Notes from the Shadows of Cooperstown: May 28, 2008
BASEBALL HISTORY AS SEEN FROM THE SHADOWS OF COOPERSTOWN
William Mead called this decade The Explosive Sixties in the book he edited for Redefinition in 1989. And I suppose it was. I entered the decade a teenager, and by its end I was long gone from Pittsburgh, with my college days behind me.
Baseball started to expand in the Sixties, and that brought not just new teams, but new stuff to baseball: Houston's Astrodome featured plastic grass called Astroturf, and although it was not organic, it spread like weeds. The new parks in Pittsburgh and St Louis and Philadelphia and Cincinnati went plastic, and they also looked a lot alike.
The saying goes, that if you remember the Sixties, you probably weren't there (or something like that). America went through great changes, there were movements galore, with their own marches and protests and slogans. Causes fought for time on the evening news: Civil rights, women's lib, gay rights, animal rights, the environmentalists, and on and on, and perhaps none of the movements divided the country more painfully than those which supported the war in Vietnam, or which tried to end it. It was a time of gaps -- between generations, between left and right (that is, if you believed in politics at all), between minorities and majorities. Sometimes you wondered what was holding the country together, or if it would, if it could survive The Sixties.
Baseball was, I Think, what the author of the pop classic paperback Future Shock (Alvin Toffler) called a Zone of Stability. It changed, but everything else seemed to be changing faster, and more out of control. Baseball experimented not just with plastic grass, and domes, but with new-fangled uniforms and all sorts of new colors. The players -- some of them -- fooled around with mustaches and sideburns, and some black players sported huge Afros that they struggled to stuff inside their hats and helmets. Jewelry appeared -- actually, I have no idea when the first earrings and necklaces showed up, but it seems like it was during the Sixties. I think the first hair-blowers arrived in locker rooms a bit later.
Baseball on the diamond was still Good Old Baseball. The long summers played on, despite the war, the marches, the protests. Players took stands, but if they couldn't do their job, they were back in the minors or cut loose. Baseball stood its ground, and the sports page was a welcome refuge from the rest of the newspaper. It was a wild decade, it seemed like everything that survived, changed, even if it didn't want to. Even baseball.
There is no reason to call this season the Year of the Asterisk. Roger Maris went out and hit 61 home runs. No one expected that -- if anyone was expected to hit 61 someday, it was Mickey Mantle. He had 53 by September 10, but was hurting physically, and hit just one more down the stretch. Maris hit ten in those last weeks, breaking Ruth's 1927 record of 60. The duel between Maris & Mantle -- the M & M Boys -- dominated the sports pages so that even a NL fan like myself had to notice.
Meanwhile, the Pirates lost their ace Vern Law to injury and slid to 6th place. Cincinnati got some pitching (O'Toole, Jay and Purkey) to go with a great offense, and won the NL pennant by 4 over the Dodgers. Vada Pinson hit .343 in his 3rd full season, and why he is not in Cooperstown? Over in the AL, the Yankees won 109 to finish 8 ahead of Detroit (whose Norm Cash batted .361, with 41 HRs), and 47.5 ahead of Kansas City. KC had traded Roger Maris to the Yanks. KC hit 90 HRs in 1961, and none of their outfielders were in double digits. See The Kansas City A's and the Wrong Half of the Yankees by Jeff Katz.
Come October, it felt like the Yankees were out to avenge the previous year's loss to the Pirates, a loss that some think cost Casey Stengel his job as manager. Joey Jay -- the first to make the majors after playing Little League -- won Game Two, 6-2, but the rest of the Series was all Yankees: 2-0, 3-2, 7-0, 13-5. This team smashed 240 HRs in the regular season, which was 162 games, but still.
What made Maris' 61 controversial was, of course, those extra eight games, tacked on because the AL added two new teams. The Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins, and a new franchise started up in D.C. Another new team was planted in L.A., the Angels, and they won 70 games.
