70 short stories for Steve Stone's 70th birthday

Steve Stone was born in suburban Cleveland, on July 14, 1947. He played for both Chicago ballclubs in the 1970s, then spent 20 seasons as a Cubs announcer and now is in his 10th with the White Sox.

So to mark the 70th birthday of someone so firmly ensconced in the Chicago sports scene, here are 70 short stories about "Stoney," most culled from tales the pitcher, broadcaster, restaurateur, raconteur and model has told — to reporters and in his own books — over the years.

1: Stone has said he nearly was born at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. His mother insisted on accompanying his dad to an Indians game though she was likely to go into labor at any moment. "She figured that if I was born in the stands, Bill Veeck, who owned the Indians then, would give her a lifetime pass," Stone told Sports Illustrated. Stone nevertheless was born in a hospital.

2: Stone's mother was a waitress, dad repaired jukeboxes, later getting into insurance. Harry Caray, Stone's long-time broadcast partner on Cubs games, made it seem as though Stone came from a hoity-toity background. But Stone said in 1999's "Where's Harry?" that it was for theatrical effect and while he was not an orphan, like Caray, "we were not well off."

3: Growing up in South Euclid, Ohio, Stone was a table-tennis champion as a youth, as well as a leading amateur tennis player. As an 11-year-old golfer, he notched his first hole-in-one.

4: Stone fancied himself the next Benny Goodman and set out to play clarinet in the fifth grade. This did not come as naturally as sports. He quit after just three weeks. "In retrospect," Stone would muse, "I wonder how many other things, maybe not so insignificant, I have not been able to do because I was convinced I couldn't."

5: Until college, Stone wasn't much of a student. He told the Tribune's Teddy Greenstein he finished 563rd in his graduating class of 715, but racked up a 3.15 grade-point average in his first semester at Kent State. "I'm not a moron," Stone recalled telling his stunned college baseball coach. "I just didn't study in high school."

6: Stone went to Charles F. Brush High School in Lyndhurst, Ohio. Sports teams there are called the Arcs. Charles F. Brush invented the arc light.

7: The valedictorian of Stone's high school class was Stephen Hadley, who served as national security adviser in President George W. Bush's second term, succeeding Condoleezza Rice, who became secretary of state.

8: Among other students at Brush High when Stone attended was future Fox Broadcasting chairwoman Lucie Salhany, who graduated a year ahead of him, and Newbery Award-winning author Sharon Creech ("Walk Two Moons"), who was two years ahead. Musician Eric Carmen ("All by Myself," "Hungry Eyes" and, as a member of the Raspberries, "Go All the Way") was there too, a couple of years younger than Stone.

9: At Kent State, his catcher and road-trip roommate was future Yankees captain Thurman Munson, who was the 1970 American League rookie of the year and 1976 AL most valuable player. Munson also was a three-time Gold Glove winner and seven-time All-Star before his death at 32 in a 1979 plane crash.

10: Stone first played with Munson on the 1965 Ohio High School All-State East team. Stone pitched for the East and Munson (though already a well-known catcher) played shortstop, with fellow future major-leaguers Larry Hisle in center and Gene Tenace at third.

11: Munson considered himself quite the pool player. It was the one thing at which Stone was demonstrably better, providing the pitcher with a bit of a financial windfall.

12: The Indians drafted Stone in the 16th round of the 1968 amateur draft, but he did not sign. Subsequently, the Giants took him in the fourth round of the 1969 winter draft and he played for Class A Fresno, Double-A Amarillo and Triple-A Phoenix on his two-year odyssey to the big leagues.

13: One plus for Stone in being assigned to Fresno: He and fellow pitcher Bill Frost availed themselves of the tasting rooms at area vineyards on days they weren't pitching, educating themselves on wines and winemaking.

14: Many years later, Stone and Frost would partner on Steven, a restaurant venture in Arizona.

