November 6, 2012
The Year Punk Broke (Into the Majors)
In the 1980s, punk records were artifacts. They could be copied (onto cassette), but not easily: duplication required one to be present, physically and mentally. Copying seven-inch records—the form factor of choice for many punk and hardcore bands, due to their relative cheapness—was a downright PITA. You could fit five to eight minutes of music on a side, which meant lots of needle drops and lifts, tape pausing, and record-flipping. It was labor-intensive, but that’s what it took to pass the data from one person to the next, so we did it willingly. I took great pride in the quality of my dupes, making sure the levels were always right and the J-cards were annotated properly.
But having the actual record was always preferable to even the most lovingly curated cassette copy. Having the hard-copy record meant you could stare at the picture sleeve and learn whatever there was to learn about the band. All the better if the record was pressed on colored vinyl—one more thing to ogle while you listened to the songs.
I can’t recall its provenance, but in 1986 I somehow ended up with a copy of a seven-inch called “Mystic Super Seven Sampler #1.” It featured seven songs by bands on Mystic Records, a label that was already famous in punk rock circles for its shadiness. (All punk labels were shady to one degree or another, so for Mystic to have garnered this reputation was something of an achievement.)
Having the record was exhilarating: the cover art was scary, the record itself was blood-red, and there were SEVEN bands on it. Seven songs on a single seven-inch record; seven new bands to discover. One of the standout tracks was “Another Day” by Scared Straight.
I knew a couple of things about the band from reading Maximum Rock n’ Roll and Flipside: while they weren’t a straight edge band per se, they did have songs about the dangers of over-indulgence, and their singer was a baseball player or something. Both things set them apart from the vast majority of hardcore bands, whose entire existence depended on over-indulgence and who hated jocks more than anything besides Ronald Reagan (maybe).
This was more than a decade before the spread of the World Wide Web, so we didn’t yet have the sum of human knowledge at our fingertips. There was no Wikipedia yet, and the Encyclopedia Britannica didn’t have a Scared Straight entry, so it wasn’t until much later than I learned the band’s singer, one Scott Radinsky, had been drafted out of high school by the White Sox. He would go on to pitch in the big leagues for 11 years, be “asked to leave” the band he helped form, form a new band that’s still going today, beat cancer, open a skate park in his hometown of Simi Valley, retire as a player, and serve as a coach in the Cleveland Indians system for eight years.
On Saturday I got the opportunity to talk with Scott about his careers in baseball, music, and skating, and why he retains the passion for all three. My first question was how he managed to live a double life as an athlete and a punk rocker in the 1980s, when those two groups were mortal enemies.
“It was weird,” Radinsky told me. “I tried to keep them separate. I never really hung out with the baseball guys other than on the field, and I did my thing with the band every weekend. They never really coexisted; there were two halves.”
“When a sports guy who didn’t know shit about music asked me about my rock band, I told them that I didn’t want to promote it in the sports pages. I’d let them write up their own fantasy stuff and call it an ‘alternative rock band’ or whatever was popular at the time. They had no idea what it was, and they never will.”
As a musician, I know it can be tough keeping a band going even when everyone lives in the same town. How did you manage the logistics when you were playing ball for six or eight months a year?
“Guys were going to school and had jobs, and it just lay dormant for a while. That’s when we got a lot of the writing done. We’d send ideas on cassettes in the mail.”
Did your baseball career and non-availability lead to your departure from Scared Straight?
“Initially we were content with having a certain amount of time that we weren’t able to play. But we changed the name from Scared Straight to Ten Foot Pole, because we didn’t want to be associated with the whole straight edge thing. We did a record on Epitaph and it really kicked ass. Shit was boomin’ at the time—the Offspring and Green Day had just hit, and we were one of six or seven bands on the best punk-rock label in the world.”
“All of the sudden, that got the rest of the guys in the band thinking ‘We can do this full time now!’ So they said ‘We’re gonna continue on,’ and I was like, ‘Really?!?’ These were guys I’d been jamming with since 1982! The next day I started Pulley.”
In 1994, you were diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and were was unable to play baseball. Did that affect your band commitments as well?
“I was getting chemo and radiation treatments, so we didn’t tour the world or anything, but I still made it to practices. But some days were rough.”
After your playing career ended, you spent eight seasons as a pitching coach in the Indians organization. Do you feel like discussing the circumstances around your departure?
“Sure, I’ll talk about whatever you want! I invested eight years of my life to stay involved and work my way up their corporate ladder and get to the top. They kept advancing me through their system, so obviously they must’ve thought something of me. I got to the big leagues and became their big-league pitching coach. Four months later after they weren’t pitching very well, they shitcanned me. So I guess those four months outweighed the previous seven years and six months.”
“I get it. It’s a business, and that’s the way it goes. I have nothing bad to say against the Indians. They got me to the big leagues. I wish it would’ve been longer. I think we all know the direction that baseball is headed. So you tell me if you think the guy who was on Mystic Records in 1986 fits in the modern front office! Maybe that answers it.”
Are you still looking for a gig in baseball?
“Absolutely. I’m not done. I just started! I’d love to get back to the big leagues, but I just want to be around it. I’ve been feeling around to see what’s out there, and there’s really not a whole lot. If I can’t land anything for next year, I’m gonna have to go back and start in the minor leagues again. I’ve got a contract for next year even though I don’t have to work, so I’ve got all next summer to build up my contacts. I’d love to be with a team right now, but that’s just not the way it is.”
“And I know you don’t just walk into a dream job. When someone gets fired, that team usually has a guy who’s been paying his dues for eight years. I know how the process works.”
What drives you to be around the game?
“Seven to 10. The game. I like the players and I enjoy watching them get better and get the most out of themselves. Baseball isn’t who I am, but I still like to do it.”
That’s a refreshing perspective, considering so many coaches and players complain about the grind and all the sacrifices the job forces them to make.
“I said this going into the minor leagues, and it probably sounds really shitty, but I feel like there are people who have to do it, and then there are people who want to do it. It’s not a job to me—it’s fun, it’s a good time. I’ve been fortunate to play for a long time and was smart, and I’m in a position to be able to choose what I want to do. And I’ve never been around a player on my staff who hasn’t seen the passion coming out of me.”
In 1997, you helped found Skatelab. Is that still a big part of your life?
“I’m actually headed there right now! I got the inspiration for Skatelab when I was playing with the band. We were playing a gig in Fresno at Sugar Hill Skatepark, and it was one of the first Pulley gigs ever. We were like ‘Damn, this place is pretty cool!’ It was a big warehouse, indoors, everybody was skating all day. Then they cleared everybody out at night for the show.”
“I came home and told a buddy of mine ‘We have to do this.’ So we proceeded to go through all the city red tape and nine months later we were up and running.”
“My partner and myself have collected quite a bit of memorabilia and we’ve created a Skateboarding Hall of Fame. There’s no Cooperstown yet, and I’m not sure Simi Valley will be the final destination, but we’re claiming the spot and we’re holding the artifacts. It’s still a work in progress.”
Is Pulley still a going concern?
“We put out a seven-inch last year and we’ve got a bunch of new songs, and we’re trying to decide whether to put out a full-length or just another handful of songs. We’ll see what makes sense. We’ll keep doing it as long as we enjoy that, too.”
You can keep up with Pulley on their Facebook page and learn more about Skatelab and the Skateboarding Hall of Fame and Museum on their website.
Ian Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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