Monday, April 30, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Complete Game, excerpt one)

from Ron Darling's The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball and the Art of Pitching:

As a kid, I'd always hated reading those sports biographies where it said this or that athlete put a little extra something into his or her game to get the job done, because they left me thinking that a little extra something was always on the table, there for the taking. It's not. You might think it's there, and you might keep reaching for it and coming back empty. Or maybe you think you can get by without it, so you don't bother. However it happens, however it doesn't, the game doesn't always play out the way you imagine it. Rather, it moves along on its own momentum, and it falls to you to find ways to control that momentum to advantage. So that extra something all athletes reach for can't always make the difference. In fact, it rarely does, and here I'd loaded the bases in the first and put the leadoff man on second base to start the second, and it appeared that momentum was running away from me.

I thought, This is not good.

Friday, April 27, 2012

the last book I ever reread (Ball Four, excerpt thirteen)

from Jim Bouton's Ball Four:

Garry Roggenburk left the club. Gordie Lund, his roommate, said he woke up this morning, saw him packing and said, "Where you going?"

"I'm going home," Roggenburk said.

He marched in on Marvin Milkes, said that he had no interest in the game anymore, didn't enjoy it, was through with it and was going home. The next thing Gordie knew he was driving him to the airport.

I know Roggenburk has his four years in on the pension and has a college degree and planned to go into teaching this fall. The trouble is, when you're a marginal player and you walk out, you can't come back. No one runs after you. You get marked down as a nut and it's all over. I don't know if Garry full appreciated that fact when he left. Sometimes it's better not to act. Sometimes it's better just to sit around and grouse.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

happy 95th birthday to Virgil "Fire" Trucks

the last book I ever reread (Ball Four, excerpt twelve)

from Jim Bouton's Ball Four:

Mike Marshall and I started rooming together when we got to Kansas City, and in the room tonight we got to talking about the special pressures there are on ballplayers. We wondered what it's like for a guy when baseball is his whole life and he has nothing else, no financial security, no job or profession to fall back on, no real interests. We talked about Fred Talbot saying, "I should have gone to college," and decided that, yes, the pressures on him are worse than the pressures on us.

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.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

the last book I ever reread (Ball Four, excerpt eleven)

from Jim Bouton's Ball Four:

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 cover--a sentence anyway--until 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.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

the last book I ever reread (Ball Four, excerpt ten)

from Jim Bouton's Ball Four:

Front running is not limited to coaches. Here's what I mean. I've had about three appearances lately in which I haven't given up any runs. But no one bothered to talk to me. As soon as I win my first game, though, I'm on an interview show back to Seattle and they want to know the whole Jim Bouton story. "Give it to us from the beginning, Jim. Tell us all about it."

Hell, I could write a book.

It's like what happened to Diego Segui. About a week ago Segui won two games. He pitched about two inning and gave up two runs and then about four innings and gave up two more runs. He was pitching lousy, but he was in there when our team was scoring runs, so he got credit for two wins. And so the reporters started coming around. "Gee, Diego, you're starting to win ballgames. Tell us what you're doing different."

He wasn't doing anything different, except maybe pitching worse. All they care about is results. "The world doesn't want to hear about labor pains," Johnny Sain used to say. "It only wants to see the baby."

Monday, April 23, 2012

the last book I ever reread (Ball Four, excerpt nine)

from Jim Bouton's Ball Four:

Last night Gary [Bell] and I stayed up late talking about real estate and what future there might be in it for him as investor or salesman or broker and I suggested that he might get involved by reading some real-estate books. 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.

Friday, April 20, 2012

the last book I ever reread (Ball Four, excerpt eight)

from Jim Bouton's Ball Four:

Death came calling today. Joe Schultz gathered a bunch of guys in his office and told them that because of space requirements they'd have to work out on our other field with the Vancouver squad. "You're not cut," Joe said. "Your stuff is still in your locker and you're still on the team. Don't draw any conclusions from this."

It wasn't really death. It was just the priest coming to your bedside to say a few choice Latin words. Among the casualties were Steve Hovley, Rollie Sheldon, Skip Lockwood and Jim O'Toole. One of the guys who got the call, Lou Piniella, didn't go into Joe's office, but sort of sulked outside. "Come on in, Lou," Joe said. "It's not going to be anything bad." Lou knew better.

Piniella is a case. He hits the hell out of the ball. He hit a three-run homer today and he's got a .400 average, but they're easing him out. He complains a lot about the coaches and ignores them when he feels like it, and to top it off he's sensitive as hell to things like Joe Schultz not saying good morning to him. None of this is supposed to count when you judge a ballplayer's talents. But it does.