15: Until a California League trip to Bakersfield in 1969, Stone — a future gourmet and restaurateur — had neither tasted nor heard of tacos.

16: Stone has said that if he hadn't graduated from Kent State six weeks earlier to resume his minor-league career, he might have been on campus when soldiers of the Ohio National Guard opened fire at an anti-Vietnam War protest, leaving four students dead and nine wounded.

17: Stone knew one of the Kent State students killed. Sandra Lee Scheuer was the girlfriend of one of Stone's friends. The 20-year-old Scheuer wasn't participating in the protest, merely crossing campus with her back to the guardsmen. She was shot fatally in the neck.

18: Stone had to learn to control his temper in the minor leagues. Upset about being pulled from a game while playing for Amarillo, he kicked a trashcan. It was full and left him with shin splints. Another time, at a soggy ballpark in Shreveport, La., he threw his glove down in anger. It landed in a walkway flooded with storm runoff. By the time Stone fished it out, both the glove and uniform he would need for the rest of the trip reeked.

19: Stone has been divorced twice. The end of the second marriage, he told the Tribune, was "very amicable." Of his 1970 marriage, Stone told People, "I'd like to say the split was amiable, but then I'd also like to say I've won 25 games." Stone was in the middle of what would be a 25-win season when he said it.

20: Stone's poetry has appeared in The National Jewish Monthly and other publications. "Today's Hero," as published by Sports Illustrated, goes: "Your supreme effort of yesterday may fall short of winning tomorrow — then what?... / You have to go out tomorrow and win again because the people like their heroes a day at a time. / The top of the world and the bottom aren't really that far apart — now are they?"

21: On the first day of Giants spring training in 1971, Stone threw batting practice for Willie Mays. Not making much contact, Mays told catcher Dick Dietz to tell Stone to stop treating BP like the World Series. Stone said he was fighting for a roster spot and, undaunted, zinged the next pitch in, leaving Mays again frustrated. The "Say Hey Kid" threw his bat in disgust, walked away and never again took batting practice from Stone.

22: Stone was named the Giants' third starter going into the 1971 season. Juan Marichal was No. 1 and Gaylord Perry No. 2. Both of them are in the Hall of Fame.

23: Stone's major-league debut was at San Diego on April 8, 1971. Through the first five batters he faced, he surrendered three runs. He was pulled in the fourth inning and charged with four earned runs.

24: Despite Stone's inauspicious beginning — no decisions through his first three starts — he improved to 3-1 with an ERA of 2.91 by May 9. Things tailed off, however, and he was back in Phoenix toward the end of the season.

25: Ron Fimrite, in the May 17, 1971, issue of Sports Illustrated, referred to Stone as "a Jewish intellectual … who just might be a right-handed (Sandy) Koufax."

26: Stone told Fimrite he had read Koufax's 1966 autobiography five times, coming away convinced "just how mental this game really is. Why, you can actually will yourself to win." This would be important later.

27: Stone was introduced to the Koufax book by the same people in Bakersfield who introduced him to tacos.

28: The White Sox acquired Stone and outfielder Ken Henderson from the Giants for pitcher Tom Bradley after the 1972 season. Bradley pitched only three more years in the majors, going 23-26 for the Giants.

29: Giants owner Horace Stoneham said something about trading Stone because they didn't think he was tough enough. It was a cryptic remark, but may have had to do with Stone refusing to throw at the Brewers' George Scott in spring training without being told why he should do so.

30: Stone was 6-11 with the White Sox in 1973, but ended on an impressive note. He struck out 12, walked only two and allowed just three hits over nine innings in what would be a 10th inning 1-0 road victory over the World Series-bound A's in their regular-season finale. Perhaps it upped his value.

31: The White Sox that December dealt Stone, Steve Swisher, Ken Frailing and Jim Kremmel to the Cubs for fellow future Cubs announcer Ron Santo. Stone has said it was a trade that hurt both teams.

