Jim Bouton, 1939-2019

Well, Jim Bouton passed away last week, last Wednesday.

He had a good full life, and made the world a funner place to be.

Good game, bulldog.

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What could be better than the baseball hall of fame???

Well, I’ll tell you.

How’s about getting into the archives at the library of congress? Yes. Better than the “so-called Hall of Fame,” as some might say.

And who’s JUST entered the hallowed halls of the Great Library?

Yes.

It’s the bulldog, Jim Bouton. I received notice today that Jim’s personal papers — all 37,000 items! —  have been acquired by the Library of Congress.

Faithful readers know that Jim is a personal favorite (and isn’t it time for me to re-read Ball Four for the umpteenth time?) and a helluva ball player and a great pitcher and a world-class human being. (Not to say he’s perfect. But he’s 110% human being.) His sense of humor and perspective on the game, and the game of life, resonates with me.

Faithful readers also know that Jim has been dealing with health issues lately. We wish him the best.

Today inaugurates the Jim Bouton category on this blog. Congratulations, Jim. You’re the only player so honored.

And now, I think…. now it’s time to pound some Budweiser.

Best Cup of Coffee Ever?

While looking into Red Bird’s brief career, I came across this career line:good coffee
1 Game, 5 plate appearances, 3 at bats, 3 hits, 2 walks, 4 runs, 3 rbis

John Paciorek was 18 when the Houston Colt 45’s called him up to close out the season with the big club. He’d spent just one season in the minors, and only hit .219 with the Modesto Colts. Additionally, he’d injured his back and shoulder late in the season, and was told to rest. However the Houston club brought him and six other rookies up to play in the last game of the season, September 29, 1963.

If this was a ploy to get fans in the seats, it doesn’t seem to have worked, as the box score puts attendance that day at 3899 for the day. This was just the second year of existence for both clubs, and their records were not so great. (Houston, 66-96, NY 51-111). The thrill of seeing “major league baseball” may have worn off for the Houston fans. But the Astros, excuse me, the Colt 45s, had some pretty good players in their line-up that day: Rusty Staub, Jimmy Wynn, and Joe Morgan in particular. And led by Paciorek they pounded the Mets, 13-4.

john paciorek 1963 c sm

After that performance, Paciorek was considered as a sure bet to make the roster in ’64, but he had a terrible spring and was sent down. In the minors that year he hit only .135, and his season ended with spinal fusion surgery, which pretty much explains the .135 average. Recovering from surgery cost him both the ’64 and ’65 seasons. He came back in ’66, playing in Houston’s minor leagues in ’66 and ’67, and in the Cleveland minor leagues in ’68, where he was finally seeming to come around, hitting .268 with 20 home runs. In ’69 he was promoted to AA ball, but then he tore his Achilles tendon early in the season, and that injury finally ended his pro ball career.Paciorek Box Score - NYT - 9-30-63 b

Looking at his career, that’s a lot of pain and suffering and probably heart-ache. He was obviously playing with injuries for way too long, and not being able to perform season after season must have been hard. I wonder if he considered a different career while he was recovering from back surgery? What did he do for those two years? Was he still in baseball? Back surgery in ’63 was probably not a cake-walk. I wonder how much his 3 for 3 day impacted the choices he made?

After baseball John had a successful career in coaching, and wrote a couple of books about baseball. John’s 74 years old now. Hope his health is good and that he’s still enjoying the game.

Also…

 

While looking into Paciorek’s cup of coffee, I came across this picture of the Bulldog, signing balls, preparing for the upcoming World Series against the Dodgers. (Which the Dodgers managed to sweep, by the way, 4-0. Tough luck, Bulldog.)

Bouton - NYT - 9-30-63 b fr

 

And..

Those Twins are pounding the ball, by the way. 21 home runs in the last five games? Holy Cow, as Halsey Hall might say.

The boys are 15-9 and a game up over the Naps.

It’s nice to be in first…

Spring Fever!

Well here it is, Spring Training, 2018 edition.

Ain’t it grand?

The Twins of Minnesota are 4-4 so far, not that that matters at all, unless, of course, you are 0-8, in which case it would plant a nagging seed of doubt. 

The Twins continue their quest for Quality Pitching by signing free agent Logan Morrison, a hard throwing… uh… designated hitter/first baseman.

This helps our pitching by ensuring that our pitchers don’t have to face him this season, as he might very well have found a spot with some other American League team.

Additionally, this helps fill that troublesome hole at DH, where the twins only had Vargas and Mauer and Grossman and Sano and whoever to plug in there. Seriously, though, last year’s DHs only hit about .237 with a .711 OPS, (reliable sources tell me) so there was considerable room for an upgrade. And so Welcome Logan Morrison. And I refuse to call him LoMo.

In other spring news, the Twins best player, Brian Dozier, says that he’ll be a free agent after this season. Kind of a surprise, since he is their best player, and you might think that they might try to keep their best player.

But no, that’s not how the game works. It’s much more complex than that. I’m missing out on the intangibles, I guess, and the metrics, and the inner game. I am an old fashioned fan from a bygone era. That’s not the way things work in century 21.  I guess there’s a lot of angles on this that I am just not paying attention to. No, all I see is a guy who leads by example, a guy who works his butt off 162 games a year, is a great fielder and has a lot of pop in his bat and has contributed a TON to the success of the club and been a bargain on the bottom line.

Oh well. I’d best appreciate him while he is here.

The Twins have added some pitching in this off season. I’ve made mention of other acquisitions in previous post, but since then they’ve traded young prospect Jermaine Palacios for the wiley veteran Jake Odorizzi.