Besides, Schultz has his problems. They're named Tommy Davis, Wayne Comer, Jose Vidal and Jim Gosger, and somebody has to go. I'm sure that whoever is sent down will be the best of them.

The fellow I feel rather sorry for is Rollie Sheldon. His record is about the same as mine, except he's got fewer walks, and I'll wager he's wondering why I'm still here and he's getting the message. All I can think is that my knuckleball made me a better bet, a stickout among the mediocrities. Of course, a couple of poor performances by me and Joe Schultz will be telling me I don't have to worry either.

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 that 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."

I should point out that the Lockwood case is a perfect example of what happens to a guy who reports an injury. He was scheduled to pitch in one of the first two exhibitions but came up with a sore arm. Four days later he went to Sal and said he felt fine. This was almost two weeks ago. He still hasn't pitched. When he asked Schultz about it the dandy manager said, "I didn't want to take a chance with your arm."

That's a crock of crap. What it amounts to is having a reason to cut a young guy. If you can cut him for some reason other than his pitching it's just that much easier on your psyche. Decisions, decisions.

It's also why, when you ask Steve Barber, while he's sitting in the diathermy machine, if he's having trouble with his arm, he says, "No, no. I'm just taking this as a precautionary measure."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

the last book I ever reread (Ball Four, excerpt seven)

from Jim Bouton's Ball Four:

With Hovely 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."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

the last book I ever reread (Ball Four, excerpt six)

from Jim Bouton's Ball Four:

Lou Piniella has the red ass. He doesn't think he's been playing enough. He's a good-looking ballplayer, 6-2, handsome, speaks fluent Spanish and unaccented English. He's from Tampa. He says he knows they don't want him and that he's going to quit baseball rather than go back to Triple-A. He says that once you get labeled Triple-A, that's it. I suggested to him that this wasn't the year to quit because the Seattle people were bound to make mistakes in their early decisions and I thought there would be a shuttle system between Vancouver and Seattle and that guys who didn't stay with the club the first month might be called up real quick. But he said he was going to quit anyway and force them to do something. And since he cost $175,000 in the expansion draft he figures they'd rather make a deal for him than lose him altogether. He's probably right. A lot of decisions in baseball are based upon cost rather than ability. Cost is easier to judge.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tell Me When It's Over, Baseball #1: Mike Marshall

just about a week ago I had the pleasure and privilege of talking to 1974 Cy Young Award winner Dr. Mike Marshall for Deadspin.

and this is what we did with it.

the last book I ever reread (Ball Four, excerpt five)

from Jim Bouton's Ball Four:

I'm not sure I'm going to like Don Mincher. I keep hearing that big southern accent of his. It's prejudice, I know, but everytime I hear a southern accent I think: stupid. A picture of George Wallace pops into my mind. It's like Lenny Bruce saying he could never associate a nuclear scientist with a southern accent. I suppose there are people in baseball who are as turned off by my northern accent, and I've often thought that the best way to get through professional baseball is never to let on you have an education.

Well, Mincher was talking about going to see a Johnny Cash show, and I imagine when he talks about Johnny Cash it's like the Negro players talking about James Brown. Lots of times in the clubhouse you'll have a radio on and every once in a while it gets switched back and forth between a soul-music station and a country-western station. If you're going good you get to hear your kind of music. In the Yankee clubhouse western music dominated. In the Horace Clark Memorial Lounge you heard the music from the Virgin Islands and soul music. In the trainer's room, where Mickey Mantle was king, you'd hear the Buck Owenses and Conway Twittys.

Monday, April 16, 2012

the last book I ever reread (Ball Four, excerpt four)

from Jim Bouton's Ball Four:

The most painful thing about it is that you know you're damaging something. It's pain, but it's fear, too. Sometimes the pain is like you get when you bang your funnybone. It hurts like hell. Only when it's your funnybone you know it's a passing thing. When it's your shoulder you think you might be snapping a muscle or ligament and you'll never be able to throw again. Pain and fear are a tough combination.

Friday, April 13, 2012

the last book I ever reread (Ball Four, excerpt three)

from Jim Bouton's Ball Four:

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 years--like butazolidin, which is what they give to horses. And D.M.S.O.--dimethylsulfoxide. 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 that it can blind you. I've also taken shots--novocaine, 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.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

the last book I ever reread (Ball Four, excerpt two)

from Jim Bouton's Ball Four:

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.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

the last book I ever reread (Ball Four, excerpt one)

from Jim Bouton's Ball Four:

One thing you don't do is what Steve Hovley did. He's an outfielder I played with in Seattle last year, twenty-four years old, intellectual type. He told Milkes that he wouldn't report until March 22 because he wanted to finish up some college classes. Milkes told him he'd never make the team if he waited that long and Steve said, well, he'd look at the roster and didn't think he could make it anyway. Besides, he thought he could use another year or two in Triple-A.

