Johnny Bench on Time On Monday night, Johnny Bench, Hall of Fame catcher for the Cincinnati Reds, spoke at the fundraising banquet for our Boys and Girls Clubs in the area.  About 400-people attended and it was a great evening that raised a lot of money for the Clubs in our community. 

Johnny Bench was funny, personable, and engaging.  During his speech, he said, “Someone always asks me, ‘How do you get to be a Hall of Fame catcher?'”  Bench said his reply is always, “Catch every ball.” 

He went on to say that in baseball, business, or life if you can “catch every ball” and return it effectively, you’ll be a success in whatever you attempt.  Of course, it’s not easy to catch every ball.  Johnny Bench said he broke over 17 bones, had lung surgery, and played hurt.  So, catching every ball is not easy.  But, it’s what separates Hall of Famers from the rest of the pack.

Johnny also told some stories about his dad, who taught him the game of baseball, and also taught him how to win and lose.  When asked who the greatest catcher he ever knew was, Bench said, “My Dad.” 

As his time came to a close, Johnny offered to take questions from the audience.  But, then he said, “Let me answer a question I’m always asked — Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?”  Of course, Pete Rose was Bench’s teammate, and set all kinds of hitting and fielding records.  If Pete Rose hadn’t bet on baseball, which he admitted to again recently, he would have been voted into the Hall on the first ballot. 

Bench said here’s how the question-and-answer usually goes when a fan asks him if Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. 

  • Bench:  “Do you think Rose should be in the Hall of Fame?”
  • Fan:  “Yeah, sure, he was a great ball-player.”
  • Bench:  “Do you have kids?”
  • Fan: “Yeah, what’s that got to do with it?”
  • Bench:  “Then just tell your kids that the rules don’t matter, that they can do whatever they want to.”  

The audience gave Johnny Bench a long, loud round of applause.  Refreshing to see a pro athlete, even retired, stand for something.  Johnny also said he had a new, one-year old son.  Maybe he’s thinking that the values he grew up with need passing along.