Odorizzi has a 40-38 3.83 lifetime mark, he’s 27 years of age, and went 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA last season with the 80-82 Tampa club. The trade has been greeted with some skepticism by Twins loyalists. Probably the fact that it came soon after the Twins failed to sign Yu Darvish added to the sour grape flavor of the trade. However, Twins fans are a resilient and hopeful lot, and so there is some talk that the Twins Brain-trust notices some statistical data that seems to indicate that better days are ahead for Mr. Odorizzi.

Not that this matters, as — in this case — Odorizzi is a Junior Circuit veteran, and I’m sure someone has studied this, and I’ll have to look for the answer, but, as the pitchers in the National League get to pitch against pitchers, rather than against designated hitters, I wonder, on average, how that rewards their ERA and other stats?

Answer: Well in 2007 there was an article in the NY Times (Alan Schwarz, 7 January 2007) that looked at this. There probably have been more since, and by more Sabermetric publications, but for me I think the NY Times is sufficient. Looking at 29 pitchers that moved from the National League to the American League, and 28 pitchers that moved from the American League to the National League, he found that National League pitchers that moved to the American League had their ERA increase by .70. (Pitchers that moved from the American League to the National League decreased their ERA by .85. Probably got an extra bit of boost from sheer exuberance.)

Which perhaps helps to partly explain why Mr. Darvish decided to go with a National League club, rather than the Twins.

[Again, [[editorial comment]] it would be nice if the Ameican League gave up on this “Designated Hitter” experiment, and went back to letting the pitchers bat. But I digress.]

Speaking of Darvish, I notice:
a.) he’s 6’5″ tall. I had no idea. 220 pounds. In pictures he somehow doesn’t look so big.
b.) he’s sick. Hasn’t pitched yet for the Cubbies. “No worries” he says. Still. Is that any way to start the season? Hope he feels better soon.

Literary Corner

I finished reading The Player: Christy Mathewson, Baseball, and the American Century, by Philip Seib, months ago. So long ago I can’t remember what I was going to say about it. Oddly, the book has Tampa Bay Times News Library stamped on it. How it got to Half Price Books in Maplewood is anybody’s guess. And why would it ever wind up in a newspapers “News Library” anyway? Maybe Christy Mathewson is still newsworthy down there, or perhaps it’s just a review copy. Anyway, this was a good book.

“At one point he was offered a chance at some easy money by lending his name to a Broadway bar. All he had to do was let it be called “Christy Mathewson’s” and show up for 10 minutes once or twice a week. He was told he could make thousands of dollars a year from the venture. He turned it down, later telling his mother, “If I had to make money that way, I wouldn’t want any.”

Well, I guess the times have changed a bit.

The book presents a pretty well-rounded view of Mathewson, who does seem to have been quite a likable guy, besides being one of the best pitchers in the history of Organized Ball. One funny thing is that he got along famously with his manager, John McGraw, who was no choir boy. In fact the two lived together for quite awhile.

Christy Mathewson2.gif

Seib does a nice job of setting Mathewson and baseball within the context of the time, which adds emphasis to Mathewson’s role in popularizing the game. The book is an easy enjoyable read, and full of enjoyable anecdotes and baseball history. This was a great book to pick up in the cold darkness of the dead of winter. Thanks, Mr. Seib!

Mathewson would definetly get a spot in my starting four:

1. Walter Johnson, with that big side-arm heat of his.
2. Christy Mathewson
3. Bob Gibson
4. Three-finger Brown or Sandy Koufax
5. Lefty Grove (Kind of crazy having him be number 6, but really, how can you pick?)

Also in the running:

Grover Cleveland Alexander, Ed Walsh, Nolan Ryan, Warren Spahn, Dizzy Dean, Bob Feller, and Jim Bouton. (Hey, pitching isn’t everything.)

 

Well, well, well…

So it’s the Astros of Houston, is it?

Champions of the World. The Houston Astros.

Faithful readers may recall my innate antipathy for the Astros of Houston.

Which is a bit odd, as, after all,  Jim Bouton was once an Astro.

But no, I never warmed up to the Houston club. Not until the 7th game did I come to the realization that better the Astros than the Los Angeles (formerly of Brooklyn) Dodgers. Houston, it turns out, is more deserving than Los Angeles.

Ahh, well. The mysteries of emotion and affection. Congratulations to the Astros of Houston. Heckuva season, heckuva series.It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro.

And: Chalk up another one for the junior circuit. That’s 65 championships for the American League, vs. 48 for the National League. For those of you keeping score at home.

it is good to be in first

Let’s enjoy. Blogging at the start of the season last year was like a death march. Let’s make some hay while the sun is shining. We’re Three and Oh!

I little quick research tells me that the Twins’ best start ever, since coming to Minnesota, was 6-0, back in 1968. I think I got that right, scanning through the years. That year they beat the Yankees in game 3 (we used to beat the Yankees occasionally,) 6-0. Batting order?

Tovar, 3b
Carew, 2b
Oliva, rf
Killebrew, 1b
Allison, lf
Roseboro, c
Uhlander, cf
Hernandez, ss
J. Perry, p

Who hit the home run? Jim Perry, of course, off Stan Bahnson.

Hey, Bulldog!

Mickey Mantle played first, went 0-3, Joe Pepitone was in centerfield(!) and got a hit. The bulldog, Jim Bouton, got into the game for two innings. Not good. Five hits, a walk, three runs. But at least he didn’t get taken over the wall by the fat kid.

Those were good days for the Twins. And so was yesterday, as the boys scored two in the bottom of the seventh to win the game, 5-3. Polanco played short, got a couple of hits, and drove in two. Sano got a couple of hits. Gibson looked good, went five innings. The Twins are trying to make us forget about last year.

Hey, it won’t take much. We’re easy. A pushover. Let’s play some ball.

My previous post mentioned the old Atlantics playing baseball on skates, which reminded me today about that Twins commercial from a few years ago. It’s a classic: