Jim Bouton (1970)
I don't know which is the most important book ever written about baseball, but the most important for me and multitudes of others will always be Ball Four. I first read it as a kid (many times), and again as an adult (many times). I'll probably continue to read it every few years as long as I live. Apart from the nostalgia of it, I still find the book humorous and human. But when I read it in 1970, at the age of nine, it was more like a revelation.
It wasn't a "tell-all"; it was a tell-it-like-it-is. It told all sorts of things a nine-year-old had no idea he needed to know. Come to find out, the ballplayers I idolized were very much like us kidsa bunch of dorks, mostly, just taller and older. The same kinds of bullshitting, back-biting, and infighting that went on among us kidsand I mean the exact same kindswent on among full-grown adults. (We didn't yet have Twitter to teach us that.) More importantly, people in charge of adults were as foolish, hidebound, and unthinkingly habit-ruled as people in charge of children. This was important information for a kid being force-fed nonsense by the shovelful at home, school, and church.
There were of course things in Ball Four that I was too young to understand. (Hell, I didn't even know how to pronounce Bouton. I thought it was BOO-tun. Bouton wrote that it was pronounced BOW-ton, but that didn't helpwas it bow as in bow tie, or was it bow as in the bow of a ship? I found out much later that it was the latter, but I don't know why they didn't just say bout, as in a boxing match, or about.) But what I could understand hit home for me, just when I needed it.
Only 13 years after its publication, Ball Four had so altered the map that it was already difficult to see how daringly honest it had been. In 1983 Nancy Marshall, ex-wife of pitcher Mike Marshall, wrote, "It was so long ago that Ball Four was published and so many controversial sports books have been written since then that hardly anyone realizes what a bombshell it was in 1970." Marshall and Bouton's wife, Bobbie, co-wrote a book in its own way as honest as Ball Four, describing what life was like being married to ballplayers. (I'll post some excerpts in due course but you can read a couple of contemporary articles about their book here and here.)
One of my greatest childhood thrills was getting to meet Bouton when I was a 13-year-old, after seeing him pitch a Portland Mavericks game. As he signed my program and a baseball card I'd brought with me I got to tell him how important his book had been to a little baseball-obsessed doofus in the desert. Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people have thanked him similarly over the decades.
So long, Bulldog. And thanks again.
R.I.P. Jim Bouton
(These excerpts are mostly for my own use, which is why there are so many. I strongly suggest reading some to get the flavor and then buying and reading Ball Four in its entirety.}
Someone once asked Al Ferrara of the Dodgers why he wanted to be a baseball player. He said because he always wanted to see his picture on a bubblegum card. Well, me too. It's an ego trip. I've heard all the arguments against it. That there are better, more important things for a man to do than spend his time trying to throw a ball past other men who are trying to hit it with a stick. There are things like being a doctor or a teacher or working in the Peace Corps. More likely I should be devoting myself full-time to finding a way to end the war. I admit that sometimes I'm troubled by the way I make my living. I would like to change the world. I would like to have an influence on other people's lives.
I was piqued for a moment. But then I thought, what the hell, there are a lot of professions that rank even with baseball, or a lot below, in terms of nobility. I don't think there's anything so great about selling real estate or life insurance or mutual funds, or a lot of other unimportant things that people do with their lives and never give it a thought. Okay, so I'll save the world when I get a little older. I believe a man is entitled to devote a certain number of years to plain enjoyment and driving for some sort of financial security.
I signed my contract today to play for the Seattle Pilots at a salary of $22,000 and it was a letdown because I didn't have to bargain. There was no struggle, none of the give and take that I look forward to every year. Most players don't like to haggle. They just want to get it over with. Not me. With me, signing a contract has been a yearly adventure.
As soon as I got to the park I went right over to Marvin Milkes' office and we shook hands and he asked me if I had a nice flight. He also said, "There's been a lot of things said about the strike and I know you've said some things about it, but we're going to forget all that and start fresh. We have a new team and everybody starts with a clean slate. I'm giving some people a new opportunity. I've got a man in the organization who is a former alcoholic. I've even got a moral degenerate that I know of. But as far as I'm concerned we're going to let bygones be bygones and whatever has been said in the pastand I know you've said a lot of thingswe'll forget all about it and start fresh." I said thanks. I also wondered where, on a scale of one to ten, a guy who talks too much falls between a former alcoholic and a moral degenerate.
This is the first time I've trained in Arizona. I think I'm going to like it. The park is in a beautiful settingthe center of a desolate area, flat, empty, plowed fields in all directions. And then, suddenly, a tremendous rocky crag rises abruptly to look down over the park. At any moment you expect to see a row of Indians on horseback charging around the mountain and into the park shooting flaming arrows. I'd always heard you couldn't work up a sweat in Arizona. Not true. I ran fifteen or twenty wind sprints and I can testify that anyone who can't sweat in Arizona hasn't tried.
Lots of holler out there in the infield. "Fire it in there, Baby." "C'mon, Joey." "Chuck it in there." And the word for that friends, is false chatter. You don't hear it as much during the season because nobody's nervous and nobody has to impress a coach who thinks you're trying harder if you holler, "Hey, whaddaya say?" You only hear it in spring trainingand in high school baseball. I remember when I was in high school, even if we lost the game, the coach would say, "I liked your chatter out there, a lot of holler. That's what I like to see." So if you couldn't hit, you hollered.
Anyway, it took about a week before I could get it to knuckle at all. I remember once I threw one to my brother and hit him right in the knee. He was writhing on the ground moaning, "What a great pitch, what a great pitch." I spent the rest of the summer trying to maim my brother.
The family loves it in Arizona. We've taken a few rides out into the desert and looked at the cactus and the beautiful rock formations, and the kids are excited about the weather getting warm enough so they can use the pool. Kyong Jo, the Korean boy we adopted, is doing great with his English. Every once in a while he'll burp and say, "Thank you." But he's getting the idea.
They wanted to carry me off on a stretcher but I knew if my wife heard I was carried off the field she'd have a miscarriage. So I went off under my own power, bloody towel and all, and listened carefully for the ovation. I got it. Ovations are nice and some guys sort of milk them. Like Joe Pepitone. If he had just the touch of an injury he'd squirm on the ground for a while and then stand up, gamely. And he'd get his ovation. After a while the fans got on to him, though, and he needed at least a broken leg to move them.
Clever fellow, Marshall. He has even perfected a pick-off motion to second base that's as deadly as it is difficult to execute. He says one reason it's effective is that he leans backward as he throws the ball. I asked why, and he said, "Newton's Third Law, of course." Of course. Except the last time I tried his pick-off motion I heard grinding noises in my shoulder.
I once invested a dollar when Mantle raffled off a ham. I won, only there was no ham. That was one of the hazards of entering a game of chance, Mickey explained. I got back by entering a fishing tournament he organized and winning the weight division with a ten-pounder I'd purchased in a store the day before. Two years later Mantle was still wondering why I'd only caught that one big fish and why all the other fish that were caught were green and lively while mine was gray and just lay there, staring.
I've seen him close a bus window on kids trying to get his autograph. And I hated that look of his, when he'd get angry at somebody and cut him down with a glare. Bill Gilbert of Sports Illustrated once described that look as flickering across his face "like the nictitating membrane in the eye of a bird."
I remember one time he'd been injured and didn't expect to play, and I guess he got himself smashed. The next day he looked hung over out of his mind and was sent up to pinch-hit. He could hardly see. So he staggered up to the plate and hit a tremendous drive to left field for a home run. When he came back into the dugout everybody shook his hand and leaped all over him, and all the time he was getting a standing ovation from the crowd. He squinted out at the stands and said, "Those people don't know how tough that really was."
It was 55 degrees and blowing out there today, so I only watched a couple of innings of the intrasquad game. I was there long enough to see Marshall get hit pretty hard. Evidently the shorter hypotenuse didn't help him much. He just ran into Doubleday's First Law, which states that if you throw a fastball with insufficient speed, someone will smack it out of the park with a stick.
Houk sat next to me in the dugout and told me, very confidentially, "You know, you're having a helluva spring, a better spring than Dooley Womack, and I think you're just the man we need in the bullpen." What I wanted to say was: "I'm having a better spring than who? Dooley Womack? The Dooley Womack? I'm having a better spring than Mel Stottlemyre or Sam McDowell or Bob Gibson." That's what I should have said. Instead I just sat there shaking my head.
My fingers aren't strong enough to throw the knuckleball right. I've gone back to taking two baseballs and squeezing them in my hand to try to strengthen my fingers and increase the grip. I used to do that with the Yankees, and naturally it bugged The Colonel. The reason it bugged The Colonel is that he never saw anybody do it before. Besides, it wasn't his idea. "What are you doing?" The Colonel would sputter. "Put those baseballs back in the bag." Immediately Fritz Peterson would pick up two baseballs and start doing the same thing. One day Fritz got Steve Hamilton and Joe Verbanic and about three or four other pitchers to carry two balls around with them wherever they went. It drove The Colonel out of his mind. The following spring Fritz was removed as my roommate. The Colonel kept telling Fritz not to worry, that pretty soon he wouldn't have to room with "that Communist" anymore. And Fritz would say, "No, no, that's all right. I want to room with him. I like him. We get along great." And The Colonel would say, "Fine, fine. We'll get it straightened out."
Steve Hovley sidled over to me in the outfield and said, "To a pitcher a base hit is the perfect example of negative feedback."
After the game Bobbie and I were at a party with Gary Bell and his wife and Steve Barber and his. Gary's wife, Nan, said she'd been anxious to meet me since she'd read in the Pilot spring guidebook that some of my hobbies were water coloring, mimicry and jewelry-making. "Everyone else has hunting and fishing, so I figured you must be a real beauty. I mean, jewelry-making?" said Nan. "Make me some earrings, you sweet thing."
My wife and I burst out laughing when Gary asked me if I'd ever been on the roof of the Shoreham Hotel in Washington. The Shoreham is the beaver-shooting capital of the world, and I once told Bobbie that you could win a pennant with the guys who've been on that roof. "Pennant, hell," Gary said. "You could stock a whole league." I better explain about beaver-shooting. A beaver-shooter is, at bottom, a Peeping Tom. It can be anything from peering over the top of the dugout to look up dresses to hanging from the fire escape on the twentieth floor of some hotel to look into a window. I've seen guys chin themselves on transoms, drill holes in doors, even shove a mirror under a door. One of the all-time legendary beaver-shooters was a pretty good little left-handed pitcher who looked like a pretty good little bald-headed ribbon clerk. He used to carry a beaver-shooting kit with him on the road. In the kit there was a fine steel awl and several needle files. What he would do is drill little holes into connecting doors and see what was going on. Sometimes he was lucky enough to draw a young airline stewardess, or better yet, a young airline stewardess and friend. One of his roommates, a straight-arrow typeFellowship of Christian Athletes and all thattold this story: The pitcher drilled a hole through the connecting door and tried to get him to look through it. He wouldn't. It was against his religion or something. But the pitcher kept nagging him. "You've got to see this. Boyohboyohboy! Just take one quick look." Straight-arrow finally succumbed. He put his eye to the hole and was treated to the sight of a man sitting on the bed tying his shoelaces. One of the great beaver-shooting places in the minor leagues was Tulsa, Oklahoma. While "The Star-Spangled Banner" was played you could run under the stands and look up at all kinds of beaver. And anytime anyone was getting a good shot, the word would go out "Psst! Section 27." So to the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner" an entire baseball club of clean-cut American boys would be looking up the skirt of some female. Beaver-shooting can get fairly scientific. I was still in the minor leagues when we discovered that if you stuck a small hand mirror under a hotel room doorespecially in the older hotels, where there were large spaces between the door and the flooryou could see the whole room just by looking at the mirror. This was a two-man operation: one guy on his hands and knees looking at the mirror, the other at the end of the hall laying chicky, as they say. We usually sprinkled some change around on the floor so you'd have a reason being down on it if anybody caught you. Spot a good beaver and you could draw an instant crowd. One time in Ft. Lauderdale we spotted this babe getting out of her bathing suit. The louvered windows of her room weren't properly shut and we could see right into the room. Pretty soon there were twenty-five of us jostling for position. Now, some people might look down on this sort of activity. But in baseball if you shoot a particularly good beaver you are a highly respected person, one might even say a folk hero of sorts. Indeed, if you are caught out late at night and tell the manager you've had a good run of beaver-shooting he'd probably let you off with a light fine. The roof of the Shoreham is important beaver-shooting country because of the way the hotel is shapeda series of L-shaped wings that make the windows particularly vulnerable from certain spots on the roof. The Yankees would go up there in squads of 15 or so, often led by Mickey Mantle himself. You needed a lot of guys to do the spotting. Then someone would whistle from two or three wings away, "Psst! Hey! Beaver shot. Section D. Five o'clock." And there'd be a mad scramble of guys climbing over skylights, tripping over each other and trying not to fall off the roof. One of the first big thrills I had with the Yankees was joining about half the club on the roof of the Shoreham at 2:30 in the morning. I remember saying to myself, "So this is the big leagues."
Today Joe Schultz said, "Men, you got to remember to touch all the bases." The occasion was a meeting after our glorious 19-4 victory in which one of the guys on the Cleveland club missed third base and was called out. So the lesson for today was "Touch those bases. Especially first."
My wife reminds me that I never got clobbered in Seattle when I was first working on my knuckleball and she suggests I go with it all the way. I give her opinion a lot of weight. We were both freshmen at Western Michigan when we met and all she would talk about was baseball. When I told her I was going out for the freshman team, she said, "You don't have to do that because of me." I didn't tell her it wasn't because of her. And then, when she first saw me pitch she said, "That's a big-league pitcher if I ever saw one." So she's a hell of a scout. Knuckleballs. Hmm.
I've had some pretty good advice from my family. My dad especially. He helped pick the college I went to and got me into it. My services as a pitcher were not exactly in great demand. I pitched a no-hitter in my senior year in high school but I was only 5-10 and 150 pounds. My dad got a look at the Western Michigan campus, fell in love with the beauty of it, thought I'd love the baseball stadium and had me apply. I didn't hear anything for a long while, but my dad was real cool. He took a bunch of my clippingsall six of themhad copies made and sent them to the baseball coach there, Charley Maher. He wrote, "Here's a fellow that may help our Broncos in the future," and signed it "A Western Michigan baseball fan." A week later I was accepted.
When I got home at about nine o'clock my mom and dad were playing bridge with some friends, and when I walked in the door I said, "Dad, you're not going to believe it, but I pitched the best game of the tournament and the scouts want to sign me. Dad, they're talking about real big money." My dad looked at his cards. "Two no trump," he said. He didn't really believe me. Then the phone rang and I said, "Dad, that's a scout on the phone, I know it is. What should I tell him?" "Tell him $50,000," he said. "Three spades." He still didn't believe me. I went over to the phone, and sure enough it was a scout from Philadelphia. "My dad says $50,000," I said. The scout said, "Fine. We want you to fly to Philadelphia and work out with the team." That ended the card game.
I struck out the first hitter I faced on four pitches, all knuckleballs. (Don't ask me who he was; hitters are just meat to me. When you throw a knuckleball you don't have to worry about strengths and weaknesses. I'm not sure they mean anything, anyway.)
I guess it wasn't too good for my elbow, though. When I got through pitching it felt like somebody had set fire to it. I'll treat it with aspirin, a couple every four hours or so. I've tried a lot of other things through the yearslike butazolidin, which is what they give to horses. And D.M.S.O.dimethyl sulfoxide. Whitey Ford used that for a while. You rub it on with a plastic glove and as soon as it gets on your arm you can taste it in your mouth. It's not available anymore, though. Word is it can blind you. I've also taken shotsnovocain, cortisone and xylocaine. Baseball players will take anything. If you had a pill that would guarantee a pitcher 20 wins but might take five years off his life, he'd take it.
Ruben Amaro is here with the Angels and I was happy to see him. We were good friends in New York. He's the kind of guy, well, there's a dignity to him and everybody likes and respects him. He's outspoken and has very strong opinions but he never antagonizes people with his positions the way I sometimes do. I wish I could be more like him.
Ding Dong Bell gets his first start against Arizona State U. tomorrow and he says he's not ready. I told him it's no sweat because if anybody makes this team it's going to be old Ding Dong, no matter what happens this spring. He said he realized that, and he's going to go out there and just keep from getting hurt. Pitching against a college team, you can't look good no matter what. If you do well, they're just college kids. If you don't, you're a bum. Yet the kids are in better shape than we are and can be a pain in the ass.
Curt Blefary is another guy with classically bad hands. When he was with Baltimore, Frank Robinson nicknamed him "Clank," after the robot. Once the team bus was riding by a junkyard and Robinson yelled for the driver to stop so Blefary could pick out a new glove. (If you're going to shake hands with a guy who has bad hands you are supposed to say, "Give me some steel, Baby.")
The whole anthem-flag ritual makes me uncomfortable, and when I was a starting pitcher I'd usually be in the dugout toweling sweat off during the playing of the anthem.
How many inches are there between the belt and the knee? How many pitches can you control to that tolerance? How many pitching coaches are second-guessers? Answers: Eighteen inches. Very few. Most.
We were toasting marshmallows in the backyard and I was sharpening a stick to put through the marshmallows when I sliced off most of the tip of my left thumb. I went to the clubhouse to have it repaired. Someone saw the ugly slice and immediately a crowd formed, as it always does when something gory is on exhibit. We like to say about ourselveswe baseball playersthat we're ghouls. I remember one time it was standing room only in Ft. Lauderdale when Jake Gibbs got hit on the thumb and they had to drill a hole through his nail to relieve the pressure. I had a front-row seat myself. The drill boring through the nail started to smoke and when it hit paydirt Jake jerked his hand and the drill was ripped out of the trainer's hand and here's Jake's hand waving in the air with the drill still hanging from the hole in his nail. One of the great thrills of the spring.
