Their eras and positions are vastly different. Still, it is worth noting that former Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry proved what current Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes believes: Golf can be therapeutic for a ballplayer.
Terry took up golf during spring training 60 years ago at the suggestion of his organization, the Kansas City Athletics, which thought the walking and swinging would be good rehab for his hip injury. He sputtered at first, barely able to hit a ball in the air, then quickly became hooked. By the summer, he had improved enough to shoot 73.
Four years after that, he was the World Series Most Valuable Player, proving that his pastime did not harm his profession. And five more years later, right after he was released by the Mets, he became a club pro. In the 1980s, he was a regular on what was then known as the Senior PGA Tour — a career path to which Cespedes aspires.
The former pitcher, who closely follows the Yankees, was not aware of the Mets outfielder’s intention to break out of his slump by rekindling his golf passion (saying it will help his rhythm). When Terry, 82, was reached on his cell phone this week at his home course in Larned, Kansas, he did say, “It’s basically the same swing. In golf you’re swinging down there, in baseball you’re swinging a little higher up. I think playing golf might help you hit low pitches.”
He does know it can be dicey, trying to combine the two. Terry never played golf on the day of one of his starts, but the day before a start was another story. On August 24, 1961, when the Yankees were in Los Angeles, he spent the morning on a course. Manager Ralph Houk heard about it. “He said, ‘You know, that’s a $500 fine,’ ” Terry recalled. “Well, we traveled all night, we got into Kansas City at 3 or 4 in the morning. I pitched that night, shut them out 3-0 and raised my record to 11-1. He called me into his office and said, ‘This is your first offense. I’m going to overlook this.’ ”
A fascinating two-sport life is recounted in his book, “Right Down the Middle: The Ralph Terry Story.” He writes about being head pro at Roxiticus, a New Jersey club in which he was one of the investors, and other courses, including Rockaway Hunting Club in Lawrence. And about Arnold Palmer, Pirates fan, asking about Terry giving up the walk-off homer to Bill Mazeroski in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. And about Jack Nicklaus telling him, “You will enjoy golf, Ralph. That golf bag will take you a lot of places.”
Once, golf reunited Terry with Mazeroski in a pro-am (they finished third). Years later, Terry crossed paths with Jean van de Velde, whose meltdown on the final hole cost him the 1999 British Open. The former pitcher encouraged the French pro by telling how he shook off the devastation of 1960 and got the final out of Game 7 in 1962.
Terry played in more than 100 senior tour events, including the Northville Long Island Classic at the Meadow Brook Club. Basically, he has touched all the bases by having played with the greats in both sports. The games can blend well. He recalls Byron Nelson saying that some of the longest tee shots he had ever seen were hit by Mickey Mantle.
So, as a former ballplayer and longtime golf teacher, what advice would Terry give to Cespedes? “Play recreationally. Don’t go into extensive practice routines,” he said. “Don’t overdo it.”
Mike Francesa will be the honoree at the 38th Annual Telecare Television Network Golf Classic May 8 at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley and Pine Hollow Country Club in East Norwich. Visit catholicgolfclassic.org . . . The 22nd Annual Long Island Cares Golf Outing, supporting the food bank established by Harry Chapin, will be May 16 at Meadow Brook Club, Jericho. Visit licares.org.
Denise Connors, Brookville CC, third hole, 148 yards, driver
Carl Paffendorf, Brookville CC, seventh hole, 158 yards, 3-wood
Ed Muller, Eisenhower White, 17th hole, 188 yards, driver
Dan Malossi, Gull Haven GC, ninth hole, 175 yards, 4-hybrid
Al Vazquez, Sumpwams Creek GC, ninth hole, 158 yards, 7-iron
John Mingione, Heatherwood GC, 17th hole, 145 yards, 8-iron
Baseball best golfers:
Sam Byrd: The only one to have played in both the World Series and the Masters. During his major league career, from 1929 through 1936 with the Yankees and Reds, was often a pinch runner for Babe Ruth. He was a defensive replacement for Ruth in the 1932 Series. He won six tour events and had two top-10 finishes in the Masters, 1941 and 1942.
Rick Rhoden: A two-time All-Star pitcher, had a 16-year career with the Dodgers, Pirates, Yankees and Astros, then dominated the celebrity golf circuit and had three top-10 finishes in 34 stars on the Champions Tour.
Jumbo Ozaki: A pitcher and outfielder for the Nishitetsu Lions before switching to golf and winning 94 times on the Japan Golf Tour. Later played in 79 PGA Tour events and earned $404,165.
Ken Harrelson: Twice a 30-home run hitter and once an All-Star, he retired from baseball in 1971 and turned pro in golf.
Mark McGwire: Former slugger has a plus-2.2 handicap index.
Mike Schmidt: Hall of Fame third baseman has a plus-1.1 handicap index.
Livan Hernandez: MVP of the 1997 World Series, has a 0.9 index and teamed with half-brother Orlando (El Duque) Hernandez to win the 2014 Duel in the Desert on the Golf Channel Amateur Tour.
Tyler Clippard: Former Yankee and Met reliever has a plus-1.4 index and hopes to play the PGA Tour when he retires. Once shot 72 at Pebble Beach.
John Smoltz: Hall of Fame pitcher has a 1.8 handicap index and played in a Nationwide Tour event.