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."

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