Their first jobs: When baseball legends were just kids at work

Before they adorned our childhood walls as baseball heroes, they were just regular Joes.

Reuters| Updated: Nov 07, 2014, 20:05 PM IST
Their first jobs: When baseball legends were just kids at work

New York: Before they adorned our childhood walls as baseball heroes, they were just regular Joes.

For more than a year Reuters has been talking to prominent Americans about the first jobs they ever had, and how those gigs shaped their future success. This month, to coincide with the thrilling and just-completed World Series, we were lucky enough to chat with a few immortals of the baseball diamond.

No surprise that before they achieved legendary status, their humble first jobs were very much like yours and mine.

Willie Mays

Special Assistant, San Francisco Giants

Claim to fame: Named second-best baseball player of all-time, by ESPN

First job: Dishwasher

"I got my first real job at Britling`s Cafeteria in Birmingham, Alabama. I was a teenager, hired to wash dishes. I lasted one day. I remember being taken into the kitchen and shown a sink full of, and surrounded by, dirty dishes. There were dishes stacked on the counters, the floor, in the sink, on the back step - everywhere, it seemed to me.

"I got to work, scrubbing as fast and hard as I could. But busboys kept bringing in more dirty dishes, never allowing me to finish. I was outraged! My job was satisfied only when every plate, bowl, cup or fork was washed and put away. How could I do that when they kept bringing in more dirty dishes?

"Eventually, it was time for my baseball game, so I left the kitchen, the dishes and my job. I didn`t want to miss the game.

"I later told my father that I wasn`t going back to collect my check. I wasn`t going to be a dishwasher. I was going to be a baseball player."

Terry Francona

Manager, Cleveland Indians

Claim to fame: Named one of the best all-time baseball managers, by Sporting News

First job: Movie theater usher

"I was an usher and ticket-taker at the local cinema in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. I had just turned 16, and I got the job because the guy who was the manager went to my church.

"Working with me were two girls from the next town over, who were gorgeous and a little older, so I always tried to be on my best behavior and make a good impression. I tried to be so much cooler than I was. But every time it was an R-rated movie my mom would make me stay home, so I remember being very humiliated.

"What I learned from that job is that I had to become a better hitter in baseball. I didn`t want to walk down theater aisles with a flashlight my whole life. I was just trying to make a little money - a couple of bucks an hour, I think - and I spent it all at the batting cages about a half-hour from where I lived.

"You had to put quarters in, so I used to go straight there and hit balls until I ran out of money. That`s how my parents knew I was staying out of trouble. I was always at the batting cages."

Ron Darling

Broadcaster, TBS

Claim to fame: Former All-Star and Gold Glove winner

First job: Newspaper delivery boy

"I had a Norman Rockwell kind of childhood growing up in Millbury, Massachusetts, and I used to deliver the Worcester Telegram. It was a blue-collar existence where everyone in the family would put towards the pot, and as soon as you could work, you worked.

"I was only around 7 years old, but I heard the lady who had the route for a long time wasn`t going to do it anymore. So I called up the Telegram, with my mom hanging over me in case I dropped the ball, and asked for the route. I guess my feistiness paid off, because they gave it to me.

"I don`t think they knew I was 7. They were a little startled I was so young. But it was on my way to school, and I knew all the houses, so I would get on my little bike with its banana seat and two baskets on the side, and deliver 140 papers before class.

"We got a nominal check every week, but in those days it was all about the tips. Those tips meant a lot, especially around Christmastime, and you learned a lot about your neighbors. To this day, I`m an extravagant tipper because of that paper route.

"At that point, I didn`t know that I had a Major League arm. But I knew I could toss newspapers to people`s front do.