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Tag: jim bouton

The Banter Gold Standard: Jim Bouton, Reliever

Is it time for pitchers and catchers yet? Almost. In the meantime, dig this:

“Jim Bouton, Reliever”

By Jack Mann

Washington Daily News, 1969

Jim Bouton pitched an inning of relief for the Seattle Pilots Friday night, and two innings Saturday afternoon. That’s the way it is these days for Jim Bouton, 30, who started 37 games for the Yankees in 1964.

They were three pretty good innings for a guy who throws only one pitch. Bouton got almost everybody out and he got Frank Howard, on a one-two pitch, to pop up.

The trouble with Howard is that some of his pop-ups land in places where nobody can catch them. This one landed in the bullpen when it came off the wall That wasn’t bad.

What was bad was that Bouton’s hat never fell off. It hasn’t fallen off for a long time. It probably never will again.

The hat fell off when he labored in the vineyards of Auburn and Kearney and Greensboro and Amarillo. He is not a very big man, so he had to throw very hard to throw very fast. He knew he had to make it as a fastball pitcher or not at all.

Bouton came right over the top with the ball and the maximum effort made the fingertips of his right hand touch the ground as he followed thru. He needed all of it, all the time.

And the hat fell off. lt was still falling off when he won 21 games for the Yankees in 1963, and won half enough games to win the World Series in 1964.

Then he lost the fastball. Nobody believed he had lost it in 1965, when he went 4-15. He was lousy, but so, suddenly, were the Yankees.

By opening day, 1966, at Minneapolis, the truth was evident. He threw three consecutive change ups to Jim Kaat, a pitcher, and the third one beat him.

“I couldn’t throw the curve,” Bouton said yesterday. What he meant was that he could throw it, but unaccompanied by that fastball that hummed and darted, it didn’t fool anybody. He was Jim Bouton, fastball pitcher, and he had lost his fastball.

Two years ago the Yankees tentatively gave up on him and for the rest of the year, Bouton got knocked around in Syracuse. Last year they gave up on him unqualifiedly and shipped him to Seattle, which was still minor league.

Bouton didn’t give up. “I thought about quitting,” he said. “We talked about it a lot, but my wife is great. She just said, ‘Whatever you want to do.’”

Bouton wanted to pitch. He began throwing knuckle halls. “What could I lose? I was 0-7 in a minor league. I had thrown a knuckler as a kid, and I found out I could still throw it. After a while, I was getting it over.”

After a while he was 4-7. Maybe, he feels, he can still make it for a few years as a knuckleballer. And if he can’t, he feels, it’s no great tragedy. “I guess I’d sell real estate, or something,” he said. “I know I won’t work in an office. I’ll have to combine something to make a living, with something I really want to do.”

There are other things to think about. There is Kyong Jo Cho.

“Oh, sure,” Bouton said, “we could have had more children. But with the population situation what it is, I don’t think anybody has the right to have as many children as they can, where there are already so many children in the world that nobody is taking care of.”

Michael Bouton will soon be six and Laurie is almost four. For the past year, suburban New Jersey has been getting used to the fact that they have a middle brother named Kyong. “His mother was Korean,” Bouton explained. “His father was an American soldier. It’s not an advantage to have white blood in Korea.”

The Koreans, after several centuries of being whipping boys for the Japanese—being given in Japan the menial equivalent of Negroes in the American South—have finally found somebody of their own to be prejudiced against.

“We didn’t specify a Korean kid,” Bouton said. “We just told them we wanted a boy, and the age, and one with an aggressive personality.

“We did say we didn’t want a child with a Negro background. You know I don’t have anything against Negroes, but my wife and I had doubts about what kind of America it’s going to be 10 years from now.”

He had doubts about what kind of America it is right now. When Bouton came to the Yankees in 1962, he was brainwashed like all young Yankees about what not to say to newspapermen. He decided to make up his own mind and found that he even liked some of them. He horrified the senior Yankees by socializing with reporters.

He learned from the experience of a reporter his own age that adopting a Negro orphan could lead to unforeseen heartbreak and be a failure.

Kyong Jo Cho was on the way, so Jim Bouton went to Berlitz. “I learned how to ask him if he wanted a cab to his hotel,” Bouton said, “but I didn’t learn how to ask him, ‘Where does it hurt?’ So I took a cram course, and now a lot of kids in the neighborhood know how to say, ‘Where did he go?’ in Korean.”

