You did it all in baseball — MVP as a player, four
I didn't see the connection until I was in my 50s, but being brought up in a house where my dad abused my mom created a lot of fear and lack of self-esteem. I didn't even go out for the baseball team in my freshman year in high school because I was afraid I wasn't going to make it. I had no confidence in myself. And I went through my playing career going through a lot of hills and valleys based on my performance that particular day. Obviously, to validate myself, to be worthy, I had to get hits. It was like a life-or-death thing for me. It wasn't a good feeling. I was very moody. Then, in 1995, age 54, I started to get over it.
I went to a four-day self-help seminar with my wife, Ali, then pregnant with our fourth child. On Day 3, they separated us, and I found myself standing there crying my eyes out. Now here I am, just been named the manager of the
It wasn't that I was mad at my father. It's that I realized that I wasn't born with these bad feelings and the shame — they were created by the fear. Ali and I had always done volunteer work throughout my career, so I knew that I wanted to help kids who might have been in the same boat, seeing abuse and afraid to talk about it. Several years later, in New York, Ali and my oldest daughter, Christina, a Montessori teacher, helped me set up Margaret's Place. We put a counselor in "safe rooms" in schools to help these kids. To date, almost 50,000 kids have been through the program.
When did you know it would be successful?
Right away. I remember walking into a school in the Bronx where we were going to put on our first fundraising dinner, and I said to the youngsters, "We'll talk about baseball in a minute. I want to explain what this camera crew is for." When I explained about my dad and watched six or eight kids just shake their heads up and down, as if to say, "I know what you're talking about," I realized that we struck a nerve.
Is there a similar reluctance to talk about prostate cancer?
Yes, which is why being a high-profile person helps; you draw attention to a cause, and you also get more help. My wife said it probably was a good thing that I didn't retire in 1998 after we won the World Series against the
People always talk about diet and exercise as the key elements of health. Should charity work be in that mix?
I think so. A healthy body thrives in a healthy society. I work out about five days a week, alternating days of boxing with a trainer and 45 minutes of cardio, and eat a low-fat diet with no fried foods or red meat, mainly fish, beans, some chicken, lots of vegetables. As for the charity work, there's a sense of responsibility on us to make sure the future of our world is going to be in good hands by talking care of the kids who are going to be there for us. A big part of it is putting your arm around somebody's shoulder and letting them know that you care about them.