so much for that city. This city is not going to be as well-off without him.
RR: You're out in St. Louis with the Pepsi MAX Field of Dreams promotion. You'll be catching the first pitch for Game 2 and the winner (throwing the pitch), Tim Wisecup, is from Columbus.
JB: No, I'm a pitching coach. I'm a pitching coach, Jeremy. I give directions on how to pitch. I don't get paid to squat anymore (laughs). I have artificial hips anyway, but that wouldn't restrict me from catching it. No, I'm just here to lend some support to (Tim). We've warmed up in the bullpen and I've given him some very key pointers on being careful about stepping off the mound. You saw the mayor in Cincinnati made a very big faux pas. They said he bad practiced, but you get in that moment and (it's different).
But, (Tim) seems so cool. His daughter was here and his wife. It was just really nice. And I was his favorite player. It really was a pleasure to walk out - while he was warming up (for the pitch) with his daughter - and surprise him. I walked in from behind him and said, "Is that all you got?" I (took over catching) and caught 20-25 pitches. You know, I think he's going to be alright. I told him, "Always try to throw it over the catcher," to the screen, because there's so much of a drop. And it worked out perfectly.
He also saw Frank Thomas down on the field and he's another one of our Dream Team lineup. Come this spring, we're going to have a fantasy game and it's going to be a lot of fun for all of our contest winners.
RR: Now you guys are going to play that in Columbus, sometime around March or April?
JB: That's still to be decided, they're working on the location. It'll be 9 or 10 of his best friends. You probably already know the lineup: Randy Johnson, Frank Thomas, Rod Carew.
We're going to be there. I'm not sure what kind of shape we'll be in. We'll be at a total disadvantage and they should take advantage of us if they possibly can, because this is the only chance they get.
RR: Early spring in Columbus, I just hope you guys don't need snow boots.
JB: Well, there are snow boots here (in St. Louis). It shows 49 degrees right now and there's wind blowing across the field from left to right, if it's not blowing in; maybe a little out toward right. It's a very crisp, brisk day. But it's still the World Series and they're hoping this will pass in another hour or so. Right now, we have no question that we'll start (Game 2) and be ready to go.
RR: This fall you had a statue dedicated out in front of Great American Ballpark. When they were crafting the statue, how much input did you have and did you work with the sculptor?
JB: I did work with the sculptor, Jeremy. It was wonderful. He had sort of an idea, I had another idea. I wanted the statue (to be of me) throwing, because that's what people will remember me for. You can't really do "blocking the plate" or anything else. And people will remember me for my arm and for my catching. So that's what I wanted. He took hundreds of pictures, he took videos...
And I've got to tell you, it's one of my greatest - if not the greatest moment - for me, because I will be there forever as part of that stadium. It's such a wonderful, wonderful honor. And it will be even greater when Pete, Joe and Tony join me and get their statues. That's our project for the next 3, 4, 5 years is to get their statues up.
RR: The Reds have Devin Mesoraco - the super prospect - and Yasmani Grandal, who's going to start in Louisville next year. Have you had a chance to see those guys in person? You can never have too much catching, but could one of them be potentially rolled off for a starting pitcher or something the Reds need?
JB: Well, it depends on how you do it. They could move to another position as well. They're such great athletes. The first time I met (Yasmani Grandal) was at the Johnny Bench awards - the College Catcher of the Year awards. One of the coaches who lives out by me in California said, "Have you seen this Yasmani Grandal? He is a monster."
And Mesoraco is a great kid. He's shown great instinct. I can't believe we're this fortunate to have two catchers (like them) in the organization. Indeed, they may have to give one of them up. It'll be a tough decision for the ballclub, but I think we're in good hands for the next few years.
Thank you, Jeremy.
RR: Thank you, Johnny Bench.
[WHOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! -- Not original to interview]