CINCINNATI – At 66, Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench isn't afraid to dare a reporter to try to run him over – even with hip replacements.
"Try it. Come over here. Try it. You're not going anywhere," the Reds great told a TMZ interviewer asking Bench's opinion on baseball's new anti-collision rule.
But Bench, whose skill "blocking home plate" is recognized on his Hall of Fame plaque, compared one of today's baserunners to a "missile" and said he's in favor of the move to protect catchers from runners trying to take them out.
"Why should catchers be fair game? We're just standing out there because we got shin guards on and a little chest protector? You can't run over the second baseman. You can't run over the shortstop," Bench said.
RELATED: WATCH BENCH'S INTERVIEW
"I mean, this has really been needed. We've got kids carried off the field. More knees are damaged than everything else, and it ruins careers."
Baseball may not have needed such a rule 35 or 45 years ago when Bench was a full-time catcher (1968-80), but the impact of a collision today is greater, he pointed out.
"The guys are running 9.5 hundreds. They're coming around third base and they're 230 pounds. They're a missile," Bench said. "You don't want a guy defenseless in football running across. They get flagged."
Bench's Big Red Machine teammate, Pete Rose, who scored the winning run in the 1970 All-Star Game in a 12th-inning collision with catcher Ray Fosse, opposes the new rule.
“First of all, if they can eliminate concussions, I’m all for that,” Rose told Dayton baseball writer Hal McCoy last December. “But I’ve thought and thought about it. The only concussions I can remember recently in baseball is Justin Morneau, and he got that sliding into second base. I know this is mostly about Buster Posey, but he got hurt when he got his ankle caught and twisted it.
“I’m a traditionalist,” Rose said. “What’s next? Are they going to eliminate the takeout slide on double plays at second base?”
Posey, the Giants catcher who suffered a broken leg and three torn ligaments in his ankle when he was run over by the Marlins' Scott Cousins in 2011, said it's a good rule.
"I've always said that the main thing is for everybody to be comfortable with it, that the catchers and runners are both protected," Posey said this week.
But don't get the idea that Bench has gotten soft, or that he thinks today's players have.
When the TMZ interviewer asked, Bench lunged at him with a forearm.
"What? Let me knock you," Bench said.
"Has anybody ever challenged you on the street to run you over?" the interviewer asked Bench.
"No," Bench said. "They know better."