Now it was the NL's turn to expand to ten teams and 162 games. I already mention Houston and the Astrodome. The other team was the Mets, a team that became a darling of the media. They won just 40 games. Not the worst team ever: the Cleveland Spiders went 20-134 in 1899, the Boston Braves 38-115 in 1935. But close enough. The Spiders finished twelfth, the Mets tenth. Casey Stengel, who spoke baseball like no one else, helped endear this team as "loveable losers" to the NY media, and Mets fans made the best out of a terrible situation. Hey, at least there was a NL team back in the Apple.
My Pirates rose to 4th, but finished ten back of San Francisco -- and Los Angeles. The two coast teams played 165 games that summer, the Giants winning the best-of-three playoff. SF had its own M & M Boys, Mays and McCovey. I think everyone was jealous of the Giants farm system. It produced Orlando Cepeda and Felipe Alou and Willie Kirkland in 1958, Matty Alou in '61, and there were more Alous on their way. Willie McCovey arrived with a bang in '59, batting .354 and 27 extra base hits in less than 200 AB. And if all that offense wasn't scary enough -- and remember, Willie Mays was still potent, 49 HRs in '62 -- the Giants also came up with Juan Marichal.
To get into the Series, the Giants had to get past the Dodgers. Sandy Koufax was not quite the superstar he would bloom into, for the rest of his shortened career. He got KO'd in Game One, which the Giants took, 8-0. Don Drysdale was in peak form, 25 wins, and he started Game Two. Down 5-0, the Dodgers rallied for 7 in the sixth, and won 8-7 with speedster Maury Wills coming home in the bottom of the 9th on a sac fly. The Game Three start went to Juan Marichal and Johnny Podres, but the outcome hinged on relievers. Up 4-2, the Dodgers Ed Roebuck put out a fire in the Giant 6th (bases loaded, none out), but ignited one himself in the top of the ninth, as the Giants strung together a couple hits, four walks, an error, and a little of everything else to score four runs and win, 6-4.
The Yankees took the AL flag by five over Minnesota (!), but the big surprise was the expansion Angels' third-place finish. New teams were not supposed to win 86 games. After that exciting playoff, the Giants took the Yankees to seven games in the Series, and the image that lingers has Game Seven on the line, the Yanks up 1-0 with Ralph Terry on the mound. Terry had given up Mazeroski's HR two years and three days earlier, and now he faced Willie McCovey with two out and two on in the bottom of the ninth. McCovey lined the ball hard but right at 2B Bobby Richardson. Charles Schultz' cartoon said it all. For three panels, Charlie Brown sits silently on the curb. In the last panel, he shouts to the heavens: "Why couldn't McCovey's hit have been two feet higher?" Damn Yankees, one more time.
Up top, I described the Sixties as a tumultuous decade. But it didn't start that way. John Kennedy was elected president in 1960, succeeding Ike, the hero of WW II. Kennedy's years were not really Camelot, but you could pretend. Kennedy had Americans out walking and hiking, and joining the new Peace Corps. He was also getting us stuck in Vietnam, but nobody much noticed that till later. The Sixties began unraveling when Kennedy was assassinated in '63, and I think hit its low point five years later when Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were both killed by bullets, and Richard Nixon entered the White House. All of that was in the future, when the 1963 season was played.
The Yankees won again, ho-hum, three straight for Ralph Houk, with Al Lopez' Sox finishing ten back. 1B Joe Pepitone hit 27 HRs, Tom Tresh 25, with Mantle's legs giving out. Whitey Ford (24-7) was assisted by Jim Bouton (21-7). The Dodgers still had Drysdale and Podres and now Koufax (25-5, 1.88) was in high gear. They won with speed, pitching and defense, with giant Frank Howard the only real slugger. They finished six ahead of the St Louis Cardinals, who were, it turned out, just one trade away from becoming a mini-dynasty.