Another time I said, "Hey, Coates, you endorsing iodine?" And he said, cautiously, "Why?" "Because I saw your picture on the bottle."
We had a visit from Commissioner Bowie Kuhn today. The visit was preceded by the usual announcement from the manager: "All right, let's get this thing over with as quickly as we can." What it really means is: "Okay you guys, you can listen. But don't ask any questions."
All of which for some reason reminds me of one of our bullpen occupations: choosing an All-Ugly Nine. Baseball players are, of course, very gentle people. If we happen to see some fellow who is blessed with a bad complexion we immediately call him something nice, like "pizza face." Or other sweet little things like: "His face looks like a bag of melted caramels." "He looks like he lost an acid fight." "He looks like his face caught on fire and somebody put it out with a track shoe." Some famous all-uglies are Danny Napoleon ("He'd be ugly even if he was white," Curt Flood once said of him); Don Mossi, the big-eared relief ace on the all-ugly nine (he looked like a cab going down the street with its doors open); and Andy Etchebarren, who took over as catcher from Yogi Berra when the famed Yankee receiver was retired to the All-Ugly Hall of Fame.
Had a long chat with Steve Hovley in the outfield. He's being called "Tennis Ball Head" because of his haircut, but his real nickname is Orbit, or Orbie, because he's supposed to be way out. Hovley is anti-war and I asked him if he ever does any out-and-out protesting in the trenches. He said only in little things. For instance, when he takes his hat off for the anthem he doesn't hold it over his heart. I feel rather the same way. The whole anthem-flag ritual makes me uncomfortable, and when I was a starting pitcher I'd usually be in the dugout toweling sweat off during the playing of the anthem. We agreed we're both troubled by the stiff-minded emphasis on the flag that grips much of the country these days. A flag, after all, is still only a cloth symbol. You don't show patriotism by showing blank-eyed love for a bit of cloth. And you can be deeply patriotic without covering your car with flag decals. Hovley said he didn't mind being called Orbit. "In fact I get reinforcement from it," he said. "It reminds me that I'm different from them and I'm gratified." What's different about Hovley is that he'll sit around reading Nietzsche in the clubhouse and sometimes he'll wonder why a guy behaves a certain way. In baseball, that's a revolutionary.
Ray Oyler was racked up at second base by Glenn Beckert of the Cubs, and when he came back to earth he was heard to call Beckert a son of a bitch. This is not on the same order as motherfucker, but he didn't have a lot of time to think. It has become the custom in baseball to slide into second base with a courteous how do you do, so when somebody does slide in hard everybody gets outraged and vows vengeance. A few years ago Frank Robinson slid into Bobby Richardson with murderous aplomb and the Yankees were visibly shocked. How could he do that to our Bobby? We'll get him for that. Actually this was a National League play and the Yankees simply weren't used to it.
Schultz said we weren't in shape and that we were making physical mistakes that we wouldn't if we werein shape, I mean. (I'm not sure I understood that.) But then he obviously felt he'd hurt our feelings and tried to take it all back. "Shitfuck," he said, using one of his favorite words ("fuckshit" is the other). "Shitfuck. We've got a damned good ballclub here. We're going to win some games."
Sain would compare pitching to a golfer chipping to a green and say that if you tried for the cup you might miss the green. The thing to do was just hit the green, pitch to a general area.
[What do I know, but that seems like a terrible idea, the opposite of the shooting maxim, "Aim small, miss small." Ed.]
Control was our big problem, Sal said. We've walked eighty and struck out only forty and the ratio should be the other way around. He's absolutely right. But he's got the wrong reason. Then he surprised me by mentioning my name. "Some of you guys think you can get by on only one pitch," he said. "You can't do it. Nobody is a one-pitch pitcher." He added: "Bouton, they're just waiting for your knuckleball. You got to throw something else." In the immortal words of Casey Stengel, "Now, wait a minute." Are we trying to win ballgames down here or are we trying to get ready for the season? What I have to learn is control of the knuckleball. And I'm not going to learn it by throwing fastballs. I tried to explain that to Sal after the meeting and he said, well, yes, but I should have some other pitches to set up the knuckleball. I said I agreed with him 100 percent. I said it because I'm in a shaky position here and the first thing you got to do is make the ballclub, and you don't make ballclubs arguing with pitching coaches. Afterward in the outfield we talked about one-pitch pitchers. Ryne Duren was a one-pitch pitcher. His one pitch was a wild warm-up. Ryne wore glasses that looked like the bottoms of Coke bottles, and he'd be sort of steered out to the mound and he'd peer in at the catcher and let fly his first warm-up pitch over the screen and the intimidation was complete. All he needed was his fastball and hitters ducking away. And just for the hell of it I got into a conversation with Maglie about when he was a great pitcher, and I asked him what he used to get the Dodgers out with in his glory days with the Giants. "Ninety-seven snappers," Sal Maglie said. So much for one-pitch pitchers.
Only once in the years I've been pitching has anybody ever ordered me to throw a duster. It was last year at Seattle and Joe Adcock, a man I like, was the manager. I came into a game in relief and John Olerud, the catcher, came out and said, "Joe wants you to knock this guy on his ass." I couldn't believe it. So I said something clever. "What?" "Joe wants you to knock this guy on his ass." "I just got in the game. I got nothing against this guy." "Well, he says to knock him on his ass." "Bullshit," I said. "I haven't thrown that much. I'm not sharp enough to know where the hell I'm throwing the ball. I'm not going to do it. You go back there and tell him that you told me to knock him down and that I refused and if he wants to say something afterward let him say it to me." Adcock never said a word. I mean, what if I screw up a man's career? I'm going to have that on my conscience for... well, for weeks maybe. The fact is, though, that I once did throw at a guy. I mean to maim him. His name was Fred Loesekam. He was in the White Sox organization and he was a bad guy. He liked to slide into guys spikes high and draw blood. During warm-ups he liked to scale baseballs into the dugout to see if he could catch somebody in the back of the head. He even used our manager for target practice. So I took my shots at him. We all did. Once I threw a ball at him so hard behind his head that he didn't even move. The ball hit his bat and rolled out to me, and I threw him out before he got the bat off his shoulder. When you throw a ball behind a hitter's head you're being serious. His impulse is to duck backwards, into the ball. If you're not so serious and all you want to do is put a guy out for a piece of the season, you aim for the knee. An umpire will give you two or three shots at a guy's knee before he warns you.
And don't believe it when you hear that a pitcher can throw the ball to a two-inch slot. A foot and a half is more like it, I mean with any consistency. When I first came up I thought major-league pitchers had pinpoint control, and I was worried that the best I could do was hit an area about a foot square. Then I found out that's what everybody meant by pinpoint control, and that I had it.
I was also rather sad about Claude "Skip" Lockwood. Hate to lose a funny man. The other day we were talking about pitching grips in the outfield (it was the day after I'd been mildly racked up by a couple of doubles) and Lockwood asked me, "Say Jim, how do you hold your doubles?" About a week ago Lockwood said, "Hey, the coaches are calling me Fred. You think it means anything?" "Don't worry about it, Charley," I told him. And today he came over and said he was a little confused, that he didn't know which field he was supposed to be working on. He said he guessed things were getting better for him. "Last week I didn't know who I was. Now all I don't know is where."
There was a notice on the bulletin board asking guys to sign up to have their cars driven to Seattle. Price $150. The drivers are college kids. I think I'd prefer Bonnie and Clyde. I say this because I remember college and how I drove an automobile in those days and I would not have hired me to drive my car. Still, a lot of guys put their names on the listvery tentatively.
Steve Hovley was dancing to a tune on the radio and somebody yelled, "Hove, dancing is just not your thing." "Do you mind if I decide what my thing is?" Hovley said. So I asked him what his thing was. "I like sensual things," he said. "Eating, sleeping. I like showers and I like flowers and I like riding my bike." "You have a bike with you?" "Certainly. I rent one. And I ride past a field of sheep on the way to the park every day and a field of alfalfa, and sometimes I get off my bike and lie down in it. A field of alfalfa is a great place to lie down and look up at the sky." I sure wish Hovley would make the team.
I haven't been pitching very well and I think that as a result my sideburns are getting shorter. Also, instead of calling Joe Schultz Joe I'm calling him Skip, which is what I called Ralph Houk when I first came up. Managers like to be called Skip.
A revelation about Joe Schultz. Mike Hegan has been hitting the hell out of the ball and at this point is to the Seattle Pilots what Mickey Mantle was to the Yankees. Today he was hit on the arm by a fastball, and when Joe got to him and said, "Where'd you get it, on the elbow?" Hegan said, "No. On the meat of the arm, the biceps." "Oh shit, you'll be okay," Joe said. "Just spit on it and rub some dirt on it." Hegan couldn't move three of his fingers for an hour. But it didn't hurt Joe at all.
Riding back to Tempe I had a beautifully serene feeling about the whole day, which shows how you go up and down an emotional escalator in this business. It was my first really serene day of the spring and I felt, well, I didn't care where the bus was going or if it ever got there, and I was content to watch the countryside roll by. It was desert, of course, with cactus and odd rock formations that threw back the flames of the setting sun. The sun was a golden globe, half-hidden, and as we drove along it appeared to be some giant golden elephant running along the horizon
Ran my long foul-line-to-foul-line sprints in the outfield and kept myself going by imagining I was Jim Ryun running in the Olympics: I'm in the last fifty yards and I'm going into my finishing kick and thousands cheer. If I'm just Jim Bouton running long laps very little happens. Let's see. Here's the World War I flying ace....
Bill Stafford and Jimmy O'Toole got their releases today. Stafford hopes to hook on with the Giants (I don't see how) and O'Toole is shopping around. I've had some big discussions with O'Toole. His father is a cop in Chicago and was in on the Democratic Convention troubles. I'd been popping off, as usual, about what a dum-dum Mayor Daley was and O'Toole said hell, none of those kids take baths and they threw bags of shit at the cops, and that's how I found out his father was a cop. Even so, I feel sort of sorry for him because he's got about eleven kids (I should feel more sorry for his wife) and he seemed a forlorn figure as he packed his stuff. I told him good luck but somehow I didn't get to shake his hand, and I feel bad about that. It's funny what happens to a guy when he's released. As soon as he gets it he's a different person, not a part of the team anymore. Not even a person. He almost ceases to exist. It's difficult to form close relationships in baseball. Players are friendly during the season and they pal around together on the road. But they're not really friends. Part of the reason is that there's little point in forming a close relationship. Next week one of you could be gone. Hell, both of you could be gone. So no matter how you try, you find yourself holding back a little, keeping people at arm's length. It must be like that in war too.
Jake Gibbs of the Yankees once ordered pie a la mode in a restaurant and then asked the waitress to put a little ice cream on it.
Marvin Miller is coming around tomorrow to hand out some checks for promotions the Players' Association was paid for. So everybody was busy reminding everybody else not to tell the wives. We get little checks for a lot of things, like signing baseballs, which are then sold. In our peak years with the Yankees we were getting around $150 for signing baseballs. It's all pocketed as walking-around money. The wives don't know about it. Hell, there are baseball wives who don't know about the money we get for being in spring training, or that we get paid every two weeks during the season. John Kennedy, infielder, says that when his wife found out about the spring money she said, "Gee whiz, all that money you guys get each week. How come you've never been able to save anything?" And John said, "We just started getting it, dear. It's a brand-new thing."
Joe Schultz asked Wayne Comer, outfielder, how his arm felt. Comer said he wasn't sure, but that every time he looked up there were buzzards circling it.
Today Joe Schultz said, "Many are called, few are chosen." He said it out of the clear blue, several times, once to Lou Piniella. Said Lou: "Is that a bad sign?" I said I didn't know. But I did. And it was.
Would you believe that we were playing a ballgame in Yuma, the winter home, as they say, of the San Diego Padres, which is a place you pass through on the way to someplace else, a place that doesn't even have a visiting clubhouse, so that we had to dress on the back of an equipment truck, and in the middle of a game before about twelve people, one of them yelled at us, "Ya bums, ya!" I mean, would you believe it?
Said Joe: "Boys, if you don't know who you're going to play you don't have your head in the game." The guy who asked the question was Lou Piniella, and now he knows what Joe meant by "Many are called, few are chosen." Goodbye Lou.
Bell is a funny man and, along with Tommy Davis, is emerging as one of the leaders of the club. He's got an odd way of talking. Instead of saying, "Boy, that's funny," he'll wrinkle up his face and say, "How funny is that?" Or he'll say, "How fabulous are greenies?" (The answer is very. Greenies are pep pillsdextroamphetamine sulfateand a lot of baseball players couldn't function without them.)
Sometimes you'll get this kind of conversation: "Gee, your wife was great last night." "Oh, she wasn't all that great." "You should have been there earlier. She was terrific."
Johnny Podres, the old Dodger who seems to be making it with the San Diego Padres (that's sort of nice, Podres of the Padres).
[See also: Jose Cardenal of the Cardinals. Ed.]
On the airplane, Darrell Brandon, sitting next to me, said, "You like to read a lot, don't you?" "Yeah," I said cleverly. "Does it make you smart?" He wasn't being sarcastic. I think he really wanted to know. "Not really," I said. "But it makes people think I am." Actually I was somewhat embarrassed by the question. In fact I do like to read on airplanes, but when I do I'm not in on the kidding and the small talk, so as a result I'm an outsider. I've resolved not to be an outsider this year. I'm not reading so much and no one can accuse me of playing the intellectual. And here I get caught up in a magazine article and Darrell Brandon is asking if reading makes you smart.
A little more about the new Bouton image. If the guys go out to a bar after a game for a few drinks, I'm going too. I'm going to get into card games on airplanes. I don't like bars much, and card games bore me, but I'm going to do it. If you want to be one of the gang, that's one way to do it. It's odd, but you can be seven kinds of idiot and as long as you hang around with the boys you're accepted as an ace. Johnny Blanchard of the Yankees was an ace. He was just another jocko, but he was an ace because he was always out with Mickey Mantle and the boys, drinking, partying, playing cards. Every once in a while, just to enhance his image, he'd smack some poor guy off a bar stool and that was great. Johnny Blanchard was one of the boys. Why should I be one of the boys? Why should I yield to the jockos? Oh, I'm not going to hold back if something comes up I feel strongly about, but I'm going to soft-pedal it a bit, at least at the beginning, until I'm sure I can make this club. I really believe that if you're a marginal player and the manager thinks you're not getting along with the guys it can make the difference. I'm positive that the one reason Houk got rid of me was that I'd made a lot of enemies on the club (including Houk, I guess) simply because I refused to go along with the rules they set up.
And it could cost you too. When Joe Garagiola was running "The Match Game" on television, a lot of the Yankees, almost all of them, were getting on the show. I mean even Steve Whitaker. And me, the articulate Jim Bouton, spontaneously witty, always at ease in front of the camera, never got a call. This year, though, it's a new Bouton. At least until I win some ballgames.
Today, while we were sitting in the bullpen, Eddie O'Brien, the All-American coach, said, just after one of our pitchers walked somebody in the ballgame, "The secret to pitching, boys, is throwing strikes." Gee, Eddie! Thanks.
And if he had come to me, I probably would have grooved one for him. Not for money, just for the hell of it. Sorry kids, things like that happen. Phil Linz was batting .299 going into the last game of the season at Modesto and asked the other catcher to help him get to .300. "When you come up I'll have the third baseman play real deep," the catcher said. "All you have to do is lay down a bunt and beat it out." That's exactly what happened. Phil got the hit for his .300 average and got the manager to take him out of the game. Now it's in the record books forever that Phil Linz hit .300. The same thing happened with Tommy Davis. He was hitting .299 for the Mets and playing against his old teammates, the Dodgers. Johnny Roseboro was catching. "Hey, Baby, you're my main man," Davis said. "How about a little help?" Roseboro said sure and told him what was coming. Davis got his hit and had his .300 batting average.
So far I haven't heard any of the white guys say, "Tommy, what are you doing for dinner tonight?" Maybe it will come. Maybe.
I asked around to find out who put it up, but I couldn't, although I eventually decided it must have been either Clete Boyer, another one of my boosters, or Maris. So one day when they were standing together in the outfield I went over and said, "I wish you guys would tell me who put that clipping up on the board, because I'd like to get my hands on the gutless son of a bitch who did it." And although Maris had already denied to me that he put up the clipping, he said, "Don't call me gutless." Somehow I managed not to get into a fight with him. But I felt I'd won the battle of wits.
I thought the Salmon trade was pretty good for us because we didn't really have a spot for him. But he was very disappointed. He slammed the door when he left Joe's office. I know he counted on going to Seattle. He spent the winter up there and went to a lot of promotional dinners and leased an apartment and rented furniture, the works. Now it's Baltimore instead. Life in the big leagues.
We were talking about what we ought to call Brabender when he gets here. He looks rather like Lurch of the "Addams Family," so we thought we might call him that, or Monster, or Animal, which is what they called him in Baltimore last year. Then Larry Haney told us how Brabender used to take those thick metal spikes that are used to hold the bases down and bend them in his bare hands. "In that case," said Gary Bell, "we better call him Sir."
Bill Henry retired today, just like that. First he makes the team, then he walks in on Joe Schultz and announces his retirement. Joe told us about it and said that he admired the man, that he had a lot of guts to walk out. John Morris, who was brought up from the Vancouver squad to replace Henry, was pretty frisky, like he'd just gotten a reprieve from the Governor. He said he had some long talks with Henrywhich is something, because when you say hello to Henry he is stuck for an answerand thinks he quit because he was holding back a young player. "What am I doing keeping younger guys from a chance to earn a living?" he said to Morris. "I'm forty-two years old. I've had thirteen years in the big leagues. I don't really belong here." During the meeting Joe Schultz said, "It takes a lot of courage for a guy to quit when he thinks he can't do the job anymore." So I opened my big yap and said, "If that's the case a lot of us ought to quit." Which gave Sal Maglie the chance to say, very coolly, "Well, use your own judgment on that." I'm not sure Sal likes me. Today Joe Schultz said, "Well, boys, it's a round ball and a round bat and you got to hit it square."
