Marietta, Ohio born Greg Pryor grew up playing a wide variety of sports from baseball, basketball to football and even golf.
After his father had basically talked the school into awarding him a scholarship, Pryor played well enough at Florida Southern College to be named an NCAA Division II All-American.
The infielder was drafted in the sixth round of the 1971 MLB Amateur Draft by the Washington Senators. He turned out to be the last position player drafted by the Senators to play in the big leagues.
The versatile utility man spent 16 years in professional baseball including a decade at the major league level.
In the mid 1970s, Pryor used the new, revolutionary free agent system to go from being a New York Yankees minor league afterthought to suiting up for the Chicago White Sox.
Pryor played parts of four seasons with the Sox, one with the Texas Rangers and five seasons with the Kansas City Royals, where he was a part of the 1985 World Series championship team.
Pryor’s finest statistical season came in 1979 with the White Sox, where he tallied career highs in nearly every offensive category.
After his retirement following the 1986 season, he fueled his competitive fire by competing in the Men’s Senior Baseball League, winning multiple titles. He then transitioned into the business world as the owner of Life Priority Health and Nutrition, Inc., spending many years in the supplement and health industry.
Pryor recently penned a book entitled The Day the Yankees Made Me Shave, which includes 27 memorable days in his baseball career.
We recently chatted with him about his resemblance to a familiar motion picture character, his favorite trading cards, his most prized possession and more.
Tony Reid–What was your relationship like with baseball cards as a young kid?
Greg Pryor-It’s so funny about cards, when I grew up in Akron, Ohio back in the late 50s, I was a Cleveland Indians fan. I am 73 years old now. I played professionally for 16 years. When I was growing up I collected cards because everybody else did. I stuck these cards in the spokes on my bicycle like everybody else did. I know I rifled through a bunch of Virgil Trucks and guys like that. I have recently become more interested in cards. People always ask me to autograph these cards. I don’t have a problem doing it. Sometimes it gets excessive. Now I am sitting here in my home looking at a lot of my baseball cards because I figured lot of your readers would want to hear about cards.
TR- You have had 46 cards produced. Your first card was a 1976 Caruso Sacramento Solons. You had other minor league cards in 1977 and 1978. Your rookie card appeared in the 1979 Topps set. What are your memories of seeing yourself on a baseball card for the first time?
GP– Let me go back to when I signed my first Topps contract. It was 1971. I was a rookie. I just signed out of Florida Southern College with the Washington Senators. A guy named Sy Berger, who most people know with Topps, came through all the minor leagues and said he would give me a $100 or a set of golf clubs, just sign over the rights to my cards. I was really enjoying it. At that time, I had no inclination I would make it to the Major Leagues. In fact, I never thought I would make it. It wasn’t my goal. It was just a dream to play pro ball.
My rookie card picture (1979 Topps) was taken in Yankee Stadium. I was a rookie with the White Sox in 1978. Yankee Stadium is in the background. It’s one of my favorite cards. This (photo) was taken, I think, the first time we went into Yankee Stadium on Opening Day of 1978. You see me with a moustache on my rookie card. The good thing about my rookie card is that I get to turn over and look at all of my minor league stats that were slightly better than my Major League stats.
TR– It’s such a classic image with you in your batting stance and the white Yankee Stadium façade in the background. You are sporting that classic mid to late 70s White Sox uniform. It’s such a great moment in time.
GP-That picture has gone all over social media because someone saw a resemblance of my face on the card to the school principal in Ferris Bueller’s Day off. It was a great movie. It even had some baseball content as they went to the Cubs game. It’s so funny, they have some audio of Harry Caray in the movie. I played in front of Harry Caray because he, along with Jimmy Piersall, announced for the White Sox of for the four years I was there. That card has a lot more meaning than just a rookie card.
TR–You played for the White Sox in a very interesting time in franchise history, with the team brass conjuring up a lot of unique and off the wall ideas for promotions and fan experience. Was is the most memorable moment from any of those promotions or ideas?
GP-Most people know about the Disco Demolition promotion in 1979. I was the shortstop in the first game (of a doubleheader). Most people might remember they had a promotion. They were going to blow up disco music that night between games. If you brought a disco record you got in at a reduced price, I think it was 99 cents. We had 44,000 rock and rollers in the stands with banners hanging everywhere. It is the most eerie time I have ever had in a Major League park. I think most of the people there were there to blow up disco and not watch a baseball game. It made it kind of weird. They all came out on the field between games. I was getting dressed in my locker to get ready to play in the second game. The starting pitcher walked by me and I said ‘Aren’t you pitching?,’ he said ‘Yeah. You need to go out there and look. There is a crowd on the field that you wouldn’t believe and they can’t get them off.’