32: Stone wanted a raise after going 8-6 in 1974, so he reached out to Cubs owner Phil Wrigley. "There was this myth around Chicago that even though the old man didn't like going to the park, he liked talking to his players," Stone told the Baltimore Sun. "So we talked for 15 minutes about chewing gum and two minutes about my salary, and I wound up getting a $13,000 raise." This came as a very big surprise to the Cubs front office. "I guess no one had ever talked to Mr. Wrigley about money before," Stone said "Gum, yes, but not money."

33: Playing against the Dodgers in 1975, Stone singled off former Cub Burt Hooton only to be called out for illegal equipment. Stone's bat was smudged with pine tar past the handle to the label. "I didn't know the rule," Stone said.

34: In 1976, the first year players were eligible for free agency, the Cubs wanted to cut the salary Stone had talked Wrigley into by $2,500, even though he had gone 12-8. Stone said no and became, he said, the first person in Cubs history to play an entire season without a contract.

35: Unfortunately for Stone, he also had arm problems that season that neither team doctors nor management seemed to grasp. "The Cubs gave me the impression they thought nothing was wrong," Stone told the Tribune's Richard Dozer.

36: Asked when he thought Stone's arm might be better, Cubs manager Jim Marshall said it would be when Stone got away from Wrigley Field, where the wind tended to blow out, and pitched in the spacious West Coast ballparks. "A real humanitarian, he was," Stone would say years later. "Incompetent, too, I might add."

37: When the Cubs did acknowledge Stone's injury, the team suggested cortisone treatments and surgery. Stone sought out a kinesthesiologist at the University of Illinois-Chicago who correctly identified a rotator cuff injury, which had not yet become a common diagnosis. Weight training and cryotherapy saved Stone's arm, though insecurities remained.

38: Stone watched the Oscar-winning 1977 film "Annie Hall" multiple times. He said in 1980 he admired the way Woody Allen vented his neuroses and could identify.

39: Bill Veeck's White Sox picked up Stone after the 1976 season. Sox executive Roland Hemond finalized Stone's contract over lunch at the Pump Room. Stone was a working partner of restaurateur Rich Melman in the budding Lettuce Entertain You empire as a hedge against an abrupt end to his playing days and was filling in as manager on the midday shift. Hemond, in Sports Illustrated, recalled it as the only time he ever signed anyone who was wearing a tuxedo.

40: It is often noted Duane Kuiper, now a Giants announcer, hit the only home run in his major-league career of 3,754 plate appearances off Stone in 1977 at Cleveland. Less well-known is that an Indians teammate saw Kuiper grab his bat the next time he was up and recommended putting it away as a keepsake in case he never hit another homer. The prescient ballplayer was Bill Melton, a one-time White Sox teammate of Stone's and now a CSN analyst.

41: Stone led the White Sox pitching staff in 1977 with a 15-12 record despite a 4.51 ERA. He could have left the Sox but felt Veeck had done right by him, allowing him to reestablish major-league credentials, so he stuck around for 1978 at roughly twice what he had been making in '77.

42: When Sox teammate Don Kessinger was named player-manager for 1979, Stone told him and Veeck he wanted to be pitching coach. Kessinger, only five years older than Stone, said he thought Stone had plenty of good years left as a player and said no. So Stone put himself on the open market.

43: Veeck offered a one-year, $200,000 deal to Stone, who at 12-12 in '78 again had led the White Sox staff in victories. The Orioles offered a four-year deal at $175,000 per season. Veeck advised Stone to take the security.

44: When Stone got to the Orioles, he sensed three-time Cy Young Award-winner Jim Palmer, who years earlier opted for a long-term contract, felt the newcomer was overpaid vis a vis his own salary. In any case, Stone felt there was tension.

45: Stone asked for a clause in his Orioles contract that would pay him $10,000 if he won the Cy Young Award. "We all got a chuckle out of it, even Hank Peters, the general manager," Stone told the Tribune's Bob Verdi. "I was going to hold out for another clause. I also wanted $10,000 if the Orioles invaded Russia. But I backed down, signed and left. I figured we all had had enough laughs for one day." But Stone got his $10,000 bonus in 1980.