Bruce Henry, the Yankee road secretary, is one of my main men. He hated to buy bats for me. He always claimed I didn't need them. When he finally did, he had them inscribed not with my name, but my batting average.092. And once when I complained that the people I'd given passes to were upset about getting poor seats, he said, "How'd they like the price?"
There was a lot of grousing about the uniforms. It isn't only that they don't fit (no baseball uniforms fit, possibly because you are carefully measured for them). It's that they're so gaudy. I guess because we're the Pilots we have to have captain's uniforms. They have stripes on the sleeves, scrambled eggs on the peak of the cap and blue socks with yellow stripes. Also there are blue and yellow stripes down the sides of the pants. We look like goddam clowns.
[But not as much as the 1980 Tucson Toros did. Ed.]
Mike Hegan hit the first home run for the Pilots and Joe Schultz, jumping up and down in the dugout, clapped his hands and actually yelled, "Hurray for our team." When we came into the clubhouse, all of us yelling and screaming like a bunch of high school kids, Joe Schultz said, "Stomp on 'em. Thataway to stomp on 'em. Kick 'em when they're down. Shitfuck. Stomp them. Stomp them good."
Today Joe Schultz said to the clean-shaven Rocky Bridges, Los Angeles coach, "Hey Rocky, how's your old mustache?"
Coaches have little real responsibility, so it seems to me they should, at the very least, try to help club moralecheer guys onward and upward, make jokes and smooth out little problems before they become big ones. O'Brien and Plaza are officious types, though, and cause more trouble than they smooth over. And because they try to find things to do they become nothing but annoyances. Like O'Brien will say to Jack Aker, "Jack, you're in the bullpen tonight." Jack has been in the bullpen for eight years. Another example: It is customary for players to pair off and throw easily on the sidelines before a workout or a game. So as I reached into the ballbag to grab some baseballs for the guys, Plaza said, "What are you going to do with those baseballs, Bouton?" "I'm just going to take three or four out to the field because a few guys asked me to." "Just take one." "Yes, sir."
Standing around the outfield the conversation turned to religion. Don Mincher said he came from a very religious home and used to go to church every Sunday where people did things like roll in the aisles. He said there was a big circle of numbers on the church wall and when your number came up with somebody else's number you had to visit them and have a prayer meeting. As he got older Minch would say, "Well, let's have a few beers first." They didn't think that was very religious of him.
Going over the hitters is something you do before each series, and before we went against the mighty Angels, Sal Maglie had a great hint for one of their weaker hitters, Vic Davalillo. "Knock him down, then put the next three pitches knee-high on the outside corner, boom, boom, boom, and you've got him." Everybody laughed. If you could throw three pitches, boom, boom, boom, knee-high on the outside corner, you wouldn't have to knock anybody down. It's rather like telling somebody if he'd just slam home those ninety-foot putts he'd win the tournament easily.
Before today's game Joe Schultz said, "Okay men, up and at 'em. Get that old Budweiser."
A kid named Tom Berg, who belongs to the Seattle organization and goes to school here, came over to work out with the club. And before the workout he was in the clubhouse shaving off his nice long sideburns. He got the word that Dewey Soriano, who is the president of the club, thought he would look better with shorter sideburns. Well, I think Dewey Soriano would look better if he lost weight.
With Hovley gone, Mike Marshall is probably the most articulate guy on the club, so I asked him if he had as much trouble communicating as I've had and he said, "Of course. The minute I approach a coach or a manager I can see the terror in his eyes. Lights go on, bells start clanging. What's it going to be? What's this guy want from me? Why can't he be like everybody else and not bother me? It's almost impossible to carry on a conversation or get a direct answer to a direct question." In baseball they say, "He's a great guy. Never says a word."
So I said, "Well, if I do real good down there, I'd like to come back." I expected him to say, "Of course. You do good down there and we'll yank you right back here, stick you in and you'll win the goddam pennant for us." Or something reassuring like that. Instead Joe Schultz said, "Well, if you do good down there, there's a lot of teams that need pitchers." Good grief. If I ever heard a see you later, that was it.
Finally, Sal Maglie: "Well, pitch around him." When the meeting was over, Gary added up the pitch-around-hims and there were five, right in the beginning of the batting order. So according to Sal Maglie, you start off with two runs in and the bases loaded.
Finally, Sal Maglie: "Well, pitch around him." When the meeting was over, Gary added up the pitch-around-hims and there were five, right in the beginning of the batting order. So according to Sal Maglie, you start off with two runs in and the bases loaded. It's like the scouting reports we used to get on the Yankees about National League teams. We'd get the word that this guy couldn't hit the good overhand curve. Well, nobody hits the good overhand curve. In fact, hardly anybody throws the good overhand curve. It's a hard pitch to control and it takes too much out of your arm. And the word on Tim McCarver of the Cards was that Sandy Koufax struck him out on letter-high fastballs. Which is great advice if you can throw letter-high fastballs like Koufax could.
Got a letter today from two girls who were members of my fan club. They'd read the article in Signature about us adopting Kyong Jo and wanted to congratulate us and wish me luck with my new team. I really liked that fan club. I enjoyed being a big-league player and having people recognize me and having little kids get a charge out of meeting me. I remember what it was like when I was a kid and what a thrill I got just watching Willie Mays climb out of a taxicab. So the fact that I had my own personal fan club (would you believe an annual dinner and a newspaper called All About Bouton?) always pleased me. Of course I realized how old I'm getting and how quickly time passes when I heard that one of the fan-club members was in Vietnam. It just doesn't seem right that a member of my fan club should be fighting in Vietnam. Or that anybody should be.
I was a big New York Giant fan when I lived in New Jersey as a kid and then we moved to Chicago. I used to go to all the CubGiant games out there. And I remember once leaning over the dugout trying to tell Al Dark how great he was and how much I was for him and, well, maybe get his autograph too, when he looked over at me and said, "Take a hike, son. Take a hike." Take a hike, son. Has a ring to it, doesn't it? Anyway, it's become a deflating putdown line around the Bouton family. Take a hike, son.
There's nothing like walking into a minor-league clubhouse to remind you what the minors are like. You have a tendency to block it. It was cold and rainy in Tacoma when I went there to meet the Vancouver club and the locker room was shudderingly damp, small and smelly. There's no tarpaulin on the field, so everything is wet and muddy and the dirt crunches underfoot on the cement. The locker stalls are made of chicken wire and you hang your stuff on rusty nails. There's no rubbing table in the tiny trainer's room, just a wooden bench, and there are no magazines to read and no carpet on the floor and no boxes of candy bars. The head is filthy and the toilet paper is institutional-thin. There's no bat rack, so the bats, symbolically enough, are stored in a garbage can. There's no air-conditioning and no heat, and the paint on the walls is peeling off in flaky chunks and you look at all of that and you realize that the biggest jump in baseball is between the majors and Triple-A. The minor leagues are all very minor. There's no end to the humiliation. The kid in the clubhouse asked me what position I played.
Had a talk with Bob Tiefenauer about his knuckleball and he said he'd recently gotten a good tip from Ed Fisher. He says that when you're pitching with the wind at your back (which is very bad for the knuckler) you throw the ball harder. This seems to keep it out ahead of the wind and it knuckles pretty good. Tief says it sounds crazy, but there's logic to it and it seems to work. I'll have to remember that.
I've also been reflecting on Joe Schultz. I'm afraid I'm giving the impression I don't like him or that he's bad for the ballclub. Neither is true. I think Joe Schultz knows the guys get a kick out of the funny and nonsensical things he says, so he says them deliberately. If there's a threat to harmony on the club I think it comes from the coaching staff. On the other hand, it has been said that harmony is shit. The only thing that counts is
Do you know that ethyl chloride can be fun? This is a freezing agent kept around to cut the pain of cuts, bruises, sprains and broken bones. It comes in a spray can and it literally freezes anything it touches; hair, skin, blood. Also ants, spiders and other animals. The way you have fun with ethyl chloride is spray it on a guy who isn't looking. First thing he knows there's a frozen spot on his leg and the hair is so solid it can be broken off. Or you spray it on crawling creatures. They're frozen, they thaw and they resume their appointed rounds. Once we froze and thawed one bug thirty times just to see if it could be done. It can. Hot-feet, or hot-foots, depending on your attitude toward the language, can also be fun if your life is drab and empty and puerile and full of Phil Rizzuto. I once gave Phil my famous atomic bomb hot-foot, which consists of four match heads stuck inside another match. It was such a lovely hot-foot his shoelaces caught fire and the flames were licking at his pants cuff. One of the great hot-foots (hot-feet?) of all time was administered to Joe Pepitone by Phil Linz. The beauty part was that Pepitone was giving a hot-foot to somebody else at the time and just as he started to turn around and grin at the havoc he had wrought, a look of horror crossed his face and he began to do an Indian dance. The hot-footer had been hot-footed (feeted?) himself. Joe Pepitone is a gas.
On the plane I discovered that Greg Goossen is afraid to fly. On the takeoff he wrapped himself around his seatbelt in the fetal position, his hands over his eyes. Then, as we were landing, he went into frenzied activity, switching the overhead light on and off, turning the air blower on and off, right and left, opening and closing his ashtray and giving instructions into a paper cup: "A little more flap, give me some more stick, all right, just a little bit, okay now, level out." I asked him, "What's the routine?" "I always feel better when I land them myself," Goose explained.
Having been sent to the minors for at least parts of the last three seasons now, I've become somewhat defensive about it. It's disturbing to be considered a failure, to have a stigma attached to you just because you're sent down. For the fact is, that by any sane comparative standard, I'm much better at my job, even in Triple-A, than most successful professional people are in theirs. As a Triple-A player I'm one of the top thousand baseball players in the country, and when it's considered how few actually make it out of the hundreds of thousands who try, it's really a fantastic accomplishment. So I don't feel like a failure, and anybody who is guilty of thinking I am will be sentenced to a long conversation with Joe Schultz's liverwurst sandwich.
Jim Coates pitched against us tonight and beat us 4-1. Coates, as has been noted, could pose as the illustration for an undertaker's sign. He has a personality to match. He was the kind of guy who used to get on Jimmy Piersall by calling him "Crazy." Like, "Hey, Crazy, they coming after you with a net today?" Piersall used to get mad as hell and call Coates a lot of names, the most gentle of which was thermometer, but it didn't seem to hurt the way he played. I remember a game in Washington. Piersall was playing center field and Coates was giving him hell from the Yankee bullpen. Piersall was turning away from the game to give it back when somebody hit a long fly ball to left-center and Piersall had to tear after it. All the time he was running he was screaming at Coates, and when he got up to the fence he climbed halfway up it, caught the ball, robbing somebody of a home run, and threw it in. But not for a second did he stop yelling at Coates.
Coates was famous for throwing at people and then not getting into the fights that resulted. There'd be a big pile of guys fighting about a Coates duster and you'd see him crawling out of the pile and making for the nearest exit. So we decided that if there was a fight while Coates was pitching, instead of heading for the mound, where he was not likely to be, we'd block the exits. There was, of course, no fight. We'd all rather talk than fight.
It's great to be young and in Hawaii. Not only did I pitch in my seventh straight game and get my third save, but I had a smashing bowl of siamin, corn on the cob and teriyaki out in the bullpen. Major-league bullpen. We get up around ten in the morning, put on our bathing suits, go down to the beach for three or four hours, come back to have a nice home-cooked meal (we all have kitchenettes and share the cooking), do some shopping and get out to the ballpark at around five. Sheldon brings a radio down to the bullpen and always asks if we want to listen to a ballgame or music. Sheldon, you must be kidding. Talk in the bullpen turned to Joe Schultz, and I recounted what he'd told me when he sent me down. Everybody was surprised that I didn't get the recording: "This is a recording. Pitch two or three good games and you'll be right back up here again. This is a recording."
Also a beaver-shooting story was told. It seems that the Detroit bullpen carried a pair of binoculars and a telescope. The binoculars were used to spot an interesting beaver in the stands and then the telescope was used to zero in. So when the guy using the binoculars spotted a likely subject he'd say, "Scope me."
The reason I suffer from mai tai poisoning so often is that the other guys can drink them with no effect at all while I get drunk. They insist I come along so that they can, as they say, put the hurt on my body. Then in the morning they invite me for breakfast so they can observe the havoc they have wrought.
I was on a radio show after the ballgame last night and today the guys were kidding me about the gift. In the majors it's usually something worth $25 or $50, but in the minors it's a choice: You can have a "best wishes for the rest of the year" or an "everybody's rooting for your comeback."
The news came this morning. "Hrrrmph," Marvin Milkes said, or words to that effect. I was back with the Seattle Pilots.
When I got to the clubhouse today it was as though I'd never left. It was fun being back with all the guys again, and I really laid my week in Hawaii on them.
Gary is a typical ballplayer in some ways in that he doesn't seem to have any plan for himself, nothing to fall back on. The day he's out of baseball is the day he'll start thinking about earning a living. And then it could be too late. We stayed up so late talking that I needed a nap in the bullpen. Fortunately the Minnesota bullpen is out of sight. So I slept four solid innings before going into the game. There may be better ways to earn a living, but I can't think of one.
Today Joe Schultz said, "Hey, I want to see some el strikos thrown around here."
I'm always fascinated by what people say during infield practice. It's a true nonlanguage, specifically created not to say anything. This one today from Frank Crosetti as he hit grounders: "Hey, the old shillelagh!"
Eddie O'Brien has finally been nicknamed. "Mr. Small Stuff." It's because of his attention to detail. Says Mr. Small Stuff, "Put your hat on." He said that to me today. Also to Mike Hegan. We were both running laps at the time.
Oh yes. As I went out to pitch he said, "Throw strikes." I don't think Eddie O'Brien understands this game.
This afternoon Gary Bell and I hired a car and drove up to the Berkeley campus and walked around and listened to speechesArab kids arguing about the Arab-Israeli war, Black Panthers talking about Huey Newton and the usual little old ladies in tennis shoes talking about God. Compared with the way everybody was dressed Gary and I must have looked like a couple of narcs.
This afternoon Gary Bell and I hired a car and drove up to the Berkeley campus and walked around and listened to speechesArab kids arguing about the Arab-Israeli war, Black Panthers talking about Huey Newton and the usual little old ladies in tennis shoes talking about God. Compared with the way everybody was dressed Gary and I must have looked like a couple of narcs. So some of these people look odd, but you have to think that anybody who goes through life thinking only of himself with the kinds of things that are going on in this country and Vietnam, well, he's the odd one.
So they wear long hair and sandals and have dirty feet. I can understand why. It's a badge, a sign they are different from people who don't care. So I wanted to tell everybody, "Look, I'm with you, baby. I understand. Underneath my haircut I really understand that you're doing the right thing."
Gary Bell and I have become the Falstaffs of the back of the bus. Gary entertains with quotes, anecdotes and insults, and when he goes back to his real-estate book I do my routines. In a trivia game recently I asked who the moderator of "You Asked For It" was. The answer was Art Baker, which led me into my "You Asked For It" routine. "We have a letter from a listener, Mrs. Sadie Thompson of Jablib, Wisconsin. "Mrs. Thompson writes: 'Dear Art, I've always wanted to see a cobra strike an eighty-year-old lady. I wonder if you can arrange this on your show.' "Yes, Sadie Thompson out there in Jablib, we went all the way to India for you and not only did we get a cobra, we got a bushmaster, the most deadly snake in the world. And right before your eyes the snake will be placed into a glass cage with sweet little white-haired Mrs. Irma Smedley. Here comes the snake into the cage, and just look at that sweet little old lady tremble. The snake strikes and that's it, ladies and gentlemen, the end of Mrs. Irma Smedley. Remember now, it's all because you asked for it." The boys ate it up. Sick humor is very big in the back of baseball buses and "You Asked For It" is almost as good as "Obituaries You Would Like To Read." Tune in next week, folks.
One of the favorite back-of-the-bus games is insulting each other's wives, sisters, mothers and girlfriends. Some of the guys, among them Brabender and Marshall, refuse to participate in this game, but sometimes they're in it anyway. That's because any man who laughs when another man's wife or mother is insulted is automatically chosen as the next victim. Back-of-the-bus is a very rough business.
Before the game with the Red Sox tonight, we terrified pitchers huddled together and whispered about the power that club has. We decided that if Fenway Park in Boston is called "friendly," then the stadium here would have to be considered downright chummy. After the pitchers took batting practice, we were wondering if we should stay in the dugout and watch the Red Sox hit. We decided it would not be a good thing for us to see. We saw enough in the game. They beat us 12-2.
I came in with two runners on and stranded them and had a perfect inning-and-a-third. Then Brandon, Aker and Segui were stomped. So I should be back on the top of the heap again. Baseball isn't such a funny game.
Warming up in the bullpen tonight I got back the good knuckler, the one I had last year. They moved like a bee after honey, and I was throwing them real hard. Haney was catching and he said, rubbing a knee, that he'd never seen anything like it. "If you can just get someone to catch you," Haney said, "you'll be all right."
Mike has some interesting ideas on what kinds of pitches should be thrown. He thinks a completely random pattern is best, that the hitter should never have an inkling of what's coming next. As a result, if a guy gets a hit off a curve ball he may get a curve the very next time up. On the other hand, McNertney believes that if you get a guy out on fastballs, you keep throwing him fastballs until he proves to you he can hit them. As for me, I throw the knuckleball.
