Steve Blass, the former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, pulled off the road last week to talk, via cell phone, about this new book, "A Pirate for Life.""I'm just running errands. I'm just outside the post office,'" said Blass, 70, of Upper St. Clair, now an announcer for the Pittsburgh Pirates.Blass will sign copies of "A Pirate for Life," his first book — "and last," he said — at 6:30 p.m. July 17 in the Northern Tier Regional Library, Richland. Copies also will be available for purchase. Blass pitched two of the Pirates' games with the Baltimore Orioles in the 1971 World Series, including the Pirates series-winning seventh game.Blass then lost his pitching prowess. "I still don't know why it happened," said Blass. "It was a gradual thing . . . I didn't hit a batter in the head, or do anything dramatic. It was just a slump that never got corrected."It was never a physical problem," he said. "I went to psychologists, visualization guys. I tried pitching from the knee — everything I could do physically, as a pitcher."I could pitch fine in the bullpen when it wasn't a game situation and there was no batter up," Blass said. "It was all psychological." Blass chronicles his fall from glory in "A Pirate for Life" (Triumph, $25) with co-author Erik Sherman, 46, of New Rochelle, N.Y.Sherman played baseball at Emerson College with Pirates announcer Tim Neverett. "I found him to be the wittiest person I've ever met," Sherman said about Blass. Blass also "speaks eloquently," said Sherman, also co-author of "Out at Home: The Glenn Burke Story," another autobiography by the first major league baseball player to reveal his homosexuality.Pirates announcer Greg Brown actually suggested that Sherman write a book on Blass when Brown met Sherman a few years ago at the Grand Hyatt New York in Manhattan. To help Blass write "A Pirate for Life," Sherman recorded and transcribed untold hours of phone interviews with Blass. Sherman also talked to dozens of his friends, family members and former teammates. "Writing the book has helped my sons and my wife to understand a little more about what I went through, and what I was trying to do by internalizing. That's been an unexpected, real plus for our family," Blass said. In October, Blass and his wife Karen will celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary.The couple met as teenagers in a driver's education class, and once lived at Tamarack Farm on Babcock Boulevard in Pine. "There's a little cottage. We rented that," Blass said. The kitchen was downstairs, so every time it rained, it flooded. "We had a wonderful summer there," Blass said, recalling the summer of 1969. "We taught our sons about horse. It was all apple orchards back then." In addition to having two sons — David and Christopher — Steven and Karen Blass have five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. "A Pirate for Life" includes a photo of the couple, with their two boys, at the Pirates' 1972 spring training camp. Triumph Books published the 256-page hardback on May 1. "It's been one of the best sellers for Triumph this spring" said Triumph spokesman Bill Ames. "Everybody has been thrilled with how actively Steve has been involved with promoting his book, and doing interviews and telling his story."Blass sold Jostens class rings after he retired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1975. "I played before free agency, so I didn't make a lot of money in the major leagues," Blass said. "So I took a job four months after I got through playing . . . My only problem was I was 32, and I was competing with other companies that had guys who were 22 and 23, dressed better and had more hair." Blass worked eight years for Jostens."Then I worked for Frank Fuhrer, an Anheiser-Busch distributorship, and then I got into broadcasting," Blass said. "All through that I still was connected to the Pirates through clinics and appearances. So my continuity is 54 years," Blass said. In addition to supplying color commentary on Pirates' games, Blass also participates in the team's annual fantasy training camps for men age 40 and older. "We major leaguers play a game against the campers on the last day of camp, so I pitch a couple innings, just for the joy of it," Blass said. "The good news is that 30 years after all this went on, I ran into a guy who helped me pitch again — it sounds so simple — by replacing negatives with positives," Blass said. "His name is Dr. Richard Crowley, who helped me find the joy of throwing again. "That's what I missed the most. "
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