46: Going into the 1979 All-Star break, Stone was 6-7 for the season and 73-79 lifetime. Orioles manager Earl Weaver warned Stone he better start winning in a hurry or else. Stone went 5-0 the rest of the year, then had the season of his career in 1980.

47: In Game 4 of the 1979 World Series, Stone made the one postseason appearance of his career in middle relief against the Pirates. He gave up a pair of runs in two innings of work, but the Orioles won 9-6 to take a 3-1 Series lead. This was the year of "We Are Family," however, and Willie Stargell and the Pirates under Chuck Tanner, Stone's original White Sox manager, rebounded to take the title in seven games.

48: The next summer, in the middle of what would be a phenomenal 25-7 season, Stone was the American League's starter in the 1980 All-Star Game, retiring all nine men he faced.

49: Stone's 25-7 record came despite being 2-3 with a 4.74 ERA in early May. He went on a tear the rest of the way, including 14 successive victories from May 9 to July 26.

50: Stone in 1980 not only was voted Cy Young winner as the AL's top pitcher, he finished ninth in Most Valuable Player balloting.

51: Weaver's wake-up call in mid-1979 led Stone to dedicate himself to visualization and meditation techniques to an even greater degree than after reading the Koufax memoir. Before every game, he would play out vividly in his head exactly how he wanted it to go and use the confidence that gave him when he got to the mound.

52: Stone also changed his Orioles number from 21 to the number he wore with the White Sox, Koufax's 32. He shaved his mustache, changed gloves and cleats. He also was not above superstition, keeping a lucky stuffed animal in his locker and eating breakfast at the same pancake place with sports writer Peter Pascarelli on the mornings when he was to start at home.

53: Stone also has talked about consulting a psychic, a hypnotist and a faith healer.

54: "I've been involved in the psychic world all my life," Stone said in the story accompanying his centerfold pictorial in Playgirl. Yes, Playgirl. In the July 1983 issue, Stone can be seen in various tasteful poses in various stages of undress by a pool, in a giant baseball glove-shaped chair and with a tennis racquet by a cactus. The most phallic object on display is the cactus. But Playgirl editors must have liked the photos as they reprinted some in 1984 and 1985.

55: Stone told Playgirl he was drawn to athletic women who are good conversationalists with a sense of humor. "Let's just say I enjoy my single life," Stone said. "I like variety."

56: Wear and tear on his arm caught up with Stone. He only appeared in 15 games in 1981, going 4-7, and entertained hopes he might somehow heal enough to return. But he bowed to the obvious in June 1982, announcing his retirement.

57: Stone's 107 career victories rank fourth or fifth among modern-era major-league Jewish pitchers, depending on how one looks at it. One-time Cub Ken Holtzman tops the list with 174, followed by former Dodger great Koufax (165) and erstwhile Cub Jason Marquis (124). White Sox alum Joe Horlen, a convert to Judaism, piled up 116 victories.

58: Stone announced his retirement on a Wednesday. He signed with ABC on Thursday. By Monday night, he was working a "Monday Night Baseball" telecast with Al Michaels and Don Drysdale.

59: Even after leaving the White Sox, Stone still kept his Chicago barber, dentist and so on. Back for a checkup before heading to Milwaukee for an ABC telecast in August 1982, he found himself at the Ambassador East hotel, where Harry Caray made his home during the season. Stone overheard a bellhop say he had newspapers for Caray, so he asked to have a card sent to Harry. Stone got a call back in his room within minutes. Caray told him WGN was looking for an analyst to work alongside him in '83 and he thought Stone would be great. Five minutes later the phone rang again. This time it was Tribune Broadcasting's Jim Dowdle. The rest is history.