Incidentally, the pitching staff was happy to learn tonight that Marvin Milkes had stationed a man outside the ballpark to measure the home runs that the Senators hit out of sight. Instead Marshall threw his two-hitter. Take that, Marvin Milkes.
Joe Schultz called me over and I thought he wanted to talk about my knuckleball, or pitching in general, or perhaps the state of the nation. Instead, with a straight face, he asked me whether I had any light-colored sweatshirts or did I have only the dark kind I was wearing. I told him I had about fifteen dark sweatshirts since the other clubs I had been with all had dark blue sweatshirts. I said I used the dark ones in practice before the game, then changed to the Pilots' light blue for the game. He considered that for a while, then finally nodded and said, "I guess that's okay." Joe Schultz has yet to say a word to me about my knuckleball. Not even, "I guess that's okay."
During the game the public-address announcer explained where to pick up the ballots to vote for "your favorite Pilot." I thought it necessary to remind the people sitting near the bullpen that your favorite Pilot did not necessarily have to be good.
The first thing I felt when the Yankees showed up at the park today was embarrassment. That's because our uniforms look so silly with that technicolor gingerbread all over them. The Yankee uniforms, even their gray traveling uniforms, are beautiful in their simplicity. John O'Donoghue said that when Johnny Blanchard was traded to Kansas City he refused to come out of the dugout wearing that green and gold uniform. I would guess it's the only feeling I've ever had in common with Blanchard.
Then the game. It was fantastic, unbelievable and altogether splendid. We scored seven runs in the first inning and made them look like a high school team. They threw to the wrong bases. Their uniforms looked great; they looked terrible. It reached the point where we were going nuts in the bullpen, jumping up and down and screaming and hollering. And suddenly I wasn't embarrassed by my uniform, I was embarrassed for the Yankees. They looked so terrible. Cheez, I wanted to beat them bad, but this was ridiculous. Seven runs. I wound up telling the guys to sit down and cool it.
I was very careful to keep a big smile on my face when I reached the scene of action. I didn't want anybody to think I was angry or serious. By and large nobody is serious about these baseball fights, except the two guys who start them. Everyone else tries to pull them apart and before long you've got twenty or thirty guys mostly just pulling and shoving each other. The two guys who started it have so many guys piled on top of them they couldn't reach for a subway token, much less fight. At the bottom of the pile Murcer and Oyler found themselves pinned motionless, nose to nose. "Ray, I'm sorry," Murcer said. "I lost my head." "That's okay," Oyler said. "Now how about getting off me, you're crushin' my leg." "I would," Murcer said, "but I can't move."
I sort of circled the perimeter of action with both arms out to fend off any blind-siders and here came Fritz running toward me. He was laughing his head off and we grabbed each other and started waltzing like a couple of bears. He tried to throw me off balance and I tried to wrestle him down and all the time we were kidding each other. "How's your wife?" I said. "Give me a fake punch to the ribs." "She's fine," he said. "You can punch me in the stomach. Not too hard." Finally he got me down and we started rolling around. Two umpires came running over and told us to break it up. "But we're only kidding," I said, protesting. "We're old roommates." "Break it up anyway," the umpire said. Which made me think that here are two of four umpires breaking up a playful little wrestling match while there's a war going on nearby with 40 guys piled on each other. I guess they both recognized that they were in a very safe place.
The most interesting thing about the fight was Houk's reaction to the police, who came on the field to break it up. When he saw them he went out of his skull. "What the hell are cops doing on the field?" he shouted. "I've never seen cops on the field before. They ought to be at the university where they belong." What he didn't understand, of course, is that the very thing that made him angry at the sight of cops is the same thing that puts kids uptight seeing them on campus.
I'm a terrible hitter in batting practice, possibly because I'm a terrible hitter in games. I'm so bad they call me Cancer Bat, and when they made up the teams I was, naturally, thrown in at the end. When one of the guys on the other team complained that Bell's team had all the good hitters, he said, "Whaddayamean? We got Bouton." That seemed to mollify the opposition.
An outfield game is making up singer-and-actor baseball teams purely on the sound of their names. ExamplePanamanian. Good speed, great arm, temperamental: shortstop Jose Greco. Or big hard-hitting first baseman; strong, silent type: Vaughn Monroe. And centerfielder, showboat, spends all his money on cars, big ladies man, flashy dresser, drives in 75 runs a year, none of them in the clutch: Duke Ellington. Finallygreat pitcher, 20-game winner five years in a row, class guy, friendly with writers and fans alike; stuff is good, not overpowering, but he's smart, has great control and curve ball, moves the ball around: Nat King Cole. If you think this is a silly game, you haven't stood around in the outfield much.
Today I've been thinking about God and baseball, or is it baseball and God? In any case, this rumination was caused by the sight of Lindy McDaniel of the Yankees. Although I've never met him, I feel I know him pretty well because of this newsletter he sends out from Baytown, Texas, called "Pitching for the Master." One of the first I got from himand all the players receive themwas a complete four-page explanation of why the Church of Christ was the only true church. The dogmatism of this leads to the kind of thinking you find in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and in Guideposts and The Reader's Digest. The philosophy here is that religion is the reason an athlete is good at what he does. "My faith in God is what made me come back." Or "I knew Jesus was in my corner." Since no one ever has an article saying, "God didn't help me" or "It's my muscles, not Jesus," kids pretty soon get the idea that Jesus helps all athletes and the ones who don't speak up are just shy or embarrassed. So I've been tempted sometimes to say into a microphone that I feel I won tonight because I don't believe in God. I mean, just for the sake of balance, to let the kids know that belief in a deity or "Pitching for the Master" is not one of the criteria for major-league success. But I guess I never will.
Tonight I was making some notes in the bullpen and Eddie O'Brien was slowly going out of his mind with curiosity. Finally he sneaked over and snatched the paper out of my hand. I snatched it right back. That's all Mr. Small has to find outthat I'm writing a book. It'll be all over for the kid.
Today Mr. Small came out to the outfield where the pitchers were running and said, "Gentlemen, from now on we can all run with our hats off. It's really silly for us to run with our hats on, because the band gets all sweaty and ruins the hat." "How come you weren't able to think of that a few weeks ago?" I asked him. "Well, it wasn't as warm then and we weren't sweating at the same rate we are now." Oh.
We've been running short of greenies. We don't get them from the trainer, because greenies are against club policy. So we get them from players on other teams who have friends who are doctors, or friends who know where to get greenies. One of our lads is going to have a bunch of greenies mailed to him by some of the guys on the Red Sox. And to think you can spend five years in jail for giving your friend a marijuana cigarette.
On the way to the ballpark tonight Ray Oyler, sitting in the back of the bus during a bumpy ride, discovered an erection. He promptly offered to buy the bus from the driver.
Jose Cardenal was in center field fixing the legs of his tight pants and Talbot recalled the time in winter ball when Cardenal refused to play for three days because his uniform wasn't tight enough.
Back at the hotel, Gary and I talked about the relationship between country and city guys on a ballclub, which is intertwined with the relationship between whites and blacks. There are lots of walls built up between people, and I pointed out that if I'd never roomed with Gary I would still think, "Oh, he's just a dumb Southerner." So probably the solution is to have people live together. I mean we still disagree about a lot of thingsreligion, politics, how children should be raisedbut because we've been able to talk about these differences, spend so many hours together, we've been able to at least understand them. How's that for a solution? Put people together in a hotel room in Cleveland.
I tried to let Joe know that I haven't been pitching much lately. "I sure could use a workout," I said. And Joe Schultz said, "If you need a workout go down to a whorehouse."
What it all boils down to is money. If I get a raise next season we could afford to do any of these things. But if I have a bad season and they don't like this book, I may not even get a contract. So we decided that what I probably should do is get them to give me a contract at the end of this season, before they know about the book.
Joe Schultz was put away by Earl Weaver of the Orioles tonight. We had a two-run rally going when Weaver came out of the dugout and pointed out that we were hitting out of order. Seems that Joe had made out two lineup cards and given the umpires the wrong one. Weaver, who spotted it right away, let us hit until we got something going and then we had to call it all back. Since we lost the game 9-5, and since there was no telling how many runs we might have scored that inning, Joe's face was very red indeed. I don't think he'll be telling us to keep our heads in the game again very soon.
Before we left the park today we were told that tomorrow's game would start at twelve-fifteen because of national television and that we'd have to take batting practice at ten-thirty. "Ten-thirty?" said Pagliaroni. "I'm not even done throwing up at that hour."
Tony Kubek and Mickey Mantle were here to do the TV broadcast and before the game Mickey was down in the clubhouse. With me standing right there, Joe Schultz says, "Mickey, what do you think of a guy who comes to the ballpark fifteen minutes before the game starts?" Mickey shook his head sadly. "I know he's got some strange ideas," he said.
Don Mincher was worried about appearing on national television. "My mother's going to watch this ballgame in Alabama," he said, "and she's going to notice first thing that I'm not using the batting helmet with the earflap on it. And tonight she's going to be on the telephone, guaranteed, asking me why I'm not wearing my earflap."
There was also something about Fred Talbot. Fritz said that Talbot seemed to have changed a lot in the last year and that I'd probably like him now. I showed Talbot the letter and he said, "That son of a bitch. I thought he always liked me." I guess Fred is changing. The other day, after he won in Cleveland, I reminded him that he'd already matched last year's output of wins (one). A couple of years ago he'd have gotten angry. Now he just laughed.
The latest adventure of Mike Marshall has him feuding with Sal Maglie about his screwball. A screwball is a curve ball that breaks in the opposite direction of a curve ball: When thrown by a right-handed pitcher it breaks in on a right-handed hitter. Mike wants to throw screwballs and Sal wants him to throw curve balls, so they're at each other all the time. "Why don't you just throw screwballs and tell Sal they were curve balls?" I suggested. "I would," Marshall said. "But then the catchers tell Sal what I'm throwing." See, the catchers are angry at him for trying to call his own game. So they go back to the bench and commiserate with Sal when he complains about the way Marshall is pitching. Mike won fifteen games last year and until recently he's been our most effective pitcher. They haven't disproved any of his theories. Why can't they just leave him alone? I'm afraid Mike's problem is that he's too intelligent and has had too much education. It's like in the army. When a sergeant found out that a private had been to college he immediately assumed he couldn't be a good soldier. Right away it was "There's your college boy for you," and "I wonder what our genius has to say about that?" This is the same kind of remark Sal and Joe make about Marshall. I think Sal and Joe put me right up there with Marshall in the weirdo department. They don't believe that my kind of guy can do the job, so when I am successful they're surprised. When Fred Talbot does the job, well, he's from the old school, blood and guts, spit a little tobacco juice on it. Another thing. When I was winning a lot of ball games my double warm-up was a great idea, an innovation, maybe even a breakthrough. After I hurt my arm, the double warm-up became a terrible idea. It was sapping my strength. In fact it was downright weird.
In the clubhouse Joe delivered his usual speech: "Attaway to stomp 'em. Stomp the piss out of 'em. Stomp 'em when they're down. Kick 'em and stomp 'em." And: "Attaway to go boys. Pound that ol' Budweiser into you and go get them tomorrow." This stuff really lays us in the aisles.
Jerry Neudecker was the umpire at third base. His position is just a few steps away from our bullpen and he stopped by, as umpires will, to pass the time between innings. "Why is it that they boo me when I call a foul ball correctly and they applaud the starting pitcher when he gets taken out of the ballgame?" says Neudecker. Says I: "Because, Jerry, the fans recognize the pitcher as being a basically good person." He laughed. Actually I think umpires can be too sensitive. They have this thing about a word. You'd think it was sticks and stones. The word is motherfucker and it's called the Magic Word. Say it and you're out of the game. I have only one question. Why? Now think about that.
Talbot is in rare form these days. Like he was telling us how it used to be in the sheet-metal shop of the industrial school he went to. When they were taught how to weld, the first thing they did was weld the door shut when the teacher left the room.
If you ever see a baseball player stick his tongue out at someone in the stands it's not because he's mad at anybody. It happens to be a form of beaver shooting. The player scouts the stands for good-looking girls, and if he catches a doll's eye he sticks out his tongue. If she looks away, it means she's not interested. If she smiles, something might come of it. It's called shooting stingers.
"Rooms, I'm not hungry," Gary said. "Just thirsty." "You're on an empty stomach," I said. "Let's go somewhere nice. We'll have cocktails and wine with dinner, then we'll do the town up right. But you got to get something to eat." "Don't worry about me, Rooms," he said. "You're a great roomie and I love you. You've been teaching me new things. You've told me about the stars and the planets and I don't believe in Noah's Ark anymore, and you're making a non-believer out of me. I appreciate that, Rooms, but I got to go drinking tonight."
Mincher said we were missing something by being out in the bullpen, that Maglie was great in the dugoutespecially when Marshall was pitching. "If a guy hits a fastball when Marshall is out there," Minch said, "Sal says, 'Son of a bitch, he's throwing that fastball too much.' In the very next inning a guy will get a hit on a curve ball and Sal says, ‘Son of a bitch, why doesn't he go to his fastball more?'" "I try to sit next to him whenever I can," Mincher said.
During the one-hour ride, Joe Schultz was asking around about what kind of deal we were getting into and he found out that we were going to the Sheraton-Park Hotel, where we'd be assigned a playground in which to conduct a clinic. After that we were all going to the stadium for the dedication. "Oh shitfuck," Joe Schultz said. "I didn't think it was going to be like that. Oh fuckshit." He seemed agitated.
Joe Schultz said to Mincher, "Shitfuck, Minch, what do you say? Let's get the hell out of here." Mincher hesitated for a moment and it was all over. Schultz had his man. "Hell, I'm getting out of here and grabbing a cab," Joe Schultz said. "Crissakes, don't leave me behind," Mincher said. "I'm going with you." And the two of them left the hotel and took a cab back to Baltimore. Ah, shitfuck.
Mike Marshall said he thought he understood what had happened with Joe Schultz and Don Mincher. "I could see it coming," Marshall said. "Joe couldn't cope with the situation. He wasn't in charge. He was forced to follow along. It was frustrating to him not to know what the plan was and he's neither intelligent nor competent enough to be at ease with the unknown. That's why he surrounds himself with other people, coaches, who are as narrow as he is. He wants to rule out anyone who might bring up new things to cope with. He wants to lay down some simple ruleskeep your hat on straight, pull your socks up, make sure everybody has the same color sweatshirtand live by them." And it was obviously true. Like on the bus going to Washington, Joe Schultz and I were sitting across the aisle from each other. I handed him the sports section of the paper and when he was through with it I asked him if he wanted to read the rest of the paper. "Nah," he said. "I don't read that." There's no comfort for Schultz in the front of a newspaper. When he wants comfort he can get it from somebody like Mincher. I don't think Joe would have gone back to Baltimore alone, and I don't think Mincher would have either. But they gave each other just enough support to do it together. They were less afraid, both of them, of running out than they were of facing this great unknown that involved so many people.
I had a long talk with Marty Pattin on the bus. He's had a tough, interesting life. He's from Charleston, Illinois, and his mother and father were separated when he was a baby and he was shipped off to live with his mother's folks. He was still a junior in high school when his grandfather died, so he moved into a rooming house and tried to work his way through the rest of high school. It was then he met a man named Walt Warmouth who helped him get through schoolnot only high school but college. Warmouth owned a restaurant, and Marty worked there and got his meals there, and every once in a while he'd get a call from the clothing store in town and be told he could pick out a suit and a bunch of other stuff and it was all paid for. They never would tell him who had paid, but Marty knew anyway. "The guy was like a father to me," Marty said. "And not only to me. He must have sent dozens of kids through school just the way he did me." Marty has a masters degree in industrial arts, and when he can he likes to help kids. That's why he signed up for the clinic.
That was a lot of day today. I'm not sure I can take many like that.
O'Donoghue told a story about the best pep talk a manager ever delivered. This was at Columbus in the International League and Don Hoak was the manager. "Boys, I'm just going to say one thing to you," he said at a clubhouse meeting. He held his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart and up where everybody could see them. "I want to remind everybody that you're just this far away from big-league pussy."
A young girl asked one of the guys in the bullpen if he was married. "Yeah," he said, "but I'm not a fanatic about it."
Mike Marshall said he learned something important tonight. He went to Curt Rayer, the trainer, and asked him to put some hot stuff on his arm. "I think it's a little tired," Marshall said. It wasn't two minutes later that Rayer was in Schultz's office telling him that Marshall had a tired arm. It was good information. I mean, you know there's always a pipeline on a club. The trick is to find out who it is.
During the game a guy came down from the stands to the dugout and said to Mike Marshall, "Hey, is Mike Marshall in the dugout? I'm a good friend of his." "No, he's not down here," Mike Marshall said. "Maybe he's in the bullpen." The fellow went off to look.
During infield drill tonight Frank Crosetti yelled, "Thataway. That's the old Rufus Goofus."
After the game Joe Schultz said, "Attaway to stomp on 'em, men. Pound that Budweiser into you and go get 'em tomorrow." Then he spotted Gelnar sucking out of a pop bottle. "For crissakes, Gelnar," Joe Schultz said, "You'll never get them out drinking Dr. Pepper."
Talking about his Chicago White Sox days, McNertney said that Eddie Stanky always insisted there was only one excuse for not being in the lineupif there was a bone showing. Stanky was also responsible for storing the baseballs in a cool, damp place. McNertney: "You had to wipe the mildew off the balls before the game. First you'd take them out of the boxes, which were all rotted away anyway, wipe the mildew off and put them in new boxes. Then you gave them to the umpires and they never suspected a thing." The idea, of course, is that cold, damp baseballs don't travel as far as warm, dry baseballs, and the White Sox were not exactly sluggers.
