Following their on-field recognition at the 86th All-Star Game as the winners of the Franchise Four "Greatest Living Players,"Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays will be featured in an exclusive interview with Bob Costas on a special edition of MLB Network Presents, tomorrow, July 16 at 8:00 p.m. ET. Filmed Tuesday afternoon in Cincinnati, the interview is a rare look at the four legendary Hall of Famers - all National Leaguers - as they discuss each other's careers, their childhood idols, their impressions of one another, and their most memorable moments in their own words.
Major League Baseball's "Franchise Four" campaign allowed fans to vote for the most impactful players who best represent the lineage of each Major League franchise and several other significant categories in the sport's history. A month-long period (April 8th-May 8th) of voting at MLB.com/FranchiseFour generated more than 25.5 million votes across 33 categories (the 30 Major League franchises, as well as the Greatest Living Players; the Greatest Negro Leagues Players; and the Greatest Pioneers, covering players whose careers began in 1915 or earlier).
The original series MLB Network Presents returns this week for a mid-summer run of new episodes starting tonight withMLB Network Presents: Buck Showalter, A Life in Baseball at 7:00 p.m. ET, and MLB Network Presents: Randy Johnson, The Big Picture tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Following are quotes from MLB Network Presents: Aaron, Bench, Koufax & Mays:
Each on the other three members of the Franchise Four:
Bench: "When you think of baseball to begin with, there's never been [anyone] like Mays and Aaron, and then Sandy stands alone with what he did. Unfortunately for him they didn't have the Tommy John surgery or we would've had him a lot more. These are the special men that I grew up with, but at the same time, they are the legends."
"It was everything about Henry. Even just him saying hello when he first came up to home plate and just recognizing the fact that I was there, it meant a lot to me. It was the way he approached hitting. The balls that were by him, he just snapped the wrist and they were line drives. He never really threw to a wrong base. He was graceful in the outfield. He had a strong enough arm to do anything he wanted with it. He could steal a base if he needed to, and it was with a grace that few other people had. As far as Willie was concerned, it was his dash, it was all of the excitement he created. You almost generated when he walked to home plate. You could just feel the vibrations, and you could feel the stirrings in the crowd, you could just feel that action and excitement, and Willie was gonna do it. Willie didn't care. Willie was gonna try to steal a base - he'd try to steal on most catchers, he couldn't steal on me - he was there. Everything he did, he'd chase the ball down, he wanted that ball so bad, he wanted to get a base hit so bad, he wanted to win. These guys, they wanted to win. They knew nothing about losing and they didn't care about losing. They were winners from the very beginning. To watch Sandy Koufax, to see the grace and the kick and the drive and that curveball, and it just kept on doing. Those are the things that make young kids dream of being Major League Baseball players, and because of the example they set, I, and a lot of other players, tried to play the game like them."
Aaron: "He [Koufax] was one of the greatest. I watched him and not only saw him pitch, but looked at box scores of what he had done, it was absolutely fabulous. If somebody would go out there and pitch to one hitter, he could pitch a no-hitter. That was the way he could pitch. And this guy, Johnny Bench, was absolutely fabulous. The only catcher I ever saw that caught like him was [Roy Campanella]. [He was] the only guy where every ball in the dirt, he'd keep in front of him, and if you were a baserunner on first base, you couldn't tell how far the ball was, and you couldn't run."
"One night we were playing the Dodgers and Rico Carty was hitting before me - I felt sorry for him - [and Koufax] threw him I think 12 balls and they were 12 strikes, and he struck him out three or four times."
Koufax: "The next day, [Carty] came up and said, 'Are you mad at me?' and I said, 'I don't know who you are. You're hitting in front of Henry."
"Johnny was so strong. … He never missed a ball. He had strength enough to go out and play a doubleheader today and go out and catch a game tomorrow. He could throw the ball about as well as anybody … but more than that, he had an accurate arm. He could throw a ball right on the base. The thing I liked about him was the fact that he could come up in the eighth inning or ninth inning, and everybody thought that he was worn out, and hit a three-run home run and beat you at the ballgame, and that was the end of that. This guy, Sandy Koufax … you always talk about pitchers getting beat with their second or third pitch, he never got beaten with his second or third pitch. [Willie] was just amazing. People thought he was showboating when he caught the ball below his belt, but that was just the way he caught the ball. He was fast, he could hit the ball out of the ballpark, he did things the way you wanted him to. … There was such friendly competition between all of us. … I wanted to come out and say that I had more hits than Willie, because I knew he was the best ballplayer out there."
Koufax: "These two guys [Aaron and Mays], it's an honor for us to be selected with them. They were a given, I think the rest of us were a toss-up. Everybody who was on the ballot could've been selected."
"With both of these guys [Aaron and Mays], what you did was you got the guy in front of them out."
"I think I was more afraid of Hank and more respectful of Willie - it's hard to say. They're gonna hit you. There's nothing in the lineup card about who you have to get out, you have to get 27 outs. They both were as good as there was in baseball at that time, with maybe the addition of Roberto [Clemente] in Pittsburgh. I just tried my best not to have them be in a position to beat me. Johnny I never played against, but I watched him and he did amaze me with the fact that he caught so well. … He got rid of the ball in a hurry, and that's the only way a catcher's gonna throw you out."
Mays: "Bench, when he came in in Cincinnati, I said, 'I'm gonna kill this little guy.' And one day, I was trying to score from second and I hit him, but I stopped. It was like a freight train bending down."
Bench: "You looked up at me and said, 'Get the hell off me, man! You broke my leg! You broke my leg man, get off me!'
"Then all of a sudden they said, 'He can throw,' and I said, 'He can't throw me out from second.' He always threw me out, three out of five, three out of five. I tried to get to the next base, [but] no, no, no. I have a lot of respect for him. Two guys - Campy and Johnny - two guys that could do everything behind the plate."
"I'd never seen anybody throw the ball like [Bench]. Campy threw a slider to second base, but Johnny threw it straight. … I just was amazed at what he could do as a young man. … Hank used to run me down so much, I didn't know where to play him. … I admired him. When I had a problem, I'd go to him. … Then Sandy, I'd always say to myself, 'Is he going to mess up one day?'"
On their first All-Star Games:
Bench: "My first All-Star Game, I was sitting in my locker. I was 20-years old at the Astrodome, and I wasn't gonna move. I wasn't gonna spike anybody, I wasn't gonna leave my locker. And Willie walked over across the locker room, pointed right at me and said 'You should've been the starting catcher,' and it meant more than any other All-Star Game memory. Henry was always great to me, he'd always say 'Hi, how you doing?' every time he walked in. I did have the great fortune of not having to face Sandy. I turned out to be a little better, probably, because of it."
Mays: "My first All-Star Game was in 1954, and they told me, 'The American Leaguers are laughing at y'all,' and I said, 'What do you mean?' I was thinking about playing three innings and get out of there, then all of a sudden they said, 'No, you've gotta play nine every day,' I said, 'Well, if I gotta play nine, okay, give me some extra money.' So Leo [Durocher] said, 'Okay, we'll get you an extra $5,000,' and that was a lot of money for me at the time."
Koufax: "Excuse me, what's the 'extra $5,000'? We didn't get anything."
"The All-Star Game was fun for me. I wanted to win."
Aaron: "I remember playing my first All-Star Game, and I remember Stan Musial in Milwaukee. And I remember Stan Musial came up to me and he said, 'Well boys, they don't pay us to pitch, so I'm gonna hit a home run,' and that is the gospel truth. I tell a lot of people that. I know you talk about Babe Ruth hitting a home run. [Musial] went up, he hit a home run and won the game for us. That was my first All-Star Game."
On their childhood baseball idols:
Bench: "I grew up in Oklahoma, so Mickey Mantle was it. I'm watching black-and-white television, I'm three-years old and the announcer comes on and says, 'Now batting, the next superstar, the switch-hitting centerfielder from Oklahoma,' and I looked at my dad and said, 'You can be from Oklahoma and play in the Major Leagues?' That's what I wanted to be."
Aaron: "I think I wanted to be Jackie Robinson. At that time, there really were not many African-Americans playing ball when I first started, so when he first started, of course we were glued to the television, hoping that he would do something great."
Koufax: "Probably a [New York] Knickerbocker, but other than that, probably Gil Hodges. He was the kind of guy I really enjoyed. … He was great to me after I won my first game. When you're a kid who shouldn't have been there - I came in under that bonus rule, there was no reason for me to be there, I was taking the place of somebody else who should've been in the big leagues - and I think Gil was not nasty to me, but after I won my first game, he was totally different."
Mays: "Joe DiMaggio. When I was in Birmingham, I had three guys: there was Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Joe, and I felt that Joe could do a little more than the other two could do. … He was my guy because I thought he played center field, he played every day. Every Sunday I would get the paper to see what he was hitting, and he hit good. He didn't steal a lot of bases, he was a good baserunner, so Joe was my guy."
