Legends open up to visitors at FanFest clubhouse

Fielding questions from fans, baseball greats share previously untold stories

Legends open up to visitors at FanFest clubhouse

MINNEAPOLIS -- The T-Mobile All-Star FanFest spans 400,000 square feet at the Minneapolis Convention Center, and right in the heart of the bonanza is a makeshift room dubbed the "All-Star Clubhouse."

The room, no bigger than a typical modest-sized living room, is adorned with faux lockers, where jerseys of some of the more famous All-Stars hang. In the middle of the room are rows of benches, and in the front, barstool-type seats. It's a perfect setting to talk some ball.

It would be inaccurate to call the All-Star Clubhouse a best-kept secret, considering how packed it is for much of the day. But it's definitely a hidden gem. Every 30 minutes, Hall of Famers, dignitaries and legends come traipsing through, engaging the crowd in question-and-answer sessions that often reveal a lot more than you'll read in a standard interview.

In the All-Star Clubhouse, you'll hear Lou Brock recall a knock-down, drag-out fight between the Reds and Cardinals from 45 years ago as if it happened last week. You'll learn what Bert Blyleven's best memory is from the 1987 World Series. And you'll be privy to what sparked Tony La Russa to call himself a turd.

Fortunately, "What happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse" doesn't apply here....

Trivia time: La Russa, who will be honored by the Hall of Fame for his stellar managing career in a couple of weeks, offered up a trivia question during his chat with fans Monday afternoon.

There are three players in history that have started a Major League game at shortstop at age 18.

"Two pearls, and one turd," La Russa hinted.

The non-pearl?

"Me," he said, pointing the finger at himself.

And the pearls?

Alex Rodriguez, who debuted with the Mariners in 1994, and Robin Yount, who played in his first big league game in 1974, with the Milwaukee Brewers.

La Russa, who played most of his career as, in his words, "a sore-armed infielder," debuted with the Kansas City Athletics on May 10, 1963. He was 18 years, 218 days old.

Election Day memories: Hall of Famer Andre Dawson had to wait nine years from the time he was first eligible to be elected to the Hall of Fame until the year he finally got in, and he admitted that by the end, the whole thing had, just slightly, lost its luster.

Still, as the day of reckoning grew closer in 2010, he did feel that was probably his best chance to be elected, and he let himself think, at least briefly, that things may go his way. He had garnered 62 percent of the vote the previous year, so a jump to 75 wasn't out of the question.

The morning of the announcement, Dawson did something he had never done before: he visited the gravesites of his mother and his grandmother, whom he credits for "bringing me up right, keeping me out of trouble, keeping me humble."

His mother had passed away five years earlier, and Dawson stood there at the gravesite, thinking about what she used to tell him about the Hall of Fame process.

"She had always said, 'It's inevitable. Be patient. It's going to happen someday,'" he said.

Proving, once again, that mothers are always right.

Passing the torch: Hall of Famer Lou Brock held the Major League career stolen bases record until Rickey Henderson broke it in 1991, so it's only fitting that Brock was Henderson's biggest cheerleader as he inched closer to setting the new mark.

"I'd talk to him and he'd have aches and pains, and I'd say, 'Rickey, you've got to push it,'" Brock recalled.

Actually, the relationship between the two started much earlier. Brock first met Henderson when the latter was just 17 years old, and Brock was tasked with giving some pointers to the up-and-comer.

"I asked him, 'Why do you want to steal bases?'" Brock said. "There's only one answer to that question, and Rickey came up with it. The answer is: 'Because I like it.' Once he said that, then I knew he could be taught."

Old timers: Asked by a Twins fan if he had any memories of the late Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, Brock recalled an old-timers game the two were a part of in Japan.

"Harmon managed the Americans, and somehow, he put me at first base," Brock said. "I have never played first base. [Killebrew] said, 'You can do it.'"

Fast forward to the ninth inning, and an opposing batter hits a laser between second and first.

"I dove for the ball and made a magnificent stop," Brock said. "I just stayed there, laying there, admiring the ball in my glove. And the winning run scored."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.