Heï¿½s funny and fearless, and heï¿½s hopelessly in lust with Salma Hayek. Heï¿½s TJ Simers of the Los Angeles Times. We told him we had dirt on the Grocery Bagger, and that weï¿½d share it if he gave us a brief interview. It worked. If you thought Bill Scheft and Norman Chad were funny, youï¿½ll love Simers. And if you’ve got a media member you’d like us to interview (Jay Mariotti, anyone?) drop us a line.
Q: Readers love the grocery store bagger. Honestly, what was your first impression when you met him?
The slug showed up late to pick up my daughter, so I stood at the end of the driveway waiting for him. He saw me and kept on driving. When he finally decided to stop, I asked him if he’d be late for a meeting with Lou Pinella. The slug was in the Mariners’ farm system at the time. He’s never been late since that first meeting; he obviously misunderstood what I was trying to tell him. He thought I wanted him to be on time; I just wanted him to go away.
Q: Give us your favorite Kobe Bryant story never told.
When he was having problems in Colorado, I got a call from his agent who wanted me to know Kobe was going to rent out a bowling alley for some kid with cancer, and wanted to know if I wanted to write the story. Yeah, right.
Q: Is Scoop Jackson a hack, or just an assclown?
I guess that would mean I would have to read or listen to what he has had to say to comment.
Q: You’ve had your share of run-ins with athletes. Plaschke famously clashed with Raul Mondesi. Which athlete has been the biggest prick to you, and is there one particular incident that sticks out?
That’s a tie between Jim McMahon and Kevin Brown. McMahon blew his nose on me. It began months earlier when I parked a golf cart against the back door of the Charger locker room so he couldn’t run from us out the back door. I went to him each day and he would swear at me and I would ask him to slow down so I could write it all down. Later I asked him a question, he blew his nose on me and said there’s your answer.
As for Brown, after my first column he picked up a metal box and tossed it against the wall. Two years later I went back to him to mark the anniversary of his last great pitch.
Q: There are some legendary stories about your young journalism days on the East Coast, and as one tale goes, in a farewell column, you had the first letter of each paragraph spell out FUCK YOU [sports editor]. Is this story remotely accurate?
The author of that story was Mark Blaudschun, and the only reason it was a going away column was because he was fired for writing it. I was sports editor of the Morristown Record, working for a crazy owner and stuck with a staff that loved the previous sports editor. I made Mark a columnist, gave him a raise and he wrote the column because I was tough on everyone else on the staff.
There are still people out there packing 25-year grudges about those days, which goes to show you what kind of lives they must lead now. At the time I had moved from Beloit to Morristown thinking I was going to be a sports writer rather than editor, and then found my family living in New Jersey at the mercy of a crazy owner and a staff that didn’t care much about that. One person on that staff was Joe Sullivan, now sports editor of the [Boston] Globe. He had a reputation for making silly mistakes—like writing a wonderful feature on someone and spelling the guy’s name wrong. The staff said, ‘that’s just Joe!’ but I decided to crack down, which ticked everyone off…I wish someone had cracked down on my silly mistakes 25 years ago—then I wouldn’t have moved to New Jersey.
Q: You ruled on Around the Horn. The show sucks. Can you recap why you were booted, and how ESPN did it? Were you called into a glass office? Told over the phone? Via email? And will you pull a Max Kellerman and beg them to take you back?
I ripped Around the Horn like I rip my boss, wife, CEO of our company, Dodgers etc….I started ripping Around the Horn before it went on the air, ripping myself as much as anyone. Nick Canepa from the Union-Trib in San Diego interviewed me about the show and I ripped it again. So I get a call telling me I’m being taken off the show for a few days and if I stop ripping the show I’ll be back on. So I ripped the show the next day.
Now I find it amusing to hear ESPN talking heads wondering whether Bryant Gumbel should be fired from his NFL gig for his nasty remarks in regards to the NFL. You can rip anyone, and ESPN would prefer you did, so long as you don’t rip ESPN. And no, no interest in going back under those conditions. I do my own radio show with my accountant daughter here, and that’s enough. My hope, of course, is to find her a husband.
Q: Your love for Salma Hayek knows no bounds. You see her at a bar, and have a moment to impress her. What do you say or do?
No need to impress Salma. We already kiss and hug when we see each other. She plays along with everything, and now the public sends me her picture whenever they see it. She brought me her brother and told me, “he could be your brother-in-law one day.” How cool is that? And for a guy who couldn’t get a date.
Q: Barry Bonds: Was he on the juice, and if you are Selig, what do you do about it? An asterisk by anything he has done?
I make sure Bonds gives whatever he’s taking to the Dodgers. They prove Bonds has been using stuff and no one else has, then call me.
Q: By all accounts, you are a journalist who knows when to mix in a salad. What’s the secret to not over-eating in the press box?
Take a look at Bill Dwyre. I have that image in my mind every time I go through the chow line.
Will there be a football team in Los Angeles, and frankly, do you even want one?
Football team will be here for the 2011 season at the latest—as early as 2007 or 2008. I believe there’s a good chance Chargers set up shop in Angel Stadium parking lot in new stadium, and the Saints in the Coliseum—playing in Rose Bowl while Coliseum is rebuilt. Roger Goodell, the new commish, worked harder on the LA problem than anyone and will make it happen. That means I’ll have to go to work on Sundays, but what the heck, more fresh meat.