The Dodgers' sweep of the mighty Yankees was stunning. The Yankees hardly ever lost in October, and they never went quietly. But Koufax won 5-2 and 2-1, Drysdale tossed a 1-0 shutout, and the old hero of '55, Johnny Podres turned in a 4-1 win. The Los Angeles staff had a sparkling ERA of 1.00. The NL had now thrown four different teams up against the Yankees in four Octobers, and on deck was yet another different league champion.
I graduated from high school in '64, and left Pittsburgh, never to live there again. Yet I remain a Pittsburgher, it's where I'm from. When I visit, it's still like going home.
The book I recommend for this season is David Halberstam's October 1964, which I reviewed long ago, and I'll add that review below.
In '64, the Yankees won again, but by a whisker. Al Lopez' Sox finished one back, Hank Bauer's Orioles two behind Yogi Berra's pinstripers. That sweep by the Dodgers caused Ralph Houk to be "kicked upstairs" (he remained a Yankee VP for a while).
Over in the NL, it looked like the latest team to take a swing at the Yanks in October would be the Phillies. But they ran out of pitching and blew a big lead down the stretch, enabling the St Louis Cardinals to pass them on the final day, and the Cincinnati Reds to tie for second. The Giants were just three back.
That set up a Cards-Yanks Series. The Cards put together a tough team, adding Lou Brock to their OF in a trade for Ernie Broglio. Brock had not done much with the Cubs, but hit .348 for the Cards after the trade, and then terrorized the basepaths for the next decade. Broglio had been a St Louis ace, but never showed that form as a Cub. One of those trades.
The Cards took the Series in seven, with Bob Gibson winning two, including Game Seven, 7-5. Gibson was pitching on two days rest, following a 10-inning CG win in Game Five. See Halberstam's book, it's a great story.
How that Cardinal team sank to seventh place the next year is a puzzlement; I guess the pitching just wasn't there, except for Gibson. The Dodgers rose from 6th to take the '65 NL pennant, two ahead of the Giants. As I look at the rosters of the NL teams in the Sixties, it is easy to believe that they all seemed to have a shot. The league was loaded with talent.
The Yankees hired the manager who beat them last October, Johnny Keane, and then dropped to sixth, 8 under .500. The next year, the Yanks would finish tenth. These were, unfortunately, my college days, and I was not following baseball as closely anymore. Too bad; that's the way the dynasty crumbles.
It was another seven-gamer, with the Dodgers taking the thing, Sandy Koufax on the hill at the end, finishing a 2-0, 3-hit, 10-K shutout. Sandy had lost Game Two, but came back to win Game Five, 7-0, fanning ten. I remember watching this Series out of the corners of my eyes -- I liked Mudcat Grant and Jim Kaat, while I only admired Drysdale and Koufax.
My Pirates ended up in the '66 pennant race, along with the Dodgers and Giants, and once again NL fans were treated to a chase right down to the wire. My best memory of this race was using a crystal set to get late scores, that September. When the Dodgers won at the end, by two over SF and three over Pittsburgh, I felt bad that I couldn't have rooted harder myself.
The Baltimore Orioles romped home by nine over the Twins. They had traded Milt Pappas, a solid starter, to Cincinnati for Frank Robinson. F-Robbie (not to be confused with Brooks Robinson) promptly turned in a Triple Crown season (.316-49-122), and made the O's a team with which to be reckoned for a long time.
Now this World Series, I remember pretty clearly. In Game One, Moe Drabowski (another former NLer) tossed 6.2 innings in long relief, fanning 11, in a 5-2 Oriole win. Then Jim Palmer followed with a shutout, 6-0; Wally Bunker did, too, 1-0, and Dave McNally made it three straight, 1-0 again. Robinson's HR off Drysdale sealed the last game. Paul Blair HR'd in Game Three.
My memory has me rooting against the Dodgers in both '65 and '66, which surprises me. I was, after all, a NL fan. Maybe it was just because the Yankees weren't playing. Again, I admired these Dodger teams, but I just couldn't root for them.
I remember the 1967 Series pretty well, too, and I think this October is responsible for my lasting conviction that if I ever get to manage a team in Heaven, and I get into a Series and there is a Game Seven to win, I want Bob Gibson on the mound.
The Cards jumped from sixth place to the pennant in '67, breezing home by 10.5 over the Giants. They now had Orlando Cepeda and Roger Maris in their lineup. Dick Williams brought the Boston Red Sox home in the AL, with Detroit and Minnesota just one game behind. The Sox had Yaz, Boomer Scott, Rico Petrocelli, and 22-year-old Tony Conigiaro, a slugger who suffered a broken cheekbone HBP in August, and missed the Series. The Yankees finished ninth, ahead of KC.
Bob Gibson had won just 13 (in 24 games) during the season, but he tossed three CG victories in October, winning by 2-1, 6-0, and 7-2 in Gave Seven. He gave up three earned runs in his 27 innings, and fanned 26. When a Gibson or a Koufax or (later) a Nolan Ryan was pitching, there was always a sub-plot to the games, how many K's? In that Game Seven, the Sox started Jim Lonborg, who had shutout the Cards 5-0 in Game Two, and held them to three hits and one run in Game Five. It shaped up as a great duel, but the Cards got to Lonborg, and Gibson hit a HR for good measure.
This was the kind of post-season fans relished: two very good and well-armed teams, going at each other for seven days i October, no days off, the Series ending on October 7.
If you were there in '68, you remember it as The Year of the Pitcher. The mound was raised, just enough to give hurlers an edge. So that summer, NL fans followed Bob Gibson as he tossed shutout after shutout, 13 in all, and turned in a sparkling 1.12 ERA, winning 22 and leading St Louis to a repeat pennant, by 9 over the Giants. Juan Marichal won 26. What is amazin' as I look at the stats for '68, is how the Mets, with Seaver (16-12, 2.20), Koosman (19-12, 2.08), and a team ERA of 2.72, finished ninth. Well, they hit just .228, that's how. The league ERA was 2.99, down 39 points from '67.
In the AL, all eyes were on Detroit's Denny McLain, who ended up with 31 wins and a 1.96 ERA. The AL league ERA was 2.98, down 25 points, and if it wasn't for Carl Yastrzemski's .301, the league would not have had anyone close to .300 -- it was that tough for batters. The Tigers romped home by 12 over the Orioles.
The country staggered through the summer of 1968, with the war in Vietnam never out of mind, the assassinations of RFK and MLK unsettling things even more, and finally the eruption of violent rioting across the country in most of the largest cities. When I think of the Sixties, the Summer of 1968 comes to my mind first. Everything was happening. Even some baseball.
Even today, when I think back to the World Series of '68, I find it hard to believe that the Tigers won. In Game One, it was Gibson vs McLain, as sweet a duel as Three Finger Brown against Matty, or Chief Bender against Walter Johnson. Gibson whiffed 17 Tigers and won, 4-0. But the Tigers came back the next day, 8-1, behind "Fat Mickey" Lolich, a burly southpaw whose 17-9 season was eclipsed by McLain's 31.
The Cards took the first two in Detroit, 7-3 and then 10-1 as Gibson fanned 10 and won his seventh straight Series game. But Lolich came back to win Game Five, 5-3, and the Tigers roared home 13-1 in Game Six -- setting up a wonderful Game Seven. McLain had departed early in the 10-1 Game Four loss, then tossed the CG win in Game Six. So Mickey Lolich took the hill to face off with Gibson in the finale. Which went to the Tigers, 4-1.
Both pitchers were tossing shutouts into the 7th, when with two outs, the Tigers pushed across three runs on four hits -- one of them a misplayed fly that went for a triple; but CF Curt Flood would go down in baseball history for something else. The inning before, Lolich picked off Lou Brock and Flood. Lolich would yield just five hits in his nine, Gibson eight; Gibby's 8 K gave him 35 for October. But no joy in St Louis, Fat Mickey's three wins put the Tigers on top. Another seven-day non-stop joy ride for fans.
