Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench praised Bryce Harper and related to the catcher-turned-outfielder in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Sports Junkies last April, talking openly about the then-22-year-old Washington Nationals' detractors or in the modern parlance, Harper's "haters":
"Here's a kid that had so much hype, you almost didn't want to like him," Bench said. "You couldn't be that good. You can't be that good. And he's brash, but of course, then I was cocky. If I said the same things I said back then -- if I said them today -- I'd be getting probably the same. 'I want to be the greatest. I want to be the best ever. I want to do all this stuff.' This is a kid that's just cocky, he's got a lot of belief; a lot of self-confidence; he's saying this stuff and so what happens, he's written about."
Bench, now 68, was less understanding about Harper saying things and having them written about when he discussed Harper's recent comments about the unwritten rules regarding bat flips and boisterous celebrations when he spoke to Rich Eisen on The Rich Eisen Show (at 6:50 mark):
"What did you make of Bryce Harper's comments that the game was 'tired' and personalities get tamped down because of the unwritten rules of the game?" Eisen asked.
"Well that's fine, bring back the knockdown pitch and they can cheer all they want," Bench said.
"Go ahead and watch fastballs and see these guys and Nolan Ryan and talking about this and everything else... you can flip your bat because we had guys do that, there was a couple of times that they would do that and they would run the bases and they'd do it and the next time up there was chin music and if you want to play that, that's fine. I mean, bring back the excitement, okay, well bring back the brushback pitch, the knockdown pitch, so it's all part of the more excitement, because I know a lot of the old timers and a lot of people that watch baseball forever would love to see somebody have a little chin music.
"And if you want to do that fine, go ahead and just all you want... flip the bat, run around the bases any way you want, but just expect the next time you come up to the plate, you better be watching how much you dig into the batter's box."
Harper, of course, if you somehow missed it, talked about the unwritten rules and baseball being "tired" in an ESPN article by Tim Keown earlier this month, in which he asked, in the author's words, if it would be possible to, "...create a game in which players respect each other and retain the right to express themselves fully without fear of a fastball to the ear hole?"
According to Bench, the answer to that question is apparently a fastball to the ear hole.