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Published: Friday, 7/5/2002

Bench catches queries on `The Editors'

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Johnny Bench hasn't caught a pitch in a major league game since he retired following the 1983 season.

But the Hall of Fame catcher still follows the game closely as a special assistant for the Cincinnati Reds. That work, combined with his playing experience, gives him a unique insight into the game of baseball, both on and off the field.

Bench shared many of those insights with Blade Vice President and Editor Tom Walton in this week's edition of The Editors. The show will be broadcast tonight starting at 9 p.m. on WGTE (Channel 30), then aired Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on WBGU (Channel 27).

Bench, a two-time National League MVP who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989, answered questions on a variety of baseball subjects, including:

  • The Reds teams he played on in the 1970s, which were know as the “Big Red Machine” and won back-to-back World Series crowns, as well individuals on that club such as Tony Perez and manager Sparky Anderson.

  • The Hall of Fame and voting for that honor, as well as Pete Rose's exclusion from the Hall.

  • Heroes and the way society treats them.

  • And the game's off-field problems, including the potential of a strike, the cost of attending games, and the chances that contraction will take place.

    A 14-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner, Bench saved some of his strongest comments for the recent hubbub regarding steroid use in baseball.

    “I don't think [steroid use] is anywhere near the level [Ken Caminiti asserted],” he said, alluding to a Sports Illustrated article in which Caminiti claimed half of all major league players used performance-enhancing drugs. “If I had to guess, in the Cincinnati Reds organization I'd point a finger at maybe one or two guys [as users] and that would be it.”

    Bench also defended Barry Bonds, who set the major league record with 73 home runs last season but since has been the target of claims that steroids helped him get stronger.

    “When I saw Barry Bonds four years ago, he was working out with a personal trainer 49 weeks out of the year,” Bench said. “You can build muscles if you eat the right food, take the right supplements, drink the [protein] shakes and do the right things - and spend that much time building your body.”

    The 54-year-old Bench, a spokesman for Fifth Third Bank since 1973, was in Toledo Tuesday to appear at Fifth Third Field, the Mud Hens' new home.



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