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GRICH: Former Angel Set for Life : Bobby Grich: Baseball Is Over, But the Good Life Has Extra Innings

June 02, 1988|DICK WAGNER | Times Staff Writer

The whirlwind of baseball is almost two years behind him now, and Bobby Grich prospers. He is 39 and will never have to work the rest of his life.

"It's a fabulous, unreal feeling," said the former Angels second baseman, one of baseball's all-time fielding leaders.

For an interview this week at Blair Field in Long Beach--where his talents were first showcased in the mid-1960s--Grich wore white tennis shorts that set off his tan and a purple golf shirt he received in Vail, Colo. It was an outfit that reflected his country club life style.

"I snow ski, water ski, play golf and lift weights," Grich said.

It is a combination that has kept his 6-foot-2, 195-pound body as tuned as it was during his 17-year major-league career.

"I feel better now," said Grich, who will be among 100 Long Beach athletic figures honored Sunday at Veterans Stadium as part of the city's centennial celebration. "When you're playing," he said, "very rarely do you feel good. Something is always hurting somewhere."

An all-star for six of his 17 major-league seasons, Grich did not squander the money baseball bestowed upon him. He has long been living the good life, the only kind he has really ever known.

"I never had to work an 8-to-5 job," Grich said, "so I can't relate to that. It's always been baseball. I've always had that life style, and now it's like the off-season 12 months a year."

Grich, who starred in baseball and football at Wilson High School, looked out over Blair Field's plush greenness and remembered a beautiful summer night in 1966 when he was among the Moore League all-stars who were playing Long Beach City College.

"I had just been drafted by Baltimore," Grich said, "and they were negotiating with me. Their scouts were in the stands. Fortunately, I had an excellent game, and that probably upped my bonus money by 50%."

Grich, who played for the Orioles from 1970 through '76 and for the Angels from 1977 through '86, had 224 career home runs and a batting average of .266. He shares the career fielding average record (.984) for a second baseman with Nellie Fox and Dave Cash, and he once went 77 games without making an error.

Occasionally, he will get the urge to pick up a bat but "not very often--just to see what it would be like now. I went to Rochester last year to play in an old-timers' game. I participated in a home run contest and hit two out. But during the game I popped up twice, so. . . ."

Grich's friends have been trying to persuade him to play in a slow-pitch softball league.

"I feel so good physically," he said, swinging his hands as if a bat were in them, "I might give it a try."

If he can fit it into his schedule.

When not pursuing his athletic interests, Grich will be tending his investments or driving one of his luxury cars.

"Mostly real estate ventures," he said of his business interests. "I'm not a sophisticated businessman by any means, so I trust professional people, and hopefully they know what they're doing."

He has two Porsches, a 1978 Mercedes and a Blazer truck. Last year he sold his Rolls-Royce. "I had it the last two years I played ball," he said. "It was just something I always wanted to have."

He once told an interviewer that he used the Rolls for dinner dates and the Mercedes for cruising in Palm Springs.

But Grich is uncomfortable with any suggestion that he is a playboy. "I don't like that term," he said.

His passion is golf. A 7-handicapper, Grich plays two or three times a week and is a regular at various country clubs. He played in the pro-am events of this year's Dinah Shore and Los Angeles Open tournaments.

"I grew up on that course," he said, indicating the Recreation Park course across Blair's left field fence. "Golf's my major love now. "I just love the game and the environment; it's just the course, the wind, the sky and you. Golf and snow skiing are the two most beautiful sports a man can enjoy."

Grich attended only two Angels games at Anaheim Stadium last year and has been to one this season. "After playing for 19 years, the last thing you want to do is go to a baseball game," he said of his feelings last summer, his first in retirement. "Now I think I'd like to go back on occasion. A friend and I have season tickets."

Going to the stadium always reminds Grich of the Angels' failure in the 1986 American League Championship Series against Boston. That cost Grich his last chance to play in a World Series.

"It's a strange feeling to go out there; I have such mixed emotions," he said. "It's kind of a sad, empty feeling because that last season still eats at me."

Grich said he doesn't miss the clubhouse camaraderie. "In baseball you live and work with 25 guys, some you like and some you don't," he said. "I've got closer, more lifelong friends here in Long Beach. My real good friends are people I've known since high school. I still see guys I went to elementary school with."

And he doesn't miss baseball's daily demands.

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