"Minch, how many major-league ballplayers do you think take greenies?" I asked. "Half? More?" "Hell, a lot more than half," he said. "Just about the whole Baltimore team takes them. Most of the Tigers. Most of the guys on this club. And that's just what I know for sure."
Fred Talbot, who came to the Yankees when Whitey was about through and looking for all the little edges he could find, said Ford could take advantage of every little nick on a ball and make it do something, dive or sail or hop or jump. "If Cronin's name wasn't stamped on the ball straight, he could make it drop."
There is always a flood of remembrances when I come back to New York. Like all the trouble I used to get into with the Yankees. One time nobody in the bullpen would talk to me for three days because I said I thought that Billy Graham was a dangerous character. This was after he had said that Communists were behind the riots in the black ghettoes. I said that when a man of his power, a man with such a huge following, makes a statement like that, he is diverting attention from the real causes of riots in the ghettoes. As a result he delays solutions to those real problems, and this is dangerous. My heavens, you'd think I had insulted Ronald Reagan.
And once at a father-and-son banquet, a kid with long hair got up and asked me what I thought about long hair and sideburns. The man sitting next to the kid was obviously his father and he just as obviously didn't like the long hair. So I said that the thing that disturbs me about long hair is not the fact that suddenly a whole lot of kids in this country decided to let their hair grow, but that a whole nation of adults would let it disturb them to the point where they were ready to expel otherwise excellent students from school simply because of their long hair. I got a big cheer from the kids. The parents sat there with clenched teeth resolving never to invite Jim Bouton again.
Larry Haney read a selection from the New York Post, a story by Vic Ziegel. "Today Mel Stottlemyre goes after his seventh victory," Ziegel wrote, "and Gene Brabender goes after whatever the Gene Brabenders of the world go after." Ray Oyler: "Hey Bender. That guy just shit all over you." Brabender: "Will someone point out that fucker to me?" Pagliaroni: "He must never have seen you in person, Rooms." Footnote: Brabender beat Stottlemyre 2-1.
Fifth inning and we're down 3-2. Bases loaded, nobody out. I'm warmed up. I get the signal. I climb into the golf cart that will take me to the mound. Yankee Stadium, and my heart is thumping under my warm-up jacket. It feels like a World Series. As the cart rolls along the clay track in left field I hear the fans saying, "Hey, that looks like Bouton." "Yeah, it is Bouton." My public. They were out there before the game. When our bus pulled up there must have been 20 kids there chanting, "We want Bouton, we want Bouton." The guys on the bus said I must have been a big man in this town. I said yeah, modestly.
One day Joe Pepitone inserted a piece of popcorn under his foreskin and went to the trainer claiming a new venereal disease. "Jesus Christ, Joe, what the hell have you done?" the doctor said. Pepitone didn't start laughing until the doctor had carefully used a forceps to liberate the popcorn.
Today in the visiting dugout at Yankee Stadium, Joe Schultz said to nobody in particular: "Up and at 'em. Fuck 'em all. Let it all hang out."
On the plane from New York to Milwaukee, where we play the White Sox a game tomorrow, the stewardesses (we call them stews) were droning about fastening seatbelts. "Fasten your seatbelt," Fred Talbot said. "Fasten your seatbelt. All the time it's fasten your goddam seatbelt. But how come every time I read about one of those plane crashes, there's 180 people on board and all 180 die? Didn't any of them have their seatbelts fastened?"
People are always asking me if it's true about stewardesses. The answer is yes. You don't have to go out hunting for a stew. They stay in the same hotels we do. Open your door and you're liable to be invited to a party down the hall. They're on the road, same as we are, and probably just as lonely. Baseball players are young, reasonably attractive and have more money than most men their age. Not only that, baseball players often marry stewsand the stews know it. Baseball players are not, by and large, the best dates. We prefer wham, bam, thank-you-ma'am affairs. In fact, if we're spotted taking a girl out to dinner we're accused of "wining and dining," which is bad form. It's not bad form to wine and dine an attractive stew, however. A stew can come under the heading of class stuff, or table pussy, in comparison with some of the other creatures who are camp followers or celebrity-fuckers, called Baseball Annies. It is permissible, in the scheme of things, to promise a Baseball Annie dinner and a show in return for certain quick services for a pair of roommates. And it is just as permissible, in the morality of the locker room, to refuse to pay off. The girls don't seem to mind very much when this happens. Indeed, they seem to expect it. In Chicago there's Chicago Shirley who takes on every club as it gets to town. The first thing she does is call up the rookies for an orientation briefing. She asks them if there's anything she can do for them, and as the ballplayers say, "She can do it all." Chicago Shirley says that Chicago is a great place to live because teams in both leagues come through there. She doesn't like to miss anybody.
In the Milwaukee clubhouse there's a sign that reads: "What you say here, what you see here, what you do here and what you hear here, let it stay here." The same sign hangs in the clubhouse in Minneapolis. Also, I suppose, in the CIA offices in Washington. If I were a CIA man, could I write a book?
John Kennedy flew into a rage at Emmett Ashford over a called strike and was tossed out of the game. Still raging, he kicked in the water cooler in the dugout, and threw the metal cover onto the field. Afterward we asked him what had gotten into him. He really isn't that type. And he said, "Just as I got called out on strikes, my greenie kicked in."
Joe Schultz is not like Sal with the pitchers. Gelnar was telling us about this great conversation he had with Joe on the mound. There were a couple of guys on and Tom Matchick was up. "Any particular way you want me to pitch him, Joe?" Gelnar said. "Nah, fuck him," Joe Schultz said. "Give him some low smoke and we'll go in and pound some Budweiser."
At the meeting before the twi-nighter against Kansas City, Joe Schultz asked if anybody knew anything about John Martinez. Silence. "Well," said Joe Schultz, "we'll just zitz him. Up and at 'em men, and let's win two tonight." One of these days I'll find out how to "zitz" a guy. It sounds like a valuable pitching weapon.
In the rain the little Seattle clubhouse takes on an aura of great intimacy. The talk flows freely and takes in everybody. It's like sitting around in somebody's living room. Tonight we got into the Pilots' yearbook and we kidded each other about what it said in there about us. Fred Talbot read out loud that when John Kennedy was in high school he was used for late-inning defense, which is funny because most guys in the big leagues were superstars in high school. Talbot then composed a last line for Kennedy's career. "Also has been known to pop a greenie." (Which reminded Wayne Comer that rainy days were sure tough on greenie-poppers. You never know whether to pop.) Gene Brabender's biography noted that he was an outstanding athlete at Black Earth, Wisconsin. I wondered what the school song was there. "Black Earth, we love you, hurrah for the rocks and the dirt." Someone else suggested that Brabender had probably made the Future Farmers of America All-America football team. Mike Hegan had made the All-Catholic High School baseball team and said that Jim Bouton had probably made the All-Agnostic High School team. "Hey, Fred, how come you never went
I'm taking the family to Disneyland on our next trip to Anaheim and I asked Marvin Milkes if he minded if I stayed with them in a hotel next to Disneyland rather than the team hotel. Actually, the guys prefer that you don't bring your wife on road trips, and I thought this would be less awkward. Milkes said I couldn't. "Nothing personal," he said. "You're doing a good job for us. If you weren't, you wouldn't be here. I wouldn't want you to misconscrue [sic! baseball fans] my meaning on this. It's just a club rule and it has to be followed." The reason for the rule, he said, was that he remembered when he was with the Angels and the Yankees used to come into town and stay out all night at those Johnny Grant parties. (Grant is what they call a radio personality in Hollywood.) "But Marvin," I said. "The way I remember it we would stay out all night and then beat you guys anyway. I remember having a particularly good time at a Johnny Grant party and then pitching a two-hitter against you." In fact I remembered more than that. I remembered doing a strip to my underwear to the theme song of Lawrence of Arabia and then treading water in the swimming pool with a martini in each hand and then going out and beating the Angels the next night. In fact, every time I hear the Lawrence of Arabia music my mind still snaps. "Yeah, well, maybe," Marvin said. "But I could always count on you guys keeping late hours and I want to crack down on it." "I'm more likely to go to bed early if my family is here than if I'm with the guys in the team hotel." "That may be true. But we're going to stick to this rule. As I said, don't misconscrue it. Nothing personal." Having lost one argument, I brought up another. I had bought myself some Gatorade, which is supposed to restore the minerals and salts you lose through perspiration. I bought it because a lot of athletic teams use it and it's got to be better than Coca-Cola. I asked McNamara to buy some for the clubhouse. He said he didn't know where to get it so I volunteered and bought ten cases, which cost $50. When I asked McNamara for the money he suggested that since Gatorade was sort of medicinal, the club should pay for it. What do you say, Marvin old boy? "I'll have to think about it," he said. "I'll taste it." "Try it with vodka," I said.
Today Joe Schultz said, "Nice going out there today, Jim." The only thing I'd done all day was warm up. "Joe, I had a fantastic knuckleball today," I said. "Just fantastic." "Did you?" Joe Schultz said. "Did you have the feel of it?" "I sure did." Whereupon Joe Schultz grabbed his crotch and said, "Well, feel this!"
It's true that Joe Schultz does seem to have a firmer grip on reality than other baseball men. Example: Joe got into a terrible argument with an umpire at home plate about a checked swing and when it was over he stormed back to the dugout, still muttering. Just before stepping into the dugout, though, he spied a blonde sitting in the first row and said, "Hi ya, Blondie. How's your old tomato?"
Going to Disneyland, I remembered going to the World's Fair in New York a few years back. Driving one of those little tour buses there was Dusty Rhodes, the guy who in 1954 helped win a pennant and a World Series pinch-hitting for the Giants. Dusty Rhodes, one of my heroes, wearing that blue uniform and driving a bus. I wondered how he'd feel if somebody hollered from in back of the bus, "Hey, bussy, there's a dog pissing on your rear wheel"which is what we've said many times to a guy who wasn't driving the bus fast enough. Maybe Dusty said it too one day, a long time ago.
"What about the night before an off-day?" I said. "Can we stay out later than twelve if we don't have a game the next day?" Joe put his hands on his hips and smiled. "Jesus Christ, Bouton, you're always coming up with something tricky," he said. Most of the guys laughed and I never did get an answer from Joe. "I don't know why everyone laughed," Brabender said later. "I thought it was a good question." "Yeah, but Jim asked it," Marshall said. "So we're all supposed to laugh. You should have asked it, Gene. Then we would have gotten an answer." "Sorry, fellas," I said. "I didn't realize I was going to hurt our chances."
Lefty Phillips has replaced Bill Rigney as manager of the Angels. I wish Rocky Bridges, the coach, had gotten the job. He's familiar with the personnel over there and he was a great minor-league manager. He was successful, colorful, funny and the players loved him. A minor-leaguer named Ethan Allen Blackaby told me about the time Bridges gave the signs from third base while standing on his head. Blackaby promptly stood on his head in the batting box so he could get the sign properly. I told the story to Pag. He said he'd love to see it but that baseball would consider it, well, sacrilegious. "Baseball wants color," he said. "But not that much." "By 'color,'" I said, "they mean they want you to wear your cap at a jaunty angle."
I note today that the Topps Gum people have doubled their fee to players, from $125 to $250, for using their pictures on bubblegum cards. They explained that they were able to increase payments because of increased revenues. It had nothing to do with Marvin Miller and the players going to Topps and demanding the increase. Topps just happens to have a big heart. Yeah surrre.
The second guess is so ingrained in baseball that you can almost call it a first-guess second guess. First a manager will say, "For crissakes, if a guy can't hit the curve ball, keep throwing the damn thing until he proves to you he can hit it." Of course, there's a logical converse. You keep throwing the curve ball to a guy and eventually he will hit it. And immediately you hear, "Jesus, you can't keep throwing a guy the same thing. He's bound to hit it."
I reached into my pocket to show him my statistics and Joe Schultz said, "Aw shit. I don't want to see any statistics. I know what's going on out there just by watching the games."
Today Joe Schultz said to Hovley, "Don't you think you ought to at least get a trim?" Hovely thought it over for a while and said, "I guess so." Actually, Hovley said later that he hasn't made up his mind and doesn't feel he committed himself by what he said to Joe. "It's interesting," he said, "that no one really talks to me about the length of my hair. All they do is drop remarks. I guess that's because no one wants to get into a discussion." If they do, they have to listen to your position, consider it, come up with an answer. But by just dropping a remark they can get in and out with no harm done.
Another Hovley story. He was standing by the clubhouse man's tobacco shelf opening up a can of snuff. (Just wanted to try it, he said later.) Joe Schultz walked by wearing nothing but a towel around his waist and hollered out, "Hey, men, look who's dipping into the snuff." Then he grabbed a paperback book out of Hovley's pocket. It was Dostoyevsky's The Possessed. Schultz held the book up in the air and said, "Hey, men, look at this! What the shit kind of name is this?" By this time there was a group of guys around him looking at the book like a group of monkeys might inspect a bright red rubber ball. Schultz read off the back covera sentence anywayuntil he got to the word "nihilism." "Hey, Hy," Schultz said to Hy Zimmerman, "what the hell does ‘nihilism' mean?" "That's when you don't believe in nothing," Zimmerman said. Whereupon Schultz, shaking his head and laughing, flung the book back at Hovley, hitched up his towel and strode off, amid much laughter. If Hovley weren't 9 for 20 (.450) since he was called up I'd figure him to be back in Rochester in a matter of days. Afterward Hovley said that this was, of course, anti-intellectualism at work, but that he didn't mind since he counted himself as anti-intellectual toothat is, if by "intellectual" we meant the academic community. Academic people bore him, Hovley said, and that while he wouldn't choose to spend all his free time with Joe Schultz, he rather enjoyed the company of players. And Mike Marshall pointed out that Joe's act might have been more a tactic than an expression of his real feelings about college types. "You have to keep in mind that Joe's goal is to keep a loose clubhouse and that he uses this as a device to make people laugh," Marshall said. "I'd be careful not to put him down as merely a buffoon." Well, I don't know. If it is an act, he's finding it awfully easy to play.
I know that a guy like Gary Bell felt that pressure all the time. He'd say things like, "Rooms, tomorrow we go to a bookstore and buy some of those real-estate books." Or, "Rooms, if you were in my shoes, what kind of job would you start looking for?" And then, sometimes, after a bad game, he'd sit in the back of the bus with five or six beers in him and he'd mumble to himself, "I don't give a shit. I don't give a shit." But he did.
Bat day in Kansas City. All the kids get free bats. Makes it very bad for beaver shooting because there are too many kids, too many bats and not enough beaver. John Gelnar brought a pair of binoculars out to the bullpen and we took turns looking into the stands. Then somebody said that we better not let the umpires catch us with binoculars in the bullpenthey're liable to think we're stealing signs. And I said, "No. If we explain we're shooting beaver, they'll understand." And they would. If there's a baseball universal, that's it.
Right before the plane landed, the guys were telling stories about how much we'd been getting on the road. And as we were getting ready to leave the plane and dash into the loving arms of our waiting wives, Pagliaroni said, very loud, "Okay, all you guys, act horny."
Mike was concerned when one of the reporters wrote that he and I play chess on airplanes and sometimes carry the board out of the plane and into the bus without dropping a single piece. He didn't think it helped our images any.
There was a grave meeting before the game in Minnesota tonight. Joe Schultz had a clipping from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, a story by Bud Furillo. The story said that the Seattle ballplayers, upset at the way Marvin Milkes sat in the lobby at around curfew time, checking bodies, had gotten together and had Milkes measured for a suit. Milkes was very pleased at the idea, until the suit arrived. It was a bellhop's uniform, with thirty-eight brass buttons. There were two pictures with the story: one of Milkes, the other of a bellhop. It was a terrific story in every respect but one. It wasn't true. However, the possibility of fitting Milkes with such a suit had been discussed in the bullpen. And something like that gets around. "Now this kind of thing is bad not only for the general manager," Joe Schultz said, "it's bad for the whole organization. This may sound funny, but things like this can get turned around. If Marvin Milkes has to sit in the lobby and check, the wives might start wondering who's staying out late and what they're doing." "And that's bad," Ray Oyler said.
Before the game Dick Baney and I were walking across the outfield grass to the bullpen, and the crowd was buzzing, and the organist was playing, and Baney looked around and said, "Hey, you know something? This is fun, walking across the outfield with all the people looking down at you." And I thought, "It's true." You forget how much fun it is sometimes just to walk across the outfield. And then I remembered sitting up in the left-field stands in the Polo Grounds as a kid and thinking to myself, "Cheez, if I could only run out on the field and maybe go over and kick second base, or shag a fly ballGod, that would make my year. I'd never forget it as long as I lived if I could just run across that beautiful green outfield grass." And now, sometimes, I forget to tingle.
While we were losing the first game of the doubleheaderwe were down 5-1 and it was going to be our third straight hereJoe Schultz called to John Gelnar, who was keeping the pitching chart. "C'mere a minute," he said, motioning Gelnar down to the other end of the dugout. Gelnar was sure he was going to get a big tip on pitching. And Joe Schultz, pointing up into the stands, said, "Up there near the Section 23 sign. Check the rack on that broad."
As I watched Hovley struggling out there against the best reliever in the league, I thought, how can a guy with friends like Dostoyevsky be scared in this kind of situation? He wasn't. He hung in for another foul ball and then got the base on balls, forcing in the run. As we walked down to the clubhouse I heard John Gelnar say, "You know, one good thing about having Hovley up there, he's too goony to be scared."
Look at it this way. In a couple of days two men are going to land on the moon. How the hell can I be nervous about starting a baseball game? Even if it is against the Fat Kid and his wrecking crew.