That's a big mistake. No matter what the truth of it is, Milkes will now always think that Steve doesn't have enough desire to be a major leaguer. There are times you have to show hustle, even if it's false.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

the last book I ever read (Everything is an Afterthought, excerpt four)

from Kevin Avery's Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson:

Michael Azerrad was editor-in-chief for eMusic, the music download service, when he visited Paul at Evergreen. "I felt an incredible, humbling sense of gratitude. Paul had helped set up a system in which I could make a pretty decent living doing exactly what I wanted to do. What I want to do.

"I now worked at a place where I could find people like Paul work, and I offered him some work writing about his last musical love, which was bluegrass. And he declined. He really needed the money--we were paying really well--and he just said no. I asked him why. I was very frustrated and let down. He said he simply couldn't do it justice."

Charles M. Young: "I know why he didn't want to write about bluegrass. It was the same reason I don't want to write about Mozart. I want something that's pure, that's not associated with any traumatic edit or any fucking thing else. I like the Eagles music, but I can't listen to it without thinking of Don Henley being mad at me for writing about his diarrhea. If I wrote an essay about Mozart for the Arts & Leisure section, for example, and they put me through The New York Times editing process, I wouldn't be able to listen to it again for the rest of my fucking life without thinking about the editing process at The New York Times, which is devastating. You don't have one editor there, you have seven of them. I'm sure Azerrad would have run Paul's article just like he wrote it, but Paul wanted to keep bluegrass pure for himself. He wanted to be able to listen to it without any of the fuckery of rock journalism messing up this music that he loved. It's always dangerous to write about the music that you love, because you're going to get fucked with. Your love will be fucked with. And that's what drove Paul out."

Monday, April 9, 2012

the last book I ever read (Everything is an Afterthought, excerpt three)

from Kevin Avery's Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson:

Leonard Cohen had offered Paul some advice: "When you're dealing with disorder in your own mind, it's agreeable to have at least your surroundings well-ordered." Paul agreed, but he could barely keep a place of his own--and the city he'd once loved had turned "truly terrifying" and "horrible." He was in Manhattan late one wintry night when, on his way home to Long Island City, Queens, he descended into the subway. "I got halfway down the steps and just saw bodies. I was so stunned. I would guess 250 to 300 people sleeping in this one subway station. You could barely get to the tollbooth--you had to step over and around them--and you could barely get down the steps to the train. I felt like this must be what Calcutta was like--and this was just one stop.

"You don't stay sane on the street," Paul said, "you don't. You walk around that city and there are people lying on the sidewalk. You cannot avoid it unless you don't leave your apartment. You're going to be touched by it. It's so pervasive. It's just taken for granted that there are going to be six people lying on the sidewalk when you walk out that night or forty people are going to ask you for money. You just become immune to it and you become inhuman."

Friday, April 6, 2012

the last book I ever read (Everything is an Afterthought, excerpt two)

from Kevin Avery's Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson:

Elliott Murphy: "I remember him telling me that when Jann Wenner used to push albums on him that he didn't like, it was like being forced to eat rotten food or something."

"The first three years I was there," Paul said, "I won, I'd say, about two-thirds of my fights with him. If I could argue with him in a reasonable manner and not get angry, I would usually win. The last two years I didn't win any fights. I mean, just none."

Murphy: "The story Paul told me was that Jann called him into his office to say he was going to start the star system with the reviews. Paul said, 'Excuse me,' and walked out of the room and never came back." Paul wondered what they would do--give five stars to Gatsby and three to The Sun Also Rises? And what about On the Road? Four and a half?

"That was the death of rock criticism right there," Dave Marsh says, "and that may have something to do with why Paul stopped writing record reviews. I don't think it explains why he didn't finish the Clint Eastwood piece, though."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

the last book I ever read (Everything is an Afterthought, excerpt one)

from Kevin Avery's Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson:

When it came to movies, Paul's taste often was at odds with the critical darlings. "He liked the dark horses," Jonathan Lethem says, "the ones that everyone had rejected, like Heaven's Gate" (he liked the soundtrack to Michael Cimino's film so much, and was so sure the record would be discontinued, that he bought three copies). Conversely, he hated Cimino's The Deer Hunter but loved the largely dismissed Clint Eastwood-Jeff Bridges buddy-heist hybrid Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. He thought Woody Allen was "The joke of the age," "The most overrated director in the history of cinema," and wanted to know "If he's this reclusive genius, what's he doing at Elaine's every night?" He wasn't a fan of Kubrick's films, but he loved The Way We Were and went to see it six times. He adored Kim Novak and never felt she got the respect she deserved.