Five minutes with…Mr. T
On Memorial Day, Cubs fans got a special treat when Chicago native, actor, wrestler, motivational speaker and all-around pop-culture legend Mr. T visited the ballpark to throw out the first pitch and lead the crowd in a memorable rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” His tough-guy image wasn’t evident, though, as he cheerily signed autographs and posed for photos with giddy fans. Typically, it’s a rule of thumb not to ask your interview subjects to pose for a photo with you — but in this instance, I couldn’t resist, and Mr. T happily obliged.
Vine Line: Do you want to sit down so we can talk?
Mr. T: I can’t sit down. I’m too hyper. I’m fired up and ready to go.
VL: Growing up in Chicago, what sports teams were you a fan of? Who were some of your favorite Chicago athletes?
Mr. T: Well, I knew of the Cubs and Ernie Banks, of course. We didn’t have a TV back then, but I tried to follow what they were doing. I wasn’t really a baseball fan so much. I was a football fan. I watched the Bears, Gale Sayers and those guys. And hockey, also. I was a fan of all Chicago sports.
VL: You played football, but are you a baseball player, as well?
Mr. T: I never played baseball. It was football for me. I was afraid of baseball. I was afraid to get hit by a pitch. I know that sounds weird, but that’s the truth.
VL: Have you ever been to Wrigley Field before today?
Mr. T: I was here 30 years ago. Believe it or not, they were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dave Parker, he’s way old, you know, not in the negative sense, but he’s in the Hall of Fame and retired and all. He came to the disco that I used to bounce at, and he invited me to the game, and I came to the game. That was my first time.
VL: You have sung publicly before, but are you nervous about singing in front of 40,000 people, plus the TV audience?
Mr. T: I’ve never sung before. I did a rap “Treat Your Mother Right” and stuff like that, but this is a different crowd. So I did practice the lines; I practiced everything, so I’m excited. I’ve been a lot of places, but to be here and to sing the song and throw out the first pitch, I am really excited. Here I am!
VL: Did you practice throwing out the pitch?
Mr. T: I practiced last week. You know, I didn’t want to overwork my arm. I’m loosened up good. I have to make sure I concentrate on the pitch and then concentrate on the song. It’s a lot of pressure on me.
VL: You’ve done a lot of motivational speaking, what’s your advice for the Cubs during this tough stretch they’ve had?
Mr. T: Don’t quit. It’s early in the season. A lot of teams are doing good right now; they won’t be around in August or September. It’s a long season, so this is nothing. We are going to have stretches that are slow and what not, some guys need time to heal or get their mechanics together. That’s what they live for; that’s what they do for a living. There’s 162 games, nobody’s going to go undefeated, right?
— Jennifer Dedes Nowak