60: Until he worked with Caray, Stone was a pipe smoker. But Stone said Caray thought that was too professorial. Caray encouraged Stone to smoke the cigars he regularly would rail against during Cubs broadcasts.

61: Stone said Caray, ever the showman, was trying to develop a persona for his broadcast partner. "He believed the baseball fan was someone who pictured the writers and the broadcasters drinking a few beers and smoking a few cigars," Stone would recall. "So Harry got me started on the cigars and even bought me the first box, and then every time I would smoke a cigar in the booth he would go on a lengthy tirade."

62: When the Cubs fired general manager Dallas Green in 1987, Stone went to Tribune Co. CEO John Madigan to ask if he could be considered for the job. "Steve might have promoted himself too much," Ron Santo told the Tribune's Ed Sherman.

63: The GM job instead went to Jim Frey, who was fired as Cubs manager two months into the 1986 season. Frey had been doing analysis of the Cubs on radio. Whether the Cubs hired the wrong color commentator is a matter of opinion.

64: Stone wrote he used to receive a ham every year from Caray when they were broadcast partners. Stone would call Caray to thank him, then gently remind Caray he was Jewish and might prefer a turkey. Caray would say he was glad Stone appreciated the gift. And a year later, there would be another ham.

65: Most of the disagreements Stone and Caray had on the air didn't linger, Stone said. When they did, it usually was because of something unrelated. Case in point: Caray asked to invest in a restaurant venture with Stone and, according to Stone, became a bit cranky when it wasn't as lucrative as he had hoped. Buying out Caray seemed to clear the air, Stone said.

66: Stone left the Cubs job late in the 2000 season, suffering from the effects of kidney stones and Valley fever, an illness he compared to getting hit with a one-two punch of mononucleosis and pneumonia. He wound up taking off two seasons to continue his recovery and pursued work as "competition consultant," sharing his insights on the mental aspects of sports with young athletes. He returned to the Cubs broadcasts in 2003 and 2004.

67: If you listened to some members of the 2004 Cubs, both in the clubhouse and front office, you might think Stone and broadcast partner Chip Caray (grandson of Harry) were the reason they finished 16 games out of first place in the NL Central. Others might cite incidents such as pitcher Kent Mercker calling the booth to complain during a game as evidence of misplaced focus and energy for Dusty Baker and his team. As tensions mounted, Stone said in a radio appearance, "The truth of this situation is (this is) an extremely talented bunch of guys who want to look at all directions except where they should really look and kind of make excuses for what happened."

68: Not surprisingly, little or no effort was made to discourage Caray from going to work for the Braves. Stone walked away from a contract renewal offer. Baker's Cubs, at last freed of this horrible burden, wound up 21 games out of first in 2005 and in last place in 2006. So that worked out.

69: After working as a contributor for WSCR-AM 670 and calling some national telecasts, the White Sox in August 2007 brought in Stone to fill in as a commentator. It was obvious what had to happen next. Stone was hired to work Sox radio broadcasts the next season and moved to TV in 2009.

70: Four people who Stone has cited as major influences on him, besides his parents, are Rich Melman, Bill Veeck, Harry Caray and the late Mel Korey. A nightclub singer-turned-entrepreneur from Chicago who eventually settled in Arizona, Korey was Ron Popeil's early business partner, helping to build the Ronco Teleproducts as-seen-on-TV gadget empire and later had his own advertising company. Stone said Korey's ability to overcome adversity through self-confidence and adaptability was an inspiration.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Herald, The Baltimore Sun, Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Washington Post, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Playgirl, People, Associated Press, United Press International, baseball-reference.com, baseball-almanac.com, "The Big Book of Jewish Baseball" by Peter S. Horvitz and Joachim Horvitz, "Wild Pitches" by Jayson Stark, "Teach Yourself to Win" by Steve Stone with Nolan Anglum, "Where's Harry?" by Steve Stone with Barry Rozner, "Said in Stone: Your Game, My Way" by Steve Stone.

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