Q&A with Phil Garner (continued)

Garner, a gregarious sort, as we're certain umpire John Hirschbeck, right, would agree, relishes hunting trips with his family. 

EO: "Where do you make your home in the offseason?"

PG: "Houston."

EO: "Did you grow up there?"

PG: "No, I grew up in East Tennessee. I grew up hunting squirrels, crows and small game. My best buddy owned a farm on what was Cherokee Lake, and we'd squirrel hunt and crow hunt; growing up, it was absolute paradise. I had a mountain behind my house, and he had a house on the lake. And on the weekends we'd go over there and fish and hunt. He'd come stay at my house. There were many mornings we'd fish before we'd go to school."

EO: "Did this complement the food fare at your house?"

PG: "Oh yeah, whatever we'd kill, besides the crow, we ate. For a number of years at my granddad's house, on Thanksgiving Day, all the men would go rabbit hunt. My uncles used to love to have big dogs, and they would run the rabbits with the beagle dogs. We hunted for a number of years on Thanksgiving Day."

EO: "There was a rabbit feast that day?"

PG: "Actually we ate turkey; we didn't have a rabbit feast."

EO: "But the rabbits were eventually eaten?"

PG: "Oh, yeah, we always ate the rabbits."

EO: "So, you provided meat for the family?"

PG: "Yes. You have to understand one of the things about growing up, my dad was a Baptist minister in a small Tennessee town. A lot of people didn't have money to help the minister. If he would do a wedding or a funeral, they didn't have money. They are very proud people that couldn't pay. But they'd always give food.

"So, we never suffered for food. We had watermelons during watermelon season, tons of tomatoes. We never wanted for ham or never wanted for roast beef. The church members kept us provided in food."

EO: "I want to move along to something else. I know you were a player and your nickname was 'Scrap Iron.' That was given to you by Willie Stargell when you played in Pittsburgh. (Garner enjoyed 14 full seasons in the major leagues and played second base for the 1979 world-champion Pirates.) You must have been a scrapper, if Willie gave you that nickname. You may not have had the greatest physical ability, but you were an intense player. Does that somehow correlate into your hunting?"

PG: "No, I don't think so. I've known some of the most gentle people in my life who have been big hunters. However, it seems like there is a great correlation between people who have grown up being hunters, and have continued that into their adult life.

"They tend to become very protective of the environment and nature, and become more conservationists …. Most of the people my age who continue to hunt are usually involved in Ducks Unlimited or Quail Unlimited; if they deer hunt, they are very conscious of their environment

"I just love to be in the outdoors; it was part of my growing up. I had a lease in South Texas. We had 5,000 acres for five years and I never killed a deer. My son killed one, but we had such a wonderful time just out on the land. We'd go out there three or four days at a time, and we'd do that three times out of the winter.

"If we killed a deer, we killed a deer; if we shot a pig, we shot a pig. We didn't rape and pillage the land, and I think that is what most hunters most enjoy about it."

EO: "What was it about Stargell that you remember most?"

PG: "He was a father figure to all of us. He was a calming force."

EO: "Did you turn him on to hunting?"

PG: "No, he just liked fine dining and wine."

EO: "Baseball is very much about preparation. Are there any comparisons that can be made between your sport and hunting?"

PG: "There is no doubt. I think more with elk hunting than anything else. I like to bird hunt, too. If you are going to do a lot of walking, it's good to be in shape. One of the preparations I go through is a lot of scouting reports; I've got mounds of information here on what to do with certain players on certain pitches.

"Good hunters will do the same thing; if you know the area you are going to hunt, you'll scout the area, look for signs on trees. It's the the same thing you do in baseball. Where the animal seems to cross, try to find rubs and scrapes. Do you find signs of areas where animals have been? If you are going to be in an area that you know you are going to hunt, it's really a lot of fun to do the prep work."

EO: "Are you a superstitious person? Some baseball players — and hunters — are."

PG: "I'm really not."

EO: "Are there any rituals before you go out?"

PG: "When it comes to the lineup card, if the coach takes out the lineup card and wins, then he takes it out the next day. I wear my lucky hat when I'm hunting."

EO: "What do you say to those 'city guys' on your team?"

PG: "'You don't know what you are missing. You are missing the peaceful serenity of the universe.' I've hunted on top of the world in Colorado. I've hunted Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, California. I'll tell you, when you are about 11,000 feet high in Colorado, and there's about three feet of snow and you are looking over those mountains, I don't think it gets any prettier than that. It might be a little cold, but, by George, it is worth it."

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