With great pleasure, we welcome Kathleen Lockwood to the Cover the Bases podcast. She is the author of Major League Bride: An Inside Look at Life Outside the Ballpark. The book was published by McFarland & Company in 2010.
Kathleen has been married to former major leaguer Skip Lockwood for over 40 years, the first 12 years of the journey while he pursued a career as a professional baseball player. The Lockwoods endured six teams, thirty five residences, trade rumors and a career threatening injury in pursuit of this career. This book is an inside look at what it means to fall in love, maintain a marriage, and start a family while attending to big league dreams.
There is a positive side to this story that Kathleen felt needed to be told during this era in baseball of steroid related turmoil. It is a way to shine a light on the positive relationships that she had built up with other families in the same circumstances. She also had the time available to spend writing after the youngest of five children had finally gone off to high school.
Her method for re-creating many of the stories was to revisit the numerous scrapbooks that she had kept throughout those times, and then used internet resources to locate old friends and capture past memories.
An interesting overlap occurs with the seminal baseball book Ball Four by Jim Bouton, as Skip had been a teammate of Bouton’s on the Seattle Pilot. The Pilots franchise immediately folded and became the Milwaukee Brewers, where Kathleen’s story picks up, so many of the players and families that appear in the early chapters of Major League Bride are familiar to readers of Ball Four.
The Lockwoods also had to endure three separate work stoppages during their career and this book gives us a unique perspective regarding the impact it has on families. With low salaries at the time and sparse living arrangements, many families ended up sharing rooms and apartments just to get by, until the strikes ended. For example, Kathleen makes the point that going into the spring training strike of 1976, most ballplayers had not drawn salaries since the previous October. In those days of one year contracts, the remaining money in their bank accounts was pretty slim. As she eloquently says “the solidarity of those players made things change for today.”
The monetary rewards that came about because of those negotiations has changed the nature of the obligations and challenges faced by major league families today. There were no agents in those days, and certainly no guidance as to where to look for apartments or domestic help, it was strictly networking within the contacts that had been forged with other baseball families.
Trades were a constant during the era in which this book is set and the Lockwoods experienced them in a variety of ways. In some cases, the best thing that can happen for a player is to be moved from one team to another and at the end of four years in Milwaukee, Skip asked to be moved during the offseason. His destination was the California Angels and throughout that year, the constant speculation about a trade resulted in Kathleen buying groceries at a maximum of three day increments. That constant uncertainty took it’s toll, but finally, after surviving the entire season Skip was traded to the Yankees in what would come to be called “the crazy year”.
Released by the Yankees in the spring of ’75, then signed by the Oakland A’s and the team owner who originally drafted Skip, Charlie Finley. Stops in AAA Tuscon and Tidewater ultimately led back to New York, but this time it was with the Mets. It would be as a reliever for the New York Mets that Skip would achieve his greatest success on the field.
Although trades are a part of the game, Kathleen believed the best approach was to be fully committed to the community they happened to be in, and to take full advantage of the time they might have in that area.
A final challenging aspect for any young family concerns the children. Kathleen was pregnant with their third child when Skip’s comeback with the Red Sox ended, so they endured the hardships of a rainy spring training in Winter Haven with two kids in a hotel room. Fortunately, the children were at a young enough age that they didn’t have to face the decisions regarding school attendance during the long season schedule.
To keep up with all of the happenings with the Lockwoods, visit Kathleen’s web site at MajorLeagueBride.com and she can also be found on Twitter @MajLgeBride. Skip’s site can be found at SkipLockwood.com.
We heartily thank Kathleen for appearing on Cover the Bases to talk about her book Major League Bride: An Inside Look at Life Outside the Ballpark, and look forward to the other books that are in the works as well! Please let us know in the comment section what you think about this inside look at the family life of a major leaguer, as well as any other suggestions you might have for future editions of the podcast.
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