More expansion: San Diego and Montreal in the NL, Kansas City and Seattle in the AL. And something new: now both leagues were split into divisions, six teams in each. This meant playoffs, another round of games in the post-season. Maybe the best thing about these changes was some fans would be spared the embarrassment of having their team finish twelfth -- tenth was bad enough. Maybe the worst thing was that a terrific team could have a terrific season, win their division in a runaway race, but get knocked off in a best-of-five and not make it to the World Series. The latter became my biggest problem with the new setup, as my team won its division with some regularity in the 1970s, but only got into the Series twice. Eventually, when the East and West playoffs were best-of-seven, I learned to like the extra post-season games. I still hate best-of-fives.
There were still problems in America in 1969, Vietnam, race, all the liberation movements, long hair, of all things, still made for tense times. But then there was Woodstock, and we put a man on the moon, and to cap it all, the Mets won a pennant. The book on 1969 is Ball Four, by Jim Bouton, and I'll add below my review.
For a while, it looked like '69 would be the Year of the Cubs. Leo Durocher had them on a collision course with October, behind Banks and Billy Williams and Ron Santo, who smacked 29 that summer and drove home 123. But the Cubs faded, and the Amazin' Mets of Gil Hodges charged past them to take the flag -- well, half a flag -- by 8. Tom Seaver won 25, Koosman 17, and while the lineup had few stars and no future Hall of Famers, the '69 Mets nevertheless are one of baseball's most storied teams.
They would take on Atlanta, in the first "Division Series" (a phrase, like LCS, that I've never liked, I use "playoff"), and defeated them handily in three straight. We think pitching determines a short series, but the scores were 9-5, 11-6, and 7-4. Three and out, as they say.
Over in the AL, Earl Weaver's Orioles won 109 to finish well ahead of Detroit in the East, while Billy Martin's Twins took the west by 9 over Oakland. The Oakland A's were the old KC Athletics, moved west by Charlie O. Finley. KC got an expansion team. The Orioles dispatched the Twins in three, 4-3, 1-0 (Dave McNally a 3-hit, 11-inning shutout CG), and 11-2. With both of the playoffs ending 3-0, I think fans felt better about them, since no team had ever won four straight in October up to that time. Baltimore was starting a three-year run in the Series; the Mets, after finishing ninth or tenth so often in the Sixties, were no dynasty, but they were on a roll.
Upstate New York, the past thirty-some years, has swung back and forth between the Mets and Yankees, with some die-hard Red Sox fans in the mix. So I've been over-exposed to all the highlights of the '69 Series, won by the Mets in five games. It was certainly memorable, but not as dramatic as it has grown to be since. Mike Cuellar out-dueled Seaver in the opener, then the Mets' magic took over: Koosman over McNally, 2-1; Gary Gentry a shutout over Palmer, 5-0; Seaver 2-1 over Cuellar in the rematch; then Koosman, the CG in the 5-3 finale. Circus catches by Agee and Swoboda, ex-Buc Donn Clendenon's three homers, another nicked shoe providing a turning point, Nolan Ryan picking up a save -- New York is still celebrating, cheering not for the Yankees.
Maybe the decade seemed long because it was my first full decade as a fan. In any case, as a Pittsburgh fan I mourned the loss of Forbes Field, but accepted the new park, Three Rivers, and who couldn't like a park that was home to a winning team? The Pirates finished five ahead of the Cubs. In the playoffs, they would face the Cincinnati Reds, and these two teams -- the Lumber Company (lite on pitching) and The Big Red Machine -- were just a treat to watch for the next decade. In 1970, the Reds won 102 and ran away with the NL West. Why they were west while St Louis was east was a mystery -- but in the 70s, it worked out fine.