If you want to know what aspect of the moon landing was discussed most, in the bullpen it was the sex life of the astronauts. We thought it a terrible arrangement that they should go three weeks or more without any sex life. Gelnar said that if those scientists were really on the ball they would have provided three germ-free broads for the astronauts.
O'Donoghue was on the airplane flying east with Don Mincher and Joe Schultz, who were going to the All-Star game, and said Joe was feeling hardly any pain when he left the plane and was mumbling his two favorite wordsshit and fuckin all their possible combinations.
Great thing happened today. Police arrested a twenty-two-year-old blonde who had climbed a tree outside our clubhouse and was peeping in at us in the shower. A female beaver-shooter.
The last time Marty Pattin had a bad gameand he's had about eight in a row nowhe came charging up the runway to the clubhouse breaking things on the way. He kicked over a couple of garbage cans and crashed the door into the clubhouse. So today Talbot said to him, "Marty, what are your plans if you don't win tomorrow?"
Fred and I hung a hangman's noose in Pattin's locker, but he didn't need it. He pitched well, leaving the game after eight innings with the score 1-1. He didn't break up anything on the way back to the clubhouse.
A bit of clever baseball strategy tonight by Joe Schultz. We're down 4-2 in the ninth against the Senators. Two out, man on second, Frank Howard is the hitter. Howard should be walked. But if Bob Locker, who's pitching, walks him he will now have to pitch to a left-handed hitter, Mike Epstein. This won't do. So O'Donoghue, a left-handed pitcher, will be brought in. In which case the Senators will pinch-hit for Epstein, bringing in a right-handed power-hitter, like Brant Alyea, and we're stuck. O'Donoghue will have to pitch against him because the rules say he must pitch to at least one hitter. But Schultz was ahead of everybody. He brought in O'Donoghue just to walk Howard. Sure enough, they brought in Alyea to face O'Donoghue. So Joe took out O'Donoghue and brought me in. I struck Alyea out on three super knuckleballs. As so often happens in this great game we play, all the strategy went for nothing. We lost 4-2 anyway.
Dropped by to see Marvin Milkes about the Gatorade. I saw him sitting at his desk, but his secretary said he wasn't in. In that case, I told her, she better call the cops because there was a guy at his desk impersonating him. Not only that, he was wearing one of his sports coats. I was rewarded with a dirty look and an audience with himself.
Before the game tonight pitchers were taking in extra bunting practice because we'd been having trouble moving the runner along. And Joe Schultz said, "Boys, bunting is like jacking off. Once you learn how you never forget."
A ten-year-old lad named Marvin Standifer wandered out of the stands and into the bullpen tonight and I grabbed him, put a warm-up jacket and a hat on him and sat him on the bench. All his friends lined the fence and said things like, "Hey, is Marvin going to get into the game?" and "Does Marvin get to keep the hat?" and "How come you let Marvin into the bullpen?" And all the time Marvin had this giant grin on his face. Of course, Eddie O'Brien said, "We have to get him out of here. We could get in trouble for that." "Eddie, go sit down," I said. "This kid's got good stuff and we may need him later in the inning." Eddie sat down. At the end of the inning I hoisted Marvin back into the stands. He'd had a big night.
Another example of a general manager generously giving a ballplayer money that he is absolutely entitled to. Greg Goossen told the story. He lost $200 in rent when he was called up and Marvin Milkes put his hand on his shoulder and said, "We're picking up your rent check. [It's a rule that he has to.] And since you've signed a major-league contract, today you start on the pension plan." "He made it sound like a special gift from him, a pot sweetener," Goossen said. "It was only after I left his office that I realized there was no way he could prevent me from starting on the pension plan today, even if he wanted to."
Today Joe Schultz said, "Let's keep our minds on the game. And let's remember we're the same as everybody else. Let's go out there, kick the shit out of them and come back in and enjoy that beer." We went out there, got two hits and lost 4-2. The beer was great.
Greg Goossen was doing his Casey Stengel imitation and he remembered the best thing the old man ever said about him. "We got a kid here named Goossen, twenty years old, and in ten years he's got a chance to be thirty."
We got some forms to fill out from the Pilots' publicity department. One of the questions was, "Who is your baseball idol?" Mincher put down Mickey Mantle. Another question was, "What induced a major-league team to sign you to a professional contract?" And Mincher wrote, "Pretty fair country player." Finally there was this: "What's the most difficult thing about playing major-league baseball?" And Mike Hegan said, "Explaining to your wife why she needs a penicillin shot for your kidney infection."
Hovley, Pagliaroni and I closed out the evening on the roof for a little beaver-shooting. We didn't get many good shots in but we kept trying. And Hovley said, "This is like fishing. All you need is a couple of nibbles to keep you trying."
O'Donoghue wound up his time in Boston screaming at the kids who lean out of the stands and throw things into the bullpen and at the mob of them that collects outside Fenway Park demanding autographs. O'Donoghue has a very low kid threshold. He'd have hated me as a kid. I remember once at a Giant game in the Polo Grounds I took the top of a Dixie cup and scaled it down onto the field during the game. I couldn't believe how far it wentclear out to the infield. It landed halfway between the mound and home plate. I was scared when I saw it was actually going to drop onto the field and I looked around to see if anybody had noticed me throwing it. Johnny Antonelli, who was pitching for the Giants, walked off the mound, bent down, picked it up and put it in his back pocket. I got a huge kick out of that. Imagine, Johnny Antonelli picking up the cover of my Dixie cup.
Steve Hovley and I spent the afternoon at the National Gallery of Art. Hovley said he had to check to see if Van Gogh's paintings were dry yet.
Pagliaroni told a story about Joe Brown, the general manager of the Pittsburgh club. Brown called a meeting of the players and said, "Boys, we're fighting for the entertainment dollar. We have to learn to get along with the fans and get along with the writers. And we have to be more colorful as ballplayers." That very night the Pirates got into an extra-inning game and Pagliaroni scored the winner in the fifteenth. "I come around and I touch home plate," Pag said, "and as I run toward our dugout I take a big slide, feet first, all the way into it." The next morning there was a call from Joe Brown. "What the hell were you doing out there?" Brown said. "What are you, some kind of clown?" And Pagliaroni said, "I was just competing for the entertainment dollar, Joe."
I try, but it remains most difficult to convey the quality of the banter in the back of the bus. There is zaniness to it, and earthiness, and often a quality of non sequitur that I find hilarious. Have an example from our trip to the Washington airport. Greg Goossen: "Hey, does anybody here have any Aqua Velva?" Fred Talbot: "No, but I gotta take a shit, if that'll help."
I've had some thoughts on what separates a professional athlete from other mortals. In a tight situation the amateur says, "I've failed in this situation many times. I'll probably do so again." In a tight situation the professional says (and means it), "I've failed in this situation and I've succeeded. Since each situation is a separate test of my abilities, there's no reason why I shouldn't succeed this time." Then there is also the case of the professional player who is not professional enough. He goes on a fifteen-game hitting streak and says, "Nobody can keep this up." And as the streak progresses, his belief in his ability to keep it alive decreases to the point where it's almost impossible for him to get a hit. The real professionaland by that I suppose I mean the exceptional professionalcan convince himself that each time at bat is an individual performance and that there is no reason he can't go on hitting forever. Is that clear? If it is, perhaps you ought to check with your doctor.
I'm still trying to decide why I haven't been in more ballgames in crucial situations and all I can do is agree with Hovley that it's because they think I'm weird and throw a weird pitch. I need a new image. What I ought to do is take up chewing tobacco and let the dark brown run down the front of my uniform and walk up and down the dugout with a slight, brave limp and tape on my wrist and say things like, "goddammit" and "shit" and "let's get these guys." Then, instead of being weird, I'd be rough and tough. I think I'd do it, except I can't stand the thought of all that brown down the front of my uniform.
And when we were going over the hitters a lot of the comments consisted of: "He likes the ball over the plate." Let's see, now. When the ball is over the plate isn't that what the umpires call a strike?
And Joe Schultz said, "Well, hell, let's go beat the shit out of them. Fuck 'em. They ain't no different than anybody else."
I was warming up in the bullpen when a fan leaned out and said, "Hey Jim, how do you pitch to Frank Robinson?" I told him the truth. "Reluctantly," I said.
Consider this. There's quite a bit of money involved and Ray Oyler, one of the boys, the man everybody likes, the "in" infielder, makes two phone calls, and gives up. Zero. On the other hand, Mike Marshall arranges to have a railroad car to ship our automobiles from Tempe to Seattle. It takes a lot; phone calls, letters, a lot of organizing. But Oyler is okay and Marshall is a weirdo.
Pattin: "Oh, he's just got to be different. You know him." Bouton: "Marty, why don't you go feed your gopher?" I was sorry I said that. Although Marty has been giving up a lot of home runs lately, it's not the kind of thing you mention.
The Orioles beat us for the fourth straight time. The score was 15-3. Said Fred Talbot: "We got no business scheduling these guys."
I watched Brunet getting dressed and I nearly fell off my stool. "George, I got to know something," I said. "This is not a knock. I don't mind guys who do things differently. But I got to know. Did you forget to put on your undershorts?" "No, I never wear undershorts," Brunet said. "Hell, the only time you need them is if you get into a car wreck. Besides, this way I don't have to worry about losing them."
In fact, though, I don't really think I did myself any good in the bullpen tonight. I mean what will get around about it is not that I said some tough things, but that I delivered a short speech in front of the bullpen. Nobody delivers short speeches in front of the bullpen. My trouble is I forgot one of baseball's most important axioms: "He's a helluva guy. Wouldn't say shit if he had a mouthful."
Before the father-and-son game Sunday, Pagliaroni said to Wayne Comer: "Now, no fair giving your son a greenie." Greenie or no, the Comer boy stole the show. When he came to bat he took the handle and knocked some imaginary dirt off the bottom of his little sneakers, then he rubbed dirt on his hands, gripped the bat, tapped the plate with it and showed all the mannerisms of the big-league players. Said Fred Talbot: "Comer's kid has a little hot dog in him, doesn't he?" The kids beat the fathers 40-0, and Sibby Sisti said, "Forty runs, for crissakes, and nobody gets knocked down." And McNertney said that he was standing next to Sal Maglie during the game and swore he heard Sal saying, "He's a first-ball hitter""a high-ball hitter""a fastball hitter"and none of the kids was over four feet tall.
Before the father-and-son game Sunday, Pagliaroni said to Wayne Comer: "Now, no fair giving your son a greenie." Greenie or no, the Comer boy stole the show. When he came to bat he took the handle and knocked some imaginary dirt off the bottom of his little sneakers, then he rubbed dirt on his hands, gripped the bat, tapped the plate with it and showed all the mannerisms of the big-league players. Said Fred Talbot: "Comer's kid has a little hot dog in him, doesn't he?" The kids beat the fathers 40-0, and Sibby Sisti said, "Forty runs, for crissakes, and nobody gets knocked down." And McNertney said that he was standing next to Sal Maglie during the game and swore he heard Sal saying, "He's a first-ball hitter""a high-ball hitter""a fastball hitter"and none of the kids was over four feet tall. For some reason that reminded me of my manager in Amarillo, Sheriff Robinson, who used to say about every hitter, "Jam him." And then later on we talked with some old-timers who'd played with Robinson and they said, "He was a pretty good ballplayer. But we used to jam the hell out of him."
The best line of the evening was delivered by Joe Schultz: "What are you drinking there, honey?" he said to Fred Talbot's wife. "Coca-Cola," she said. And Joe Schultz said: "You'll never make it on that, my dear." This broke everybody up, and Bob Locker said, "You better write that down, Bouton." My note-taking is beginning to make the natives restless.
The best line of the evening was delivered by Joe Schultz: "What are you drinking there, honey?" he said to Fred Talbot's wife. "Coca-Cola," she said. And Joe Schultz said: "You'll never make it on that, my dear." This broke everybody up, and Bob Locker said, "You better write that down, Bouton." My note-taking is beginning to make the natives restless. A couple of guys have been needling me about it. Tossing fat on the fire, Steve Hovley my roommate, who knows, asks, "Hey, why are you writing down all those notes?" "Yeah, what's he writing those notes for?" Fred Talbot adds. So Hovley tells him. "When a guy smells the end of his career coming, he usually starts writing little notes to himself. You'll see. It will happen to you too."
Today, with the Orioles gone and the Detroit Tigers coming in, Joe Schultz said, "Well, boys, we got that other outfit out of here with all their bullshit. Fuck it. Let's go get 'em, let's start winning ballgames." We dashed out onto the field cheering. Some of us would run through a cheesecloth curtain for that man.
It is decided in the bullpen that the people who came to see us play the Orioles are the same kind who went to see the lions eat Christians.
That's not the funniest. The funniest is what happened to Ray Oyler. He was warming up Locker and caught a sinker right on the cup. It didn't even hit the ground first. Ding-dong! He went down on all fours and crawled around that way for a while. Then he limped into the dugout and vomited. The boys were hysterical. We were getting beat a ballgame and we were laughing. Joe Schultz laughed so hard he had to take off his glasses, dry his eyes and hide his head in a warm-up jacket.
Talbot said, "Hey, Bouton, no notes during the player-representative meeting." I started jotting down some notes anyway in the hope that someone would confiscate them: "One bunch of carrots, loaf of bread, half-dozen eggs." No one tried. Foiled again. The big topic was the reserve clause. There is some thought that we should try to eliminate it, or at least limit it. Joe Schultz led off the discussion by saying: "Boys, the reserve clause is the one thing you can't fool with. It's the foundation of this game. If you get rid of it we're all out of business. And I'm serious." Contrary to popular belief the reserve clause is not a single paragraph (although its single intent is to bind a player to one club for as long as he lives or until his contract is disposed of). There is a whole set of rules which covers things like options, waivers, severance pay, moving allowance, etc. Many of these rules could be amended without upsetting the structure of the game.
Sitting in the bullpen tonight it seemed as if I'd never given my little bullpen lecture. The guys were coming over to tell me stories and I felt right back in the swing of things. I guess Mike Marshall was right. It doesn't hurt to apologize.
During the ballgame last night, Brunet was watching carefully as Mickey Lolich warmed up. "Hey, you know something?" Brunet announced. "Lolich is fatter than I am." He then proceeded to shout the things that have been used to put him down over the years: "Hey, fatso" and "One man to a pair of pants out there." Fat man's revenge.
Tresh tried to bunt on me. I made the play myself and when I went to put the tag on him, he decided to knock the ball out of my hand. So I decided to tag him in the face. We both went down and I was left with a good deal of satisfaction and a stiffening leg. Baseball is a strenuous game for men my age. However, I was pleased when Tresh had to leave the game because his back was bothering him. No hard feelings, understand. If I'd said to him as he was getting up, "How are Cherie and the kids?" he'd have said, "Fine, and how's Bobbie?"
This was Tommy Harper Night and Joe made him rehearse his speech for us before the game. Tommy got up and said, "'Preciate it. Thanks."
After that, Milkes said, "Steve, how are you doing financially? Is everything all right?" "Yes, I'm all right financially," Steve said. "Why do you ask?" "Well, I just wondered if you had enough money to buy the same kind of clothes the other players wear." "Look, on the road you told me to wear a sports coat and a tie, and I have been. Are you referring to clothes I wear to the ballpark here?" "Yes. As you know, one of the problems we're having in this country is a lack of heroes and the improper image that some of our heroes have. We think our players should be clean-cut and well-dressed. It means a lot for the image of baseball, the image of the Seattle Pilots and the image of the country as a whole for the young kids to be able to look up to well-dressed athletes. Don't you agree?" Steve didn't hesitate. "I consider that nonsense," he said. "The clothing I wear has to do with my preference. I don't see how the Seattle Pilots' image can be threatened in the time it takes to leave my car and enter the clubhouse. Besides, I prefer to have people judge me by what I say and do, not by what I wear." Hovley hitched up his blue jeans and left.
I wouldn't say I was excited, but as soon as I hung up on Schultz I called Gabe Paul to arrange a flight to St. Louis where Houston was playing a two-night double-header. "Jim Bouton here," I said. "Listen, I've been traded to the Houston Astros and I got to go to..." I must have talked for three minutes without pausing. When I finally did, this voice on the other end said, "I think you've got the wrong party. My name is Dave Walker. I'm with Kimberly-Clark. But what you've told me is very interesting. I'll keep it to myself."
And I thought, Jesus, the Houston Astros, a pennant race, my first since 1964. Pinocchio, you're a real boy now.
Another thing Spec Richardson said was, "Now I want to be honest with you." As soon as a general manager says that, check your wallet. It's like Marvin Milkes telling you, "We've always had a nice relationship." The truth is general managers aren't honest with their players, and they have no relationship with them except a business one.
On the bus back to the hotel I was treated to several stanzas of "Proud to Be an Astro." There's a printed songsheet and all rookies get a copy. The song is sung with great gustoto the tune of Tom Lehrer's "It Makes a Fellow Proud to Be a Soldier"in the back of the bus and Harry Walker doesn't seem to notice. Sample verses: Now, the Astros are a team that likes to go out on the town, We like to drink and fight and fuck till curfew comes around. Then it's time to make the trek, We better be back to Buddy's check, It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro. Now, Edwards is our catcher and he's really number one, Dave Bristol said he drinks too much and calls some long home runs, But we think John will be all right, If we keep him in his room at night, It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro. Now, our pitching staff's composed of guys who think they're 'pretty cool', With a case of Scotch, a greenie and an old beat-up whirlpool, We'll make the other hitters laugh, Then calmly break their bats in half, It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro. Now, Harry Walker is the one that manages this crew, He doesn't like it when we drink and fight and smoke and screw, But when we win our game each day, Then what the fuck can Harry say? It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro. Johnny Edwards says that the most popular verse is the last one.