Bench and Koufax on whether they feel a sense of something unfulfilled in their careers:
Bench: "I was very okay with [walking away]. I should've been an outfielder. The thing was, at a point you reach a level when you can't be 'Johnny Bench' anymore and you're being overpaid. I'm not performing up to the level that Johnny Bench should be performing - elbow, back, and all this stuff, and 13 consecutive years of 100-game seasons, it takes its toll. I caught 154 games in my first year out of 158. I caught 54 days in a row without a day off. 17 broken bones, seven broken cups, and I missed two days."
Koufax: "I probably could've kept pitching. It wasn't so much the pitching that was the problem, it was how to get from one start to the other. Draining fluid out of your elbow, all the drugs you were taking, the stuff that they won't give horses anymore, you're living on Butazolidin. I asked the doctor, I said, 'You know, I'm trusting you to keep me going, and I'm asking you to tell me when it's time to stop, when I could do permanent damage. They didn't do surgeries then that they do now and he just said, 'I think you should make this your last year,' and I said, 'Okay, that's it.' I had 12 years in the big leagues - that'd be a dream for a lot of people. Six good ones, six bad ones, so I was at .500 - time to go."
Koufax on his two career home runs:
"Both were in Milwaukee, and they took the park right out of the league after that. I beat [Warren] 'Spahny' one night, 2-1, and I get to first base and he was screaming at me, and I can't say what he was screaming. I get to second base and it's worse, and between third and home he says, 'Twenty-six years - a pretty good career - and you've ruined it in one night."
On the most memorable moments of their careers:
Bench on his home run during Game Five of the 1972 NLCS: "I had the feeling. I told someone in the dugout I was going to hit a home run to make a difference in the game in the third inning. I'm in the on deck circle, leading off in the ninth, and I was very aware that I had a spot on my lung and I was going to have surgery after the season was over, so there was a chance it was going to be my last possible at-bat in baseball. So I'm standing in the on deck circle and the crowd is yelling, 'Johnny, Johnny, Johnny!' and I'm not paying attention, and they said, 'It's your mother!' So I turned around and there was Mom and I know she said, 'Hit a home run.' She says, 'You know what you have to do,' because she was aware of the surgery. And here's Dave Giusti pitching and I'm smiling to myself saying, 'I wish it were that easy.' And of course I hit the home run that tied the game up, and we won a couple of hitters later with the wild pitch but anytime I hear that broadcast, it's just chilling. That meant so much to me."
Aaron on winning the National League pennant in 1957: "I think '57, trying to hit a home run off Billy Muffett that won the pennant. We had struggled the year before - in fact we had lost three games to the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis, and then we were on kind of a losing streak. We played the Cardinals in Milwaukee and I hit the home run off Billy Muffett, who was at that time one of the top relief pitchers in baseball. That was probably the glorifying moment for me because it gave not only our ball club a chance to be in the World Series, but then it gave the whole city of Milwaukee and Wisconsin a chance to celebrate."
"The home run I hit to break the record was certainly up there, but that was done in part because I was surrounded for many years by so many great teammates. I certainly have to give [Eddie] Mathews credit, and [Joe] Adcock, I have to give all those guys who I played with a little credit because if I hadn't been centered right in the middle with all of them, I probably would've been walked as many times as anybody."
Koufax on winning the National League pennant in 1966: "I would say the last day of the season in 1966. I knew that was my last year, it was probably our last regular season game. … It was a doubleheader, we had to win one game. The Giants were in Pittsburgh waiting to see where they were going, whether there was going to be a playoff or not. First game of the doubleheader, it was tied 3-3, and I said, 'Well, I might as well go warm up in case we get ahead. I can relieve and pitch three innings instead of nine,' and they said, 'Okay, go.' I warmed up for three innings and we get beat. I go into the clubhouse, change sweatshirts and come back out and kind of warm up for the start of the second game, and this is on two days' rest, which was stupid. But we got lucky and we won, and we won the pennant. We got killed in the World Series by Baltimore, but this was important to me for this team to win the pennant that day. I think those are the ones that I remember most, the ones that made the team win. It's that special thing of sharing with a guy for six months that's important."
"The perfect game, I didn't have great stuff in the beginning, and the last two innings are probably the best stuff I've ever had. But that was just a game; we're fighting for a pennant and you get one run, and I think the start before you get two runs, [if] you come out of it at .500, you're thrilled."
Mays on his four-home run game in 1961: "I didn't think I would ever do this, the four home runs I hit in Milwaukee. I never thought I could hit four home runs in one game. I've said many times to the writers, 'If I hit four home runs and we lose the game, what good are the home runs?' I was sick that day ... and Joey Amalfitano brought my bat to me. He said 'Try this bat.' I said, 'Man, I can't play today,' and he said, 'Try this bat.' So I go up and I hit the first four or five balls out of the ballpark. I went over and changed the lineup, put my name third, and luckily I hit four home runs."