That was the Disco Demolition problem we had. It was a black mark for baseball and for Chicago sports. It was one of those things I was part of and it’s probably my most unforgettable memory of playing in Comiskey.
TR–What are your thoughts looking back at all of the images on your cards over the years?
GP-I enjoy looking at my cards more now than I ever have. I say to myself, I wished I would have smiled more. The photographers in each city they would come up to us and I’m say so and so from Donruss or I’m so and so from Topps. I need to get your picture. Dude, I am getting ready to work. If you look at my career, I was playing like it was the World Series every time I played. It took me seven years to get the big leagues. When I got there I didn’t really care to have my picture taken. I would have smiled a lot more for a few of my cards if I had it to do over again.
TR–What are some of your favorite cards that you’ve seen of yourself from your career?
GP-I don’t know if you know about one of my cards from Venezuela. I played for Luis Aparicio in the winter of 1977. I have a Venezuelan card that I really like I can’t find it anywhere. I have a few copies of it. It was really a unique card. I played for Maracaibo. It was a cool orange uniform. It brings back great memories of playing for Luis Aparicio in Venezuela.
TR–With your pro career and appreciation for the game, do you have an office or room where you have memorabilia displayed?
GP-I don’t display too much. My World Series trophy is upstairs. I have a World Series painting here right in front of me. Right behind me there is a banner that was on The Plaza in Kansas City. The Plaza is one of the more upper scale places to shop. Every holiday they put up banners that lined the streets. When we won the World Series they put up this big banner. It’s quite large. It’s very unique. It’s called The Royal Flush. It looks like a big, old card.
TR–What are your thoughts on baseball cards today as we sit here and talk decades after your career ended?
GP-I really like talking to people about cards. It’s history. It’s a collection of a small piece of history. I was in a small piece of history. I’ve noticed how the baseball history has diminished as each new season starts. I’m so glad for baseball cards because it keeps a history of what I did… or didn’t do, for sure. I didn’t totally understand the grading of cards but I think it’s to honor those cards. I have a gem mint 10 in front of me. It’s a 1987 Topps with the wood grain border. That was my last card. My friend is a card collector and he found a 10 and gave it to me.
TR–The jersey swap is a way that the current generation of athletes pays homage to each other in real time. If you could go back to your career and swap jerseys with anybody, who would it be and why?
GP-It would probably be Rocky Colavito and here’s why…When I was a young kid I went up to Lakefront Stadium with 80,000 seats. I was a huge Jimmy Brown fan when he ran for the Browns. My dad was a football coach and I actually played football growing up. Then when the Indians started and I saw Rocky point the bat at the pitchers head and I saw Rocky throw from right field behind runners at first base, which you never see anymore and then he had pop in his bat. I became a huge Rocky Colavito fan. In 1959, I went to Polsky’s Department store in Akron where Rocky was signing autographs. I waited in line for two hours for his autograph. I was so nervous. He was a stallion and I was a little boy. It was the most nervous I ever was at that time in my life. I got his autograph and I was so excited.
In 1982 I got traded to the Kansas City Royals from the Chicago White Sox. Guess who the hitting coach was for the Royals? Rocky Colavito. I was going to go meet my childhood hero. I never told him. One day he came by my locker with a couple of baseballs. He asked me to autograph these baseballs for him. I played a joke on him. I didn’t do it right away. I told him I would be right with him. I went back in my locker. I was delaying on purpose just to tick him off. By the third time I told him to hold on he started getting angry with me. He said ‘Sign these damn balls, Pryor! Right now!’ I said ‘Rocky, let me tell you about Polsky’s Department store back in 1959 when you made me wait two hours…” Rocky Colavito is the answer and the reason is because he was my first hero.
TR–What is the centerpiece or most prized piece in your collection?
GP-My most collectible item is not a baseball card but it’s the bat that George Brett borrowed from me when he got his 2,000th hit. It was a Sunday day game in Kansas City. He only asked me one time in five years to borrow a bat. He gets a hit with my bat. They stopped the game and he was waving to the crowd. I looked at the scoreboard and it was his 2,000th hit. Wow. I had no idea. After the game, I grabbed the bat he used. He cracked the handle on the hit he got. He went 1-7 and I went 2-2. I got into the game later. I took the bat up to his locker and I said ‘Dude, you have to keep this bat.’ He said ‘No I don’t like that bat. I can’t believe I used it. I’m hitting .230. I don’t want it.’ I said ‘Well, sign it to me then.’ He autographed that bat and I’ve kept it ever since. Other than my World Series ring, it’s my prized possession.