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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Interview: Ed Nottle's Player Stories

Brockton Rox coach Ed Nottle, jacket, talks with players before the game at Pittsfield, Aug. 13, 2011.

Part 1: Stayed in Baseball | Part 2: Best Thing | Part 3: Snapped One Up | Part 4: Two Things | Part 5: Ballfield Rat | Player Stories

Boston Red Sox farmhand John Leister was going to be a father and one of the first people on the team to know was his manager, Ed Nottle, Nottle recalled recently to The Greatest 21 Days.

Playing under Nottle for the better part of five seasons at AAA Pawtucket, Leister arrived at the ballpark that day with his wife, relaying to Nottle the big news.

Then came the seemingly even-bigger news, for Nottle at least: The Leisters were going to name their new child after Nottle himself.

Nottle recalled responding almost in disbelief: "Is that right?"

"Yeah," Leister affirmed. The player finished his sentence and ran out the door: "We're gonna call it 'Stupid' Leister."

"I'll never forget that," Nottle told The Greatest 21 Days with a laugh.

The story of Leister's big announcement was one of several Nottle relayed to The Greatest 21 Days.

Given a list of his players on the 1990 squad, the 71-year-old Nottle, who has seen countless players in his half-century as a player himself and as a manager and coach, was quick to single out several on the list, giving his impression of their skills as a player, or simple personal stories.

Nottle recalled Leister as one of his favorite players, noting Leister once played football.

Another player, pitcher Mike Rochford, Nottle instantly recalled as a player who should have had a better shot at the majors. Rochford got all of eight appearances in the majors, one start, over three seasons.

Nottle recalled hearing a scout once say that Rochford "didn't have the guts" to pitch inside. Nottle instantly became upset, defending his player.

"I went off," Nottle recalled. "I said 'let me tell you something, if my house was on fire, and my kids were in there, Rochford's the one that I'd want walking by.'

"Some people aren't made to pitch inside. It doesn't mean your gutless. Everybody has a different personalty and I always hated that they thought of him like that. He could have been taught to pitch inside. He had real good stuff, real good stuff."

John Flaherty: Nottle recalled attending his wedding in Cincinnati one off-season.

John Marzano: "God bless him," Nottle said. Marzano passed away in 2008 from a fall.

Marzano, who played parts of 10 seasons in the majors, got married in Pawtucket, Nottle recalled. He also earned the nickname "Stains" on the field, "for obvious reasons."

Nottle and the team attended the ceremony. They also all agreed amongst themselves to say nothing during the proceedings.

"As soon as they said 'We now pronounce you...' we all jumped up and yelled 'Stains, Stains, Stains,'" Nottle said. "Oh, God, he went crazy."

Scott Cooper played in Japan, Nottle recalled. Tim Naehring: Nottle's favorite player.

Mickey Pina: "Worked too hard." Pina never made the majors.

"What a great kid," Nottle recalled of Pina, "He'd take 50 minutes extra hitting, he'd take so much stuff, it was unbelievable."

Nottle kept going down the list:

"Phil Plantier, he could hit a ball eight miles. Jeff Stone, ran like a God damn wild man. Scottie Wade, strong."

Then there was Rick Lancellotti.

Nottle told the story of Lancellotti and Ted Williams, in spring 1990. Williams, Nottle recalled, often spent time in the spring with the AAA squad.

Watching Lancellotti hit from behind the batting cage with Nottle, Williams critiqued Lancellotti's "big, wide swing."

"Ted says, 'you'll never hit anything with that swing,'" Nottle recalled. "I poked at his side and said, 'Ted, he's the No. 2 home run hitter in all of the minor leagues.'

"That night, I found out Ted went to his room and took him out to dinner," Nottle said, "that's a good story."

Lancellotti spoke with The Greatest 21 Days in February 2011. It was Nottle whom Lancellotti turned to when returning from Japan, hoping to get back to the majors after two previous brief trips to the bigs. "I owe him a lot," Lancellotti recalled then of Nottle, "he never should have taken me."

And Lancellotti did make it back to the majors, in 1990.

"You talk to Rick, you tell him he's one of my favorite people," Nottle said, after The Greatest 21 Days noted the previous interview. "I was so proud when he got to the big leagues."

"You tell him that's one of my prouder moments," Nottle added a short time later, "Because I know what it's like to try to get there and not. So, he got there."

Part 1: Stayed in Baseball | Part 2: Best Thing | Part 3: Snapped One Up | Part 4: Two Things | Part 5: Ballfield Rat | Player Stories

Greatest 21 Days Features:
257 - John Leister, Childhood Dream, 2/15/11; 262 - John Flaherty, Show Them, 10/29/10; 263 - John Marzano, Watch Him Hit, 7/22/10; 268 - Tim Naehring, Harsh Game, 12/7/10; 270 - Rick Lancellotti, Worth It, 7/7/10, Interview; 271 - Mickey Pina, Studied the Game, 9/5/11; 274 - Scott Wade, Kept Doing It, 1/18/11

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