Still, the pressure, I think, is one of the most exciting things about athletics, and it's one of the reasons I have so much fun playing. I remember sitting on the bench before my game in the 1963 Series. I was to pitch against Don Drysdale. Houk was sitting about five feet away from me on the bench and for some reason we were all alone. And I said, "You know something, Ralph? Whether I win today or lose, this sure is a helluva lot of fun, isn't it?" Houk understood. I could tell because he didn't say, "Whaddaya mean lose? We're gonna win," the way a lot of other managers would have. All he said was, "It sure is. I know just what you mean."
Which reminds me of Joe Pepitone's pick-off play. In the 1964 World Series with Lou Brock on first base, I gave the pick-off sign to Pepi and when I took my stretch position and looked over toward first, he was standing there shaking his head, tiny shakes because he didn't want anybody to see. It was the first time I ever saw anybody shake off a pick-off sign. It was in the 1963 Series that he lost a throw from third base in the shirts of the crowd and was the goat of the game. Now he didn't want to handle the ball any more than he had to. Just for the hell of it, I gave him the sign again a few pitches later. I wanted to see if he'd shake me off again. He did.
I was standing in the skin part of the infield before the game and Miller came over and said, "Hey, you're not allowed to stand on the infield dirt." I asked why. "Because Jimmy Wynn was fooling around in the infield and he's an outfielder and he got hit on the finger and couldn't play, so Harry made a rule. Every time something happens, we have a new rule."
Norm Miller said he wanted to room with me and I said sure, but wouldn't I be coming between him and somebody else? "Nah," he said, "I've already filed papers on my former roommate."
The football season is almost upon us, so I got to thinking about some basic differences in the two games for the players. Baseball players play so many games it's impossible to get emotionally high for any one of them. Football players get all gung-ho in the locker room. They chant and shout and jump up and down and take pills and hit each other on the helmet and shoulder pads and spit and kick and swear and they're ready to go out and bust some heads. If a baseball player got that emotional, he'd go out swinging hardand miss. I think baseball is more of a skill sport than any other. Hitting is the single most difficult feat in sports. Second most difficult is preventing hitting.
Norm Miller was doing the broadcast bit in the fourth inning when Joe Morgan came back to the dugout after missing a big curve ball for strike three. "Joe, Joe Morgan, may I have a word with you?" "Sure, Norm, how's it going?" "Fine, Joe, fine. We wanted to ask you about that pitch you missed. What was it?" "Norm, that was a motherfucking curve." "Can you tell our listeners, Joe, what's the difference between a regular curve and a motherfucking curve?" "Well, Norm, your regular curve has a lot of spin on it and you can recognize it real early. It breaks down a little bit, and out. Now, your motherfucker, that's different. It comes in harder, looks like a fastball. Then all of a sudden it rolls off the top of the table and before you know it, it's motherfucking strike three." "Thank you very much, Joe Morgan."
Willie Mays was standing at the batting cage. I stuck my hand out, "I'm Jim Bouton." "Oh sure," he said. "Jim Bouton. I know you." "You've always been one of my heroes," I said. "When I was a kid, my brother and I always used to go up to the Polo Grounds to watch you play." "Now, why'd you have to go and say you came to see me when you were a kid?" Willie Mays said, his voice squeaky with mock anger. "And you know something, Willie?" Tommy Davis said. "He's only thirty-five years old." Mays groaned. "Why couldn't you just come over and say ‘Hi'?" he said. "Now I feel like an old man." Funny, he doesn't look like an old man. Especially when he plays baseball.
Another insight. Between innings of this great ballgame he pitched, Dierker sat on the bench and sang "Rocky Raccoon."
Warming up before the game today Wilson didn't seem to have a thing, and it was obvious his arm hurt. But after visiting the clubhouse he came out throwing BB's. "What the hell got into Don?" I said. "Four greenies," somebody said. "I'll tell you what makes him throw like that," Blefary said. "Guts. Sheer guts."
There was a rumor abroad in the land that the Astros were going to get Richie Allen from the Phillies and some of the Astros were against it. They said he's a bad guy to have on a ballclub. Humph. I wonder what the Astros would give to have him come to bat just 15 times for us this season. It might mean a pennant. If I could get Allen I'd grab him and tell everybody that he marches to a different drummer and that there are rules for him and different rules for everybody else. I mean what's the good of a .220 hitter who obeys the curfew? Richie Allen doesn't obey the rules, hits 35 home runs and knocks in over 100. I'll take him.
We beat San Diego 9-2 tonight and I felt sort of sorry for Mike Corkins, their starting pitcher. It was his first start in the majors and on his very first pitch Joe Morgan hit a triple to right field, and on his second pitch Jesus Alou hit another one to right-center. His third pitch was wild and Alou scored. So on three pitches the kid had given up two runs. And Marty Martinez yelled out to him, "Welcome to the National League, kid."
Universal beaver-shooting note: Norm Miller drilled a small hole in the back of the dugout. We can now beaver-shoot any woman who sits in a certain seat in the first row. Not only that, if you blow through the hole you get some interesting reactions. Miller is being acclaimed as a genius.
After the ballgame, Buddy Hancken, one of the coaches, sidled up to me and said, "Look, we could be using you almost any night. So would you do me a favor, please. Stay out of the swimming pool there at the Astroworld. You're liable to stay in that pool a couple of hours and there's no telling how much it takes out of you." "Sure, I'll stay out," I said, wondering all the time how the hell he knew I was swimming. Then I remembered. There's been a helicopter hovering around the Astroworld. I bet Harry Walker was in it.
Don Wilson was sitting on the other side of Tommy Davis, so Tommy got to saying that it would be great to be young like Wilson, and I said, "Don, did you ever think that someday you'd be sitting on the bench with Tommy Davis? I mean the Tommy Davis, just talking to him as though, well as though he were some regular person? Did you ever think that?" "I thought about it," Wilson said. "I didn't ever think it would be a big deal, though, and I was right." Turned out Wilson was from Los Angeles too, and he'd once tried to get Tommy Davis' autograph. "He was too good to sign it," Wilson said. "Ever since I never looked forward to sitting with him on a bench." "You really resent him, huh?" I said, adding eggbeater to troubled waters. "Well, yeah," Wilson said. "It's been kind of a thing with me. In fact, right now it's no big deal sitting here with him. If he's too good to sign autographs, the hell with him." "You see how smart these young guys are?" Davis said. "Boy, if I ever said that when I was a kid, that would have been something. Imagine me saying that to Roy Campanella. Boy, for young guys these kids really talk a lot." And I said, "That's good, too, isn't it Tom? They should be allowed to say whatever they feel, don't you think?" "Well, that's your idea," Davis said. "I know that's what you think." Generation gap revisited. I loved it.
It's been more than two weeks since I was traded, and I still haven't received my $900 travel allowance from Seattle. I understand that Valdespino and Dooley Womack both got their money here before they left. It's interesting that when I owed the club $6.48 in incidental expenses at one of the hotels, I got two reminders in four days and then it was taken out of my paycheck.
It was a tremendous performance by Dierker, and at the end he never said a word. After pitching like that and getting zero for it, he just sat there in the locker room, listened to the game go down the drain and never once so much as flinched. Which is why Paul Richards, when he was with Houston, said of Dierker: "He's a cold-blooded, fish-eyed son of a bitch." He said it with approval.
Norm Miller has announced to all the people in our room that he will not play baseball on Jewish holidays. "But Norm," I said, "just last week you were telling me that you look down on organized religion and that you don't observe any of the religious holidays. What makes you suddenly religious?" "I play on a Jewish holiday and go 0 for 5 against Niekro and the next day I go 0 for 4 and that's it," Miller said. "I'll never play on Jewish holidays again."
Note about Rico Carty. He doesn't trust banks. He also doesn't trust the clubhouse valuables box. So that big lump you see in his back pocket during baseball games is his wallet.
Another thing [Leon McFadden] resents is the way ballplayers describe other ballplayers. They'll say, "He's that colored first baseman, or the colored catcher." They'll never say, "He's that white first baseman." My own thinking on that is that black is certainly an identifying characteristic, and that no one should be upset to be identified as black. But McFadden is quite right to be annoyed that no one is ever identified as white.
I looked up Niekro before the game tonight and asked if he usually threw so many fastballs. He said he didn't, but that his arm felt too strong when he started pitching and that when his arm is strong he's unable to throw a good knuckleball. So he threw more fastballs to tire his arm out.
Doug Rader, the third baseman, may be a good-looking cat, but I'm afraid he might be too tight for a pennant race like this. Right after he hit a soft pop-up that sent the second baseman back on the grass, he came into the dugout and said to me, "How far did that last one go?" "All the way out behind second base," I said. "It's all in the wrists," he said.
Norm Miller says that it has long been his ambition to sit in a laundry bag. He thinks if he did, and pulled the string tight over his head, it would be very quiet and peaceful.
A group of terrorized pitchers stood around the batting cage watching Willie McCovey belt some tremendous line drives over the right-field fence. Every time a ball bounced into the seats we'd all make little whimpering animal sounds. "Hey, Willie," I said. "Can you do that whenever you want to?" He didn't crack a smile. "Just about," he said, and he hit another one. More animal sounds.
One of the Houston radio announcers, Loel Passe, interviewed me and a few of the guys were on the earie, so I thought I'd entertain them. "Congratulations are certainly in order for the job you did last night," Loel said. And I said, "Loel, I couldn't agree with you more. I was absolutely fabulous out there." Broke the lads up. I learned that from Mickey Mantle. He'd be interviewed by some announcer about a home run he hit, with the wind blowing from left to right and the ball had been curving into the wind and thus was saved from going foul. "That's right," Mickey said. "When I noticed the wind blowing like thatI always check, you knowI put the proper English on the ball, left or right, up or down, depending upon which way the wind is blowing." And the poor guy just said, "Uhuh, uhuh, uhuh." Most interviewers don't listen to the answers; they're too busy thinking of the next question. I've often been tempted, when I notice a guy's eyes all glazed over, when I'm answering a question to say something like, "I believe you know that there were over 20,000 tons of iron ore shipped from Yugoslavia in 1948." And I'm sure he'd say, "Uhuh, uhuh."
Larry Dierker and I much prefer the Beatles to country-western music. As a protest against the amount of country-western we have to listen to, we have composed what we consider a typical song of the genre. It took us about two innings. "I want my baby back again, She done left town with my best friend, And now I lie here all alone, I'm just awaitin' by the phone. Her lips were sweet as summer wine, And when I held her hand in mine, I thought she'd never be untrue, But now she's broke my heart in two. The mailman let me down today, And so I made that mother pay, And now I'm locked in this old jail, And my dog died and there's no bail. My teardrops fall like pouring rain, The bottle doesn't ease my pain, And no one gives a hoot for me, Since Billy Joe took my Marie, And ran away to Tennessee. I wish I had someone to tell, 'Bout how I'm locked up in this cell, And all my kinfolk dead and gone, But with the Lord I'll carry on.
And I said to Tommy Davis, "Do you remember the first time you did something big like that in the big leagues?" He said he did. He said he also remembered when he was a rookie with the Dodgers and made his first trip back to New York to play in front of his home-town fans and friends. "I get a single my first time at bat and I'm going crazy," Tommy said. "The first thing you know, I steal second and I'm out there with a big grin on my face, really having fun. I look up in the stands where my friends are and I shoot them a little bit of a wave and a big smile and I get picked off second base. Boy, did I feel terrible." He said another big thrill was the 1963 World Series. "Drysdale was the pitcher for us, Willie Davis was on second base, the score was nothing to nothing and I hit a hard smash off Bobby Richardson's knee and we won 1-0. I forget who was pitching for them. Somebody named Button or Bontown or something." By this time I'd walked away and was in the shower room. I don't have to listen to that stuff. And I yelled back from the shower, "Hard smash, my left clavicle. It was a goddam ground ball that bounced twenty-five times and took a bad hop off a pebble."
Johnny Edwards drove some of the players to the hospital, and when we got there he pulled his car into a spot marked "Doctors Only." That's baseball player all the way. We get used to special privileges and come to expect them. In the minor leagues a baseball player can tear up a bar or impregnate the mayor's daughter and he'll be asked please not to let it happen again. I'm certain that if they'd towed Edwards' car away he wouldn't have had to pay a fine. He'd have said we were with the Houston Astros and somebody would have said, "Oh, the Houston Astros. Okay. Sorry we had to tow you away. Please try to be more careful next time." I've seen guys get into bar fights and when the cops come the ballplayers are sneaked out the back way. Even if you get stopped for speeding you can usually get away with it if you let the cop know you're a ballplayer. "Jim Bouton of the Astros? Hiya Jim, glad to see you. Suppose you can get me a couple of passes to the ballgame?"
The Houston Astros do not give paychecks to their players. The money is deposited in Judge Roy Hofheinz' bank and the players write personal checks for the money. This does two things. It gives the bank an opportunity to hold onto your money for a while. And it gets you into the habit of banking with the Judge's bank. The Judge never misses a trick.
John Wilson, the sportswriter, was pretty loose on the plane tonight and we got to talking about Don Wilson. "What's the matter with Wilson?" he said. "His arm is bothering him." "No, no, no," Wilson said. "You've seen him pitch. How can your arm be bothering you if you can go five, six innings? It's only after that that he blows up. How can that be his arm?" "He's out there on guts," I said. "It hurts him, hurts like hell, but he's doing the best he can." "No, that's not it," Wilson said. "Then, what is it?" Wilson pointed to his head. "Maybe it's all up here," he said. "Maybe he's a mental case." "Are you kidding?" I said. "After all the games Wilson has been in, suddenly he's a mental case? Here's a guy that has over 200 strikeouts, a guy who pitched a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds, a proven big-league pitcher, and suddenly he's a mental case? Suddenly he's afraid to pitch against the San Diego Padres?" That's the same kind of thinking I ran into on the Yankees. This was in '65. My arm hurt and I tried to throw through it. I thought that if I kept throwing, it might strengthen and the pain would go away. And people would ask, "If your arm hurts, how can you go out there and throw?" Dammit, you can throw. It's just a question of how much it's going to hurt and how effective you're going to be. Granted I shouldn't have been out there. But I didn't realize that until later. I thought I could work it out by pitching. And people began to say after a while that I had a mental problem. Hell, I had a sore arm. It's hard for people to understand how your arm can hurt when it doesn't hurt them to watch you throw.
Persistence is its own reward. I called Marvin Milkes' secretary again. She said the whole thing had been straightened out. Milkes had put a check in the mail for $88. Oh boy. Wonder what caused the change of heart. Could it be that Milkes read Larry Merchant's column in the New York Post the other day, which was the first public revelation of the fact that I'm writing a book about this season? Could it?
We were kidding in the bullpen about how many greenies the Reds must have been taking during this pennant race and just then there was a ball hit into short right that Pete Rose made a great diving run at and caught on a short hop. "Five more milligrams and he'd have had it," Tom Griffin said.
Ballplayers don't exactly admire the sex habits of the human baseball player. They say things like, "If I ever catch my daughter hanging around ballplayers..." or, "I'll tell you one thing. I'm never going to let my daughter go to a ballgame."
There is a pecking order in the major leagues which goes like this: owner, general manager, super star, manager, established player, coaches, traveling secretary, trainer, clubhouse man, marginal player. That's Harry down there under super-star Dierker. In Seattle that was me down there under the clubhouse man.
Sudden thought. Suppose somebody told Johnny Sain to conduct a bed check. He'd tell them to take the phone and stick it up their receivers.
When I landed at Los Angeles after flying in from Michigan, I promptly took the limousine for Anaheim. I got out at the Grand Hotel and couldn't figure out why none of the guys were around the lobby. Suddenly there was this little click in my head. The Houston Astros do not play the Los Angeles Angels. They play the Dodgers. So it was into a taxicab to Chavez Ravine, and I barely got there in time for batting practice. The whole thing cost me $17 and some nasty comments from my teammates about the size of my brainpan.
The New York Post has asked me to cover the World Series for them if the Mets get into it. They said they couldn't pay me for the articles, but might, just might, be able to pay some, only some, of my expenseslike, maybe hotel, but not travel. That's very similar to the arrangement that Tom Sawyer had with his friends on painting the fence. The more they painted, the more it cost them. I guess they figured I'd enjoy it because I'd get to watch some baseball games for free. I said no, thanks.
Piniella, groomed for oblivion in the first weeks of spring training with Seattle, became Rookie of the Year in Kansas City, hitting .282.
Ten Years Later... Ball Five: The Boys of Ball Four
The ballplayers, most of whom hadn't read it, picked up the cue. The San Diego Padres burned the book and left the charred remains for me to find in the visitors clubhouse. While I was on the mound trying to pitch, players on the opposing teams hollered obscenities at me. I can still remember Pete Rose, on the top step of the dugout screaming, "Fuck you, Shakespeare." All that hollering and screaming sure sold books.
The wildest thing is that they wouldn't forgive a cousin who made the mistake of being related to me. Jeff Bouton was a good college pitcher who dreamed of making the big leagues someday. But after Ball Four came out a Detroit Tiger scout told him he'd never make it in the pros unless he changed his name! Jeff refused, and a month after he signed he was released. For the rest of his life, he'll never know if it was his pitching or his name.
The wisdom and foresight of the Seattle Pilot management has been reconfirmed several times. That hot-tempered rookie who was sent to the minors because Joe Schultz didn't like him became "sweet" Lou Piniella. And Mike Marshall, who would "never make it" with his screwball, made it as a Cy Young award winner and one of the game's greatest pitchers.
Hovley says he doesn't understand why he was portrayed in Ball Four as an intellectual and somehow different from other players. He insists he was just one of the boys. After he left baseball, Hovley chose to work as a janitor at his daughter's grade school and then became a plumber, just like any other former major-leaguer who went to Stanford and read Dostoyevsky in the clubhouse.
