Archive for April 6th, 2013

Glory days

April 6, 2013

The baseball conference was great fun, as always. Older Daughter was free to join me this time, and she brought along the faded Yankees cap signed a few years ago by the late Tom Tresh, whose teammate Jim Bouton regaled us at lunch with stories of the glory days.

TreshBoutonDual

Stories like the one about a badly hung-over Mickey Mantle stumbling to the plate to blast a tremendous pinch-hit homer, to the awed delight of a stadium crowd just misinformed he was out of the lineup that day with a euphemistic “strained rib muscle.” Seattle expansion manager Joe Schultz mauling “Dostoevsky” and verbally abusing the shaved-headed ballplayer (“Tennis-ball head”) reading The Possessed in the clubhouse. Alabamian Fred Talbot and another teammate from Virginia arguing about which part of the south was dumber.

Bouton added his signature to our cap. Nice keepsake, nice stories. But how sad, for a guy with such ability and intelligence to have come along just a few years too soon. He was a 20-game winner and a World Series hero, and yet his highest salary in the big leagues, he told us, had been just $19.5K. Players of his era, pre-Curt Flood, were chattel. The owners treated them despicably. They’re still hustling for a living, these old athletes, even the few like Bouton who’ve penned bestsellers.

We’re probably going to run out of celebrity guests willing to travel to Murfreesboro TN for our baseball conference because they need the honorarium, one of these years. On the other hand, we’ll probably never run out of old guys eager to reminisce about the bad good old days… on either side of the lectern.