Baltimore won again in the AL East (15 up on the Yanks), and the Twins won again in the West, and '70 resembled '69 another way, both playoffs again were three and out.
1970 is when I really started hating best-of-five, altho this peaked in '72. The three games the Pirates lost seemed to be terrible mistakes. Three times, Pirates pitching held the Reds to three runs a game -- but the Reds' pitchers did better, holding the Bucs to three runs for the mini-series. Game One went ten innings, 3-0; Game Two, 3-1; Game Three, 3-2. Oh well, wait'll next year.
In the Series, the Big Red Machine was stopped by the O's in five. I don't remember much about this Series -- I must have been in mourning, or denial. Palmer, Cuellar, McNally -- too much. The O's took the first three, then the Reds avoided a sweep with a come-from-behind, 6-5 road win. But it was the Orioles time.
So went the Sixties. It seemed nothing like the Fifties, and neither did the country, but we all muddled through. I had moved to Cleveland in '68, after college, but remained a Pirate fan, in exile. In seven years, I attended just one Indian game -- it was on a frigid April night, an extra-inning game won by the visitors on a run walked home. That seemed about right.
From the NOTES Archive: #95, December 5, 1994
I was looking forward to David Halberstam's book of this title for several reasons. I had recently enjoyed his Summer of '49. I have enjoyed him on TV, on panels or in interviews. And in October 1964, my sole contact with baseball was via letters from my father. So there are many blanks to be filled in, for me, about that summer and its pennant races.
Probably for that last reason, I found the digressive style that I liked in '49, to be less satisfying in '64. The profiles of Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Barney Schultz, Joe Pepitone, and Mickey Mantle (to cite just a few) are well done, and not at all boring -- it's just that I wanted to get on with the games.
I couldn't believe it -- there was that Buck O'Neill guy again, showing up in these pages as the scout who discovered Lou Brock and steered him to Chicago. Evidently, Halberstam had found Buck a great interview, too.
I was a Cardinal fan (after the Pirates, of course), in the late '50s and early '60s, partly because of Harry Caray on KMOX (which reached my high-elevation, attic bedroom in Pittsburgh just fine), and partly because I managed the Cardinals in our neighborhood APBA league. But I lost touch in 1964, the year I graduated from high school and left home (in early July) -- so October '64 was a kind of reunion.
By all means, get the book. Any fan can enjoy it, and it has a nice mix of Yankee and anti-Yankee appeal. Somehow, we elbow our way through the 1961 pursuit of Ruth's 60, by Maris and Mantle, a vivid memory for Halberstam that he makes come alive, one more time -- but why in October 1964? Don't ask why! Just enjoy it!
The book also has its fingers on the pulse of the racial tempo of that day, and while Halberstam's detours off the race track into the prejudices of the Yankee management, the contrast of Bob Gibson's and Lou Brock's rage to succeed with Ellie Howard's acceptance of his pinstriped place, and yes, into the Nergo Leagues with Buck story-telling -- these detours are so well done, they were pardonable.
Get the book. I took it out of the library, but I think I would have finished it in two weeks or less anyway. Halberstam has mastered the style of blending his interviews (and he has talked to everybody, it seems) into the history we know. What remains unknown is who, among the interviewees, might be themselves trying to re-write history, or to grind a 30-year-old axe. Who cares? Get the book!
SET TIME MACHINE FOR 1969
Ball Four has been around a while now, and my hunch is that most baseball fans have read it. I never did, altho I felt as if I read it, because over the last 28 years, I've read so much about it, and so many quotes or stories from it. When I finally got to it, on my Adirondack vacation, I devoured it in two days (the 20th anniversary edition is over 450 pages.) It was a quick read, and a very good one.
The humor of BF holds up well. Anyone who has worked in an organization with supervisors (coaches, managers), middle-managers (GMs) and CEO/bosses (owners) can relate to BF as easily as to a Dilbert cartoon. In Bouton's teammates, we will also see our fellow coworkers or friends or neighbors -- and a bit of ourselves.
It is hard to believe there was a time when Mickey Mantle was not as well known to fans for his hard drinking, as well as his hard hitting. Yet when Bouton wrote about The Mick (and others) as less than saintly role models, he caught a lot of flak. Bouton's observations of ballplayers stupid or superstitious, managers authoritarian to a fault, and owners clueless about how to treat or pay their employees fairly, are now familiar to us all, and no longer unique.
A review of Ball Four would be less interesting here, I think, than some reflections from a fan who was also keeping a journal of sorts back then. I appreciate the difficulty of making daily notes, of sorting out what is worth recording from what isn't, and of deciding exactly how honest to be. A journalist is also a writer tempted to interpret as well as to tell, and his end product will inevitably contain a self-portrait. When the journal is destined to be a book, a lot of editing is omitting.
I give BF high marks as a journal, however. Bouton can see his own faults fine, and can laugh at himself as well as others, and that is important for credibility. In the 1980 and 1990 updates, Bouton talks some about his divorce, when he might have left readers with the picture of himself as a fine husband and father (one son adopted from Korea.)
Those who were upset by how they were portrayed in BF have mostly themselves to blame -- Bouton's sharpest lampoons are quotes he could have made up, but likely just wrote down. But their objections have some validity. If Bouton had brought a videocam into the dugout and bullpen and locker room, had his teammates and others known they were "on stage," they certainly would have acted and spoken differently. Well, some would. I was more bothered by the several times when Bouton revealed the name of a source of information, after promising not to, as if it was somehow OK because he was doing it in a book.
While much of BF is timeless, some of it is pure 1969. The main event that summer was not the Miracle Mets (sorry) or the moon landing, but the Vietnam War. If Bouton is one of the more enlightened baseball people, then Vietnam was about a zillion miles from the country of baseball. The civil rights movement hit closer, there are blacks and Hispanics on every team by 1969, and Bouton's comparison between the degree of integration on the expansion Seattle Pilots, and the Houston Astros, makes me wish Bouton had a chance to visit every clubhouse that season.
My own recollection has the nation more painfully divided on both the war, and on race -- and blacks very divided on the latter. It was a tense summer, and the gaps between not only the generations, but between students and coworkers were very real --I was there -- and this must have been true of ball clubs.
Bouton does record accurately something that frequently put these gaps in the spotlight -- and that would be the way that men were judged back then by their hair. The line from the rock-musical Hair! was, as we used to say, right on: "'Cause I look different, they think I'm subversive." There was some truth in that, of course, letting one's hair grow long was a form of protest, and ballplayers who resisted their managers' hints to visit the barber, were placing their roster spot at risk. But Bouton is adept at noting the hypocrisy at work, when players with hot bats or low ERAs are left alone.
All the ingredients for the eventual civil war between players and owners can be seen in BF. Marvin Miller had not yet arrived, and not all players were disposed to welcome him or any union. But the greed and lack of compassion on the part of the owners (this was long before players could be greedy) made the later conflicts inevitable. In 1969, players would have been satisfied with decent and fair raises (a few thousand per year) and less regimentation (curfew checks), and probably the whole Players Association thing never would have happened if each team had just put a keg in their clubhouse and kept it flowing.
Ball Four seems like a book that, like history itself, will not go quietly away. It survives because in the end, Jim Bouton is a baseball fan. The original book ended this way: "You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." The Seattle Pilots are an unexceptional team, and while the Astros were better in 1969, few of the names will be familiar to today's rookie fans -- Joe Morgan, Larry Dierker -- and Jim Bouton.
You know a book is worth reading, when the Commish (Bowie Kuhn at the time) asks the author to say it ain't so. It is easy to see Bud Selig making the same request (unfortunately), but it is too late, Ball Four is part of the game now. And I think, in the long run, it's for the better.