It was, in a sense, a waste of time. Kyong has steadfastly refused to speak a word of Korean. He came to Bouton a few weeks ago and complained that all the kids were calling him Kyong.

“He said he wanted an American name,” Bouton said. “I asked what he thought about David. My wife and I had thought about that and we were hoping he would ask. He said that would be fine.”

David Bouton is a lucky kid.

Friday Night Flix

Some You Tube fun on a cold winter night:

My favorite Scorsese flix (his ma makes the sauce):

Love this movie:

Bouton as Terry Lennox…

Mr. Barbar.

Woman Walks Into a Bar…

Three cheers to Jim Bouton, whose classic book, Ball Four, turns 40 (Jay Jaffe had a great post to mark the event over at the Pinstriped Bible last week).

Last weekend, Bouton was honored by the  Baseball Reliquary in California. According to Tom Hoffarth:

When asked how the title “Ball Four” came into being, Bouton explained Saturday how he and editor Leonard Shecter were at the Lion’s Head Tavern in New York, the famous literary bar near Columbia University, having just turned in the finished product into the publisher:

“We went to have a drink to celebrate this piece of cardboard we had just turned in, and we’re thinking, ‘Now what are we going to call the damn thing?’

“We were talking about the need to have a downbeat title. This isn’t a story about how somebody just won the World Series. It’s about struggling, about difficulty. What’s the toughest thing for a pitcher — a knuckleball pitcher in particular — it’s to get the damn ball over the plate. It’s walking guys ….

“So we’re talking about all this, and there was a lady sitting at the bar. She was very drunk. And she was listening to our conversation. And at some point, she leans over and says, ‘Whyyyyy don’t you caaaaall it Baaaaallllll Foooouuuuurrrrrrr?’

“And we said, ‘nawwwww.’

“Finally we couldn’t come up with anything. And I was walking Shecter back to his hotel before I went home to New Jersey, and then Shecter says, ‘You know, Ball Four isn’t a bad title.’ So we owe it all to this woman at the bar.”

A Sense of Who You Are

Bob Klapisch has covered baseball in New York since the heyday of the Mets in the 1980s. He is a columnist for The Bergan Record and a contributor to ESPN. Now in his forties, he continues to play semi-pro baseball. Yesterday, he contributed a terrific post about playing ball to The Baseball Analysts. Klapisch’s article has some keen insights into the pysche of ballplayers, and it is nice to see him write something longer, and more personal. But Klap isn’t just a guy who loves to play the game, at heart he’s a pitcher, and they are a breed apart:

From Little League all the way to Cooperstown, there’s a fraternity convened by the adrenaline rush of throwing a baseball. Bret Saberhagen once told me, “Nothing matches making a hitter swing and miss. It’s the greatest feeling in the world. Guys who retire, they spend the rest of their lives looking for it, but once you stop pitching you never get it back.”

…So why do I keep pitching? Probably for the purest reason of all – it’s what I do, at least when I’m not writing or helping feed the kids. To stop now would mean tearing away layers of psychological flesh. I guess I’m afraid of what’s underneath. Middle age, maybe.

I sent the article to Pat Jordan, the veteran journalist and former pitching prospect for the Braves. He replied:

The allure of pitching is about being in control and playing God. Nothing happens without you. You control the game, good or bad. also the feeling of ball off fingertips and your ability to make it spin and do things is exhilarating. I love to throw a baseball. The feeling of artistry and power in making a ball approach the plate with the speed or curve that I dictate is unrivaled in anything else I’ve ever done, including writing. I was born to be a pitcher, but taught myself to be a writer. I was an artist on the mound, but, alas, am merely a craftsman, like a brick layer, in front of a typewriter.

Which brings me to another thought. Why do the best jock-turned-writers all seem to be pitchers? Jordan, Jim Brosnan, Jim Bouton. Glenn Stout pitched in an over-30 league for years. What gives? Michael Lewis was a pitcher when he was in high school, Rich Lederer was a pitcher back in his playing days, and Will Carroll was too. Bouton thinks that it “may be that pitchers spend a lot of time sitting around.” What do you think?

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver