Robert Pollard talks college no-hitter
January, 31, 2014
By Daniel Dodd | ESPN.com
The Guardian A three-sport athlete, Robert Pollard found the most success on the baseball mound.Whether it is Denzel Washington and basketball or Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and football, we are always amazed to find out someone we love for one thing was secretly good at another thing, especially when that other thing is sports.
So count us as one of the many who were amused recently at finding out Guided By Voices frontman and songwriter extraordinaire Robert Pollard once threw a no-hitter in college.
The image of the newspaper clipping about the sports feat, seen above, has been making its way around the internet. Turns out the real thing is tucked away somewhere in Pollard’s father’s house and that Robert wasn't the only stud athlete under the roof.
We caught up with Pollard via email as he continues to put the finishing touches on the new Guided By Voices album "Motivational Jumpsuit," scheduled for a mid-February release.
So is this no-hitter the only amazing feat from your past we didn't know about or are there more to come out?
In addition to the no-hitter in college, I threw 11 others between the ages of 10 and 20. I don't know if that's amazing or not. My younger brother, Jim, was a pretty amazing high school basketball player. He averaged 36 points a game his senior year. He holds the Dayton area single-game scoring record with 57 points.
Awhile back people were surprised to find out that Phil Robertson … one of the Duck Dynasty guys … was a quarterback at Louisiana Tech behind Terry Bradshaw. Is it weird to know people are so interested to hear about these things from your past that they knew nothing about and that you didn’t feel the need to brag about?
It is a bit strange that people are interested in my amateur sports career, but actually that's what I was groomed for, as well as my brother. My dad had high aspirations for us to have a career in one of the sports that we played at the high school level: baseball, football or basketball. He was strictly opposed to my interest in any sort of a musical career. I didn't give him much trouble, because I didn't think it was possible anyway.
Take us back to that no-hitter. Was it a truly dominating no-no or one of those quirky "I can't believe he hasn't given up a hit" kind of no-no's? And do you remember how they scored a run?
Stephen J. Cohen/Getty ImagesSome advice: When playing basketball with Robert Pollard, don't agree to make-it-take-it.
I didn't even know that I was throwing a no-hitter, because of the run being scored. I think it may have been a walk, a stolen base and an error, or some scenario like that, but anyway, I thought a base hit had dropped at some point in the game. I wasn't completely dominating. I only had about seven strikeouts. I think my location was pretty good and I was getting some good defense. We won 9-1, so I had good run support. I was shocked when my team mobbed me after the final out.
Do you have that newspaper clipping about the no-hitter somewhere in your house? Do you keep many mementos from your music career?
My dad has scrapbooks and he's got the clipping. It's somewhat embarrassing and I vow to discontinue such a frivolous endeavor but yeah, I keep mementos, clippings and awards from over the years. I guess it's kind of an outgrowth of being ignored for so many years in music. I had to kind of keep my music and art to myself and a few cohorts until my early 30's. Now I feel compelled to have actual proof that I attained some degree of success.
You were inducted into your high school's hall of fame for overall excellence in all the sports your mentioned. What other positions did you play and how good were you? Did you make a conscious decision to focus on music or did it just happen?
I played quarterback and I was a shooting guard. Our football team was terrible. I could throw a football 70 yards, but our line couldn't block and my receivers ran 5.4 40-yard dashes. I averaged 20 points a game my senior year in high school and led the league in scoring. I played for the JV team at Wright State. I was average. I didn't focus on music but I tinkered rather inconspicuously.
Supposedly Guided By Voices beat Beastie Boys and Billy Corgan in a basketball game while Kim Deal and Kelley Deal cheered you guys on and Steve Drozd was peddling around the court on a bicycle. This sounds more like one of Wayne Coyne’s dreams than an actual event. Did it really happen? Are there any lost video tapes or still shots of this somewhere?
I don't know if anyone filmed it, but it did happen at Lollapalooza '94 or whenever. It was a friendly pick-up game, but it got a little heated. I think I may have swatted a dribble that bounced up into Ad-Rock or maybe Mike D's face. It was an accident, but anyway I think we won eleven baskets to three or something. It was make-it-take-it, so they didn't get much of a chance. I just kept penetrating and knocking it out to my brother and he hit about eight or nine in a row from the top of the key. We were all cool after the game. They're really nice guys who love basketball.
Baseball, more than any other sport it seems, produces the best movies, songs, art in general. Why do you think that is? Will it always be that way or will our fascination with football eventually translate to art?
You mean like, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and "Field of Dreams"? It's the American pastime, baby. Football is art. We were going to design a t-shirt that said "Life is Football - Hit Somebody." Not really.
You're known as being a "prolific" songwriter which many people probably think means it comes easy for you. Is that fair to say?
Yes, I've been writing songs for 50 years now. When you've been doing something for that long you should get pretty good at it. I'm always trying to improve as a songwriter. It's what drives me. You can't be an athlete your entire life, but you can be a songwriter. Some people think I'm "too" prolific. I'm sure some people wish that I would stop, but I doubt that's going to happen.
You say you tire quickly of an album after you have released it. But are there any projects from your past that you do find yourself going back to? And what are your feelings right now on "Motivational Jumpsuit," weeks before its release?
Well, I've been listening to it for four or five months now, off and on, so I'm already sick of it. Also, we've got another Guided By Voices album in the can called "Cool Planet." It's scheduled for release in May and I've just about heard enough of it. Both albums have a lot of good songs that I think will translate quite nicely to the stage, which we plan to do after Cool Planet's release. The two albums really are a good one-two punch to start off 2014.