SBJ/June 9-15, 2014/People and Pop Culture

My Start in Sports — Mike McCarthy

The Legacy Agency’s McCarthy was a legacy himself, working for his father, John McCarthy, at Shea Stadium.
Photo: COURTESY OF MIKE MCCARTHY


I applied like anybody else, but I might’ve had a slight advantage in that my father was the head groundskeeper.

I did that for three summers when I was in high school [1977-79], and it was the best job any kid could have.

I remember stepping onto the field in a uniform and just feeling like I won the lottery. To be able to get paid to be around a Major League Baseball environment was something, I just couldn’t imagine my luck. This imaginary barrier between sitting in the seats and standing on the field is huge, and I had crossed that barrier.

[My dad] was my hero and I absolutely had aspired to do it. He didn’t go to college and he was forceful to me to become the first college grad in our family, so I was happy and proud to do that. He actually dangled the 1969 World Series ring in front of me as a carrot that if I were to graduate he would give me that ring, so that was my mini-incentive. I would never part with it.

We were all on the cover of The New York Times during one storm when we were airborne. A couple of us were hanging on to the edge of the tarp but our feet were up in the air, so it was a pretty comical scene.

Photo by: THE LEGACY AGENCY
I got to work each day a little early and I would run around the field and try and stay in shape and [Mets player Ed Kranepool] stopped me and he asked me if I run every day. I said I did. He asked me if I smoked. I said I didn’t and he brought me into the clubhouse and all the Mets were in there and they had a big pile of money on the table and they were betting as to whether I could get a sound out of this French horn that they had in the locker room.

I said, “What is this?” and he said, “It’s the funniest thing. Some big, burly athletes can’t get a sound out of it because their lungs are clogged because they smoke. You said you don’t smoke and other people, little pipsqueaks like you, can get a sound out of it sometimes. We’re just betting on it, so just take a deep breath and give it everything you have” and I did that.

A French horn has these big hoops that come back at your eye level and it was packed with talcum powder, so I blew into it. My entire face, hair, everything was as white as a ghost. My father was hiding in one of the lockers watching them set me up and he was crying laughing. They had a pretty good laugh at my expense, which was great.

I think the thing I saw firsthand was how gratifying it was to be even a small part of something that everybody really enjoyed being around. Those were some lean Met years. I call it the Steve Henderson-era. It was the Tom Seaver-less Mets, but people came to have a good time and to get a little release from their hard day at the office.

I could see that it was exhilarating to be even a small part of that, and I knew I wanted to do something in the sports world and this just kind of solidified it.

See also: My Start in Sports — Drew Sheinman

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