Norm recalled those hectic days we spent together right after Ball Four came out. "Howard Cosell came banging on the door at seven in the morning screaming, 'Let me in, let me in!' You were on the phone doing one of your hundred interviews," he reminded me. "I was buck naked as Cosell shoved his way in the door, grabbed the phone out of your hand and said into it, 'This interview is terminated!' I couldn't believe this guy." Norm said it was exciting being my secretary for a couple of weeks.
There had to be some explanation for the intensity and longevity of baseball's collective anger toward me. And I think I know now what the answer is; a behavioral scientist explained it to me. In any human group, family, tribe (or baseball team), there are normsshared expectations of behavior. Any member who deviates from these norms calls into question the basic values of the group. And groups don't like to have their basic values questioned. It makes them nervous. A famous rule of major-league baseball is posted on every clubhouse wall: "What you say here, what you do here, let it stay here, when you leave here." I broke that rule, which makes me a deviant, sociologically speaking. Studies have shown that in order for rules to exist, deviant members must be punished by the group. This is usually done according to the following criteria: The more primary a group is felt to be by its members, the more violent the punishment will be. (Many players think of baseball as family.) The less status a deviant member has, the less tolerant the group will be toward him. (If Mickey Mantle had written Ball Four he would have gotten away with it. A relief pitcher on the Seattle Pilots has no business being a deviant.) In addition, the more authoritarian a group's personality is, the less tolerant it will be toward a deviant. (This explains about the Commissioner and the owners.) However, I am happy to report that while the deviant shakes everybody up, he performs valuable functions for the group. For one thing, the deviant relieves tensions by acting as an acceptable outlet for group frustrations (very helpful in baseball where only a few can play at the top, and of those, only half do well at the other half's expense). Second, the deviant helps the group unite in times of uncertainty and change. If group members can't agree on important issues (salaries, contracts, free agency, etc.), at least they can be united against the deviant. Third, uniting against the deviant by asserting common ideals gives group members the reassurance of a solid front and strengthens their sense of worthiness (especially important to men making large sums of money playing a game). Of course, I didn't plan to be baseball's resident deviant but I'm glad to help out. It's the least I can do for a game which has given me so much pleasure. I still serve in that capacity, probably because I'm doing such a good job. Somehow though, I don't think I'll get a plaque from the Commissioner.
Bowie Kuhn still hasn't forgiven me for not apologizing when Ball Four first came out. I remember he called me into his office, which was decorated in Early Authoritypaneled walls with pictures of presidents and a large desk between two American flags. The Commissioner said he was going to do me a big favor. He said he knew that I realized I had made a terrible mistake and all I had to do was simply sign a statement he had prepared. The statement said, in effect, that the book was a bunch of lies and it blamed everything on my editor, Lenny Shecter. When I politely told the Commissioner what he could do with his statement, he turned a color which went very nicely with the wood paneling. He then spent the next three hours extracting a promise that I would never reveal what went on at our meeting. The sanctity of the clubhouse is exceeded only by the sanctity of the Commissioner's office.
John Lennon told me he enjoyed my work, and said I was "the Marjoe of sports."
I was an original member of the "Eyewitness News" team (WABC, channel 7 in New York), the first of the Happy Talk news programs, a concept which swept the country in the 1970s. It was developed by a very bright guy named Al Primo, who was a news director before he left to set up his own television consulting business. The idea was that viewers liked our news team because we liked each other. And we did, mostly.
I also had a lot of respect for our intrepid consumer reporter John Stossel who exposed rip-offs in the marketplace. I particularly remember one of John's rip-off stories that never got on the air. John was doing an exposé on the fast food industry and one Sunday he bought a pizza for $400. The reason it cost $400 was not because of restaurant business practices but because of television labor practices. John needed a pizza for a prop but because of union rules he couldn't get it himself. A set decorator had to get it. Then a prop man had to hold it. Then a stagehand had to give it to him. By the time they figured out the overtime and holiday pay, it came to something like $400. Of course, if John had tried to expose the cost of the television pizza he might have had to finish his story in a suddenly darkened newsroom.
And then there was that sitcom adventure I mentioned earlier, with my co-creators Marvin Kitman and Vic Ziegel. I spent a year-and-a-half working on that project and my sides still hurt from laughing so much. Not at the scripts, of course, but at the whole process of making a prime time network television show.
CBS programming executives told us they would buy our idea only if we wrote the pilot script. We protested that we'd never written a script before, we were just creators. We wanted them to go out and hire professionals who really knew how to write scripts. They told us we could probably write a script as well as most people in television. Unfortunately, they were right.
There has to be a problem which gets stated in the first 30 seconds (so the viewer gets absorbed before he switches the channel). Then the hero (there has to be a hero) solves the problem after a climax which must have a happy ending (because viewers don't like sad endings). "All day long they lose," said a network vice president, "and when they watch television they want to win."
After five weeks of 26-hour bus rides, galloping "tourista," and a 2 and 5 record, I was released by Durango. At that point, any sane man would have quit. Naturally, I packed my spikes and headed for Portland, Oregon, home of the independent Portland Mavericks in the Class A Northwest League. They would give anybody a chance. The Mavericks were the dirty dozen of baseball, a collection of players nobody else wanted, owned by actor Bing Russell. The team motto could have been "Give me your tired, your poor, your wretched pitchers yearning to breathe free." In a league stocked with high-priced bonus babies, Maverick players made only $300 per month and had to double as the ground crew. Revenge being a strong motivator, the Mavs had the best team in the league. The soul of the Mavericks was an old red school bus which was used for transportation. In addition to a seatless interior with mattresses on the floor, it featured a loudspeaker on the roof from which important announcements could be made via a microphone inside the bus. The Mavs had a unique way of attracting crowds to the ballparks. The afternoon before a game, we'd drive through the streets of whatever town we were playing in and insult the citizens over the loudspeaker. "You there, in the blue shirt," one of the players would broadcast while the bus stopped at a light. "Pull in that gut, it looks disgusting." No insult was too outrageous. "Hey, Lady, that sure is an ugly baby you got there." And so on. Needless to say, that night the stands would be filled with hundreds of irate fans rooting passionately for our defeat. And the Mav manners weren't any better at the ballpark. Whenever the opposing pitcher got knocked out of the game (which was often), the Mavericks, resplendent in red uniforms with black trim, would stand in front of the dugout and serenade the departing player. It was always the same tune, a loud chorus of Gene Autry's closing theme, sung with a smirk. "Happy trailllls to youuuu, until we meet againnn. Happy trailllls to youuuu, keep smiling until thennn." One night an umpire came over to our dugout (umpires were always coming over to our dugout) and said we should knock it off because we had too much class for that. To which one of our players responded, "Oh yeah! Who says?" I'm embarrassed to say I enjoyed every tasteless minute of it. It was just the sort of slapstick humor I needed to cover the pain.
Ah, spring training. I needed to run in the sunshine and clear my head. The pitching mound was my isolation booth and the locker room was my sanctuary. And I could use some laughs. These are not hard to find around baseball players. Especially if they're 19 years old and you're 39. In my first exhibition game I was winding up for my first pitch when my shortstop hollered, "C'mon, Mr. Bouton!" I had to call time out to laugh. Actually, the players were very kind to me. They called me Dad. Or Old-Timer.
It was an incredible spring. I was in terrific shape, worked harder than anybody in camp, pitched 13 scoreless inningsand was released! I had suspected things might be difficult back on the first day when farm director Henry Aaron told the press I was there only because the owner invited me. Henry hasn't been a fan of mine since we were on the Dick Cavett show together and he attacked my book and then admitted he hadn't read it.
I had won my first major-league game since July 11, 1970. I couldn't wait for the reviews.
I had won my first major-league game since July 11, 1970. I couldn't wait for the reviews. "Next time I'm going to bring up my little boy to bat against him," said Bill Madlock, who was hitless in two at bats. "It was the most humiliating experience of my life," said Darrell Evans, who had a pop fly double in three at bats. "He was terrible," said Mike Ivie, who was hitless in three at bats. I almost forgot who won the game. Johnny Sain told me later I had revolutionized the sport by inventing a new way to judge baseball ability. Results in a game didn't count anymore. You just ask the opposition what they think.
You may also see me promoting something called Big League Chew. It's shredded bubblegum in a tobacco style pouch, designed for ballplayers and other kids. My partner, Rob Nelson, and I dreamed it up out in the Portland Maverick bullpen while we were sitting around one day drowning bugs in tobacco juice.
Finally, a guy named A. G. Atwater at Amurol Products, a division of Wrigley's, bought the idea and now Big League Chew is the hottest selling bubblegum in the country. I'm a little concerned about promoting a product with sugar in it but I figure I'm morally covered. Our original idea called for brown sugarless wheat-germ gum. It just didn't test well.
Gary said that he ran into Dick Radatz recently at a Red Sox fantasy camp and Radatz wants me to print a retraction about a story I told in I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally (the sequel to Ball Four, published in 1971). This was right after Ball Four came out, and Radatz and I had been comparing bizarre baseball stories. Radatz told me that some guy once paid him $100 to throw oranges at his bare ass. "And this was when I could really bring it," said Radatz. Gary said Radatz now claims it wasn't him, but Mickey McDermott who threw the oranges. I said I believed Radatz the first time because it sounded like something he'd do. "Hell, for 100 bucks, I would too," said Gary. "Wouldn't you? Maybe we could get somebody out for a change."
"I keep getting these calls from writers asking me about the Pilots," said Hovley. "It's all your fault. "They always ask me whether you should have written the book or not. I give them a different answer each time to make it interesting.
I asked Hovley how he feels about having been a member of one of the most forlorn teams in baseball history. "The way I like to think about the Pilots," said Hovley, "it's like the upside-down postage stamp. The most important one is the one they screwed up."
The truth is, however, that not many Pilots liked Ball Four. Sad to say, a lot of them are still pretty angry about it.
I must admit that it pains me to hear that some former teammates are still angry about Ball Four. But I'm not surprised. They see the book as an invasion of their privacy. And maybe they're embarrassed by something they said or did. What those players don't realize is that nobody thinks badly of them, no matter what they said or did, especially after twenty years. But they just don't have that perspective. And it's not because they're ballplayers. Last year the state of Kansas refused to join the rest of the country in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of The Wizard of Oz. The people out there are still pretty upset about the movie, which showed Kansas as a place Dorothy dreams of escaping. As Dick Busby, publisher of The Hutchison News, wrote: "All the nasty things that happen to Dorothy are in Kansas. The moment she gets out of Kansas she's in color." Welcome to Munchkin Land.
Norm said he enjoys being back in baseball again, but he doesn't understand the modern players. "These guys are very religious," said Norm. "They don't cut up like we did. They actually have Bible readings in the clubhouse before games. I don't know how they can relax."
Dierker recalled the Astros' best Dominican utility man, Julio Gotay. It was Gotay who provided the service of carrying a dead fish on plane trips to ward off evil spirits. Don't laugh, the team never crashed. Gotay was also famous for having a cheese sandwich fall out of his back pocket. While he was sliding into second base.
Mantle refuses to discuss Ball Four or even mention my name. When someone asks him about me, his response is pretty funny. He just says, "Jim who?" And if Mantle is the reason I'm not invited to Old-Timers' Day, I'm quite happy to stay home. I wouldn't want to be announced to the fans at Yankee Stadium as the player who caused "The Mick" not to show up. The funny thing is that what I said about Mantle in Ball Four is now part of his legend. Mickey's drinking ability is a running gag around the country. Radio comic Don Imus says that, "When you go to Mickey Mantle's restaurant in New York City at 2 A.M. you can win a free dinner if you guess which table Mickey's under." Even Bowie Kuhn wrote about Mantle's drinking in his own book, Hardball: The Education of a Baseball Commissioner. I mention it here to help his sales, which I figure is only fair. Kuhn said that Mantle and Billy Martin were running around drunk in some hotel trying to round up votes against his reelection. All I've got to say about that is, "Commissioner, how could you? These guys are heroes. You've done the game a grave disservice." But the guy who has the most fun with Mickey's reputation as a boozer is Mickey himself. On the corporate lecture circuit one of Mickey's standing jokes is, "If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."
I'm convinced that Table-To-Go will be a winner because it's already been turned down by all the major paper and plastic cookware manufacturers. Big companies are the last to know if an idea is any good or not. As an executive at International Paper candidly told me, "Jim, this may be a good idea but we're too big to know if it is or not."
It was not the angry Roger of Ball Four that I was pulling for, but the small-town kid from Fargo, North Dakota who had signed out of high school, and never had help dealing with the big city media.
While the quality of play has improved, it doesn't mean the game itself is any better. The designated-hitter rule, for example, is awful. It adds offense to a game that doesn't need it, at the expense of that wonderful moment when a manager had to choose whether to leave a good pitcher in a low-scoring game, or take him out for a pinch hitter. And I don't like the shorter fences and all those home runs, not because I'm a pitcher but because it subordinates strategy. What's the value of a bunt or a stolen base in a 14-12 game? Baseball has become a cheaper game, designed for unknowing fans accustomed to gross action over subtle beauty. It's part of a general dumbing down of society, reflected in shock-jock radio, Jerry-Springer TV, and professional wrestling, which has become the new model for player behavior. Hype and bravado have supplanted truth and humility. Baseball has a cartoonish feel. A batter hits a long drive, pauses at home plate to admire the blast, flips his bat in the air with the flourish of a baton twirler that must be practiced in front of a mirror, and pirouettes around the bases with his arms in the air like he's just discovered a new route to the Far East. And that's on a foul ball! After a home run today, a player has to point somewhere, to his heart, to the sky, to his agent in the third row. Then there's a curtain call in front of the dugout, insisted upon by delirious fans who don't seem to understand that the game is not over yet. In my day, a player would hit the ball, toss his bat aside, jog around the bases, tip his cap, and sit down. A homer was just a homernot a religious experience. World Series celebrations consisted of players slapping each other's backs as they ran off the field. The only perfect game in World Series history rated a mere bear hug between the pitcher and the catcher near home plate. Today's celebrations are staged events in the middle of the field, with the obligatory player pile. Athletes in all sports are now looking to make a statementride a police horse around the field, strip off some clotheswith the highlight reel and the magazine cover in mind. Even umpires are getting into the act with their confrontational demeanor. It's not enough to call a hitter out on strikes today, they have to get in his face and dare him to complain. Or they'll take off their masks and follow a guy back to the dugout, as if hoping for one more word to get him tossed. Years ago the umpires would go out of their way to avoid confrontation. Some of the funniest scenes had umpires constantly turning their backs and walking away, while heated players or managers ran in circles to try and stay in front of them. The aura of spectacle, along with the booing, lends a Roman Coliseum-like feeling to ballparks today. It's no surprise that the next escalation is the players themselves charging into the stands, as happened recently when some Los Angeles Dodgers waded into the field boxes at Wrigley Field. And why? Well, because a fan had grabbed one of their baseball hats. A hat? These guys could buy entire hat companies! At least it's nice to see that they're not any smarter than we were. And what's the deal with all that noise at the stadiums today? As soon as you walk in, you're blasted with music and advertising spots and silly scoreboard games. And this goes on before, during, and after the games; it's relentless. You can't hear yourself think. You can't even talk to the person sitting next to you in a normal tone of voice. The quiet observation, "I think he's going to bunt here," loses something when screamed, "I THINK HE'S GOING TO BUNT HERE!" When I was a kid, walking into the Polo Grounds during batting practice was like walking into a church. A vast, strangely quiet place where you could hear the crack of a bat on a ball from the far reaches of the upper deck, like mumbled Latin echoing off vaulted ceilings. There was nothing else quite like it, and that was part of the magic. I'm sure today's marketing geniuses have decided they're just giving fans what they want, but I think it's a mistake. Blurring the distinction between a real sport and a phony extravaganza can't be good for the sport in the long run.
"But we had more fun," said Gary Bell. My fellow beast of burden was on the phone from his home in San Antonio. "We'd go out after the games, five or six guys. Hell, they don't even have roommates anymore." "You probably could have won twenty games with the Pilots if you didn't have to room with me," I said. "But then I wouldn't have learned about Mars and Pluto and shit," said Gary.
"What do you think of today's players?" I asked. "Good guys and horses' asses," said Gary. "Just like when we played."
"These are the last of the golf outings and fantasy camps," said Gary. "You know the current guys aren't going to do shit. They don't have the camaraderie, and they don't need the money."
"Religion is like baseball," said Steve. "Great game, bad owners."
"Don't people ever ask you about them? Or Ball Four?" "I hate to say it," said Steve. "But I think people have forgotten about it." This was a little hard to accept from one of the main characters in the book, not to mention one of my favorite people. Was Steve living in a bubbleor on some higher plane? Or was I living in a self-involved world of my own making? The possibility was too frightening to consider. "You know, there's a Seattle Pilots Web site," I said. "Fans get together and talk about the Pilots, exchange memories, leave messages." "That's kind of like the American Brotherhood of Bobs," said Steve. "They have conventions every year in Cleveland or Waukegan. They figure if your name is Bob, you need someone else to commiserate with." This will come as harsh news for Pilots junkies. "Have you ever been on the Internet?"
Then there was the occasional home run ball I'd have to autograph after the game. I'd sign it, "To Jason, nice home run*, Jim Bouton." Then underneath that I'd write, "*aluminum bat," to put things in perspective.
The rocket ship had taken off. That's what it's like when you're involved in an event that's bigger than you are. All you can do is hang on for the ride. And it was some ride.
I asked Lou if he remembered the day Joe Schultz told him he'd been traded. "Sure," said Lou, "I'll never forget it. Joe called me into his office and said, 'Lou, you're gonna have to pound Bud somewhere else.'" There should be a statue of Joe Schultz in front of the Anheuser-Busch Inc. headquarters.