He arises in the early darkness. No alarm jangling in his ears. (“I traveled all those years with the Braves and never needed an alarm clock,”)
Drives to the WCNN studio on Piedmont Road for one of the two “Rude Awakenings” on the local air — one is named for a guy, the other an attitude — and by 10 o’clock it’s over.
He’s free until the next morning. “It’s like every day is an off day,” Leo Mazzone said. “And it stinks.” Not his life in radio, not life in Roswell, which shall always be his home, he says. But life out of baseball, out of that uniform. He enjoys his banter with the radio guys, Christopher and Laurentino and the callers. He gets national exposure occasionally as analyst with Fox on major league games.
But when spring training came last year, and Leo was out of baseball for the first time in 40 years, and nobody came calling, it hit hard. He thought he might make a connection with the Tigers, but Jim Leyland went for a younger man.
Now Leo’s into his second season out of the game and as I found out through a Google search, he’s restless and bored. Spring without baseball hit, and hit hard. The phone rings, but it’s never the right call.
You dial his number and you get a recording of the Notre Dame fight song. He never got to college, but there’s a streak of Notre Dame loyalty deep in his soul. “Why not?” he said. “I’m Italian and I’m Catholic.” He had his chance at college when he was 18 and West Virginia offered him a scholarship,
He turned it down when the Giants offered him a $400 bonus and he set out to see the world through the windows of minor league buses, such sights as
Amarillo, Texas — spent five seasons in that wind-blown town — Decatur, Ill., and even some international time in Monterey, Mexico. It was noticeable, that when he returned to that Mexican city a few seasons ago with the Braves it reminded him only of “Montezuma’s revenge” and dusty bus rides.
“I spent 24 years pitching and coaching in the minor leagues, then 18 in the majors. I want back in that uniform. The radio people have treated me wonderfully, and I’m still living well. Just let it be known that salary is no issue.”
After all those glorious seasons of Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and Avery, it all began to come apart just when he struck gold — as it seemed then.
He and Sam Perlozzo had grown up together in western Maryland. “My best friend,” Leo said.
Sam was hired to manage the Orioles, he hired his old pal Leo to be his pitching coach. A juicy contract, doubling what he made with the Braves, and so Leo was off to paradise.
Except the paradise turned to hell. The Orioles’ ERA suffered serious inflation, Sam was fired and four months later, Leo followed. “If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t do it,” Leo has told his 680 the Fan audience. “Believe me, there are differences in baseball organizations, and I found out the Braves are as good as it gets.”
He’s living a good life, even rolling out of bed before dawn. And talking, which is something he’s good at. Old pal Sam is back at work again, third base coach at Seattle. Leo? Doing well, if you like a milkman’s hours.
If there’s a club owner out there who has a vacant uniform and a taste for football fight songs, give Leo a ring.
“Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame……”