Posts Tagged ‘New York Yankees’

Jim Bouton’s Birthday

March 10, 2013

Friday March 8th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Today is Jim Bouton’s birthday – a date that has always been sort of a personal holiday for me. I have been a rabid fan of his classic book ‘Ball Four’ since I first read it in high school, and I’ve reread it countless times since. It’s an annual staple right around this time of year, when baseball prepares to make a comeback. That book is entertaining on so many levels I never get sick of it.

What I love about it most is its realness. Jim writes about what it’s like to be a baseball player, warts and all. He readily admits his own faults, and voices his opinions in a well thought out and intelligent manner. I don’t always agree with his opinions, but I never was bored as I read them.

He was way ahead of his time in 1970, and took a lot of flak from the baseball hierarchy for the things he wrote. He was blackballed from baseball for years afterward, and there are still those in the game who view him as a heinous villain to this day. It took major stones to buck the system.

I always tell anyone who will listen it was ‘Ball Four’ that inspired me to start writing my own diary, and it’s true. I thought it would be fun to see if I could write one page a day for thirty days cataloging what life was like as a professional comedian. Almost seven years later, I’m still at it.

The main reason I do it now is to hopefully give aspiring comedians some in depth and honest insight they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. I’ve done what they’re looking to do, and my mistakes will hopefully help them avoid wasting the time I did so they can have an easier road.

Jim Bouton and I are both cut of the same cloth in that we’re opinionated to the point of letting it hurt us, and we’ve both suffered for it but still had the guts to stand by our thoughts. I’ve been able to piss off more than a few people with what I’ve written – even when it’s not my intention.

Jim and I write what we think, and I for one always thought that’s what the whole idea of “free speech” was supposed to be about. I’m fine if someone doesn’t agree with me, but sometimes the people who get offended take it way too personally and hard feelings grow and last for a lifetime.

I can’t speak for Jim, but I’m happy to know he’s made peace with a lot of the people who had ill feelings toward him for ‘Ball Four’. He ended up making peace with Mickey Mantle, and that meant a lot to him. He’s now a fixture at New York Yankees Old Timers games, and it all seems to be water under the bridge. He is now accepted for his accomplishments, and I’m glad he is.

I sure hope I’m able to touch people with what I write even half as much as Jim touched me at a time I was very impressionable. I wanted to be a baseball player in high school, and that book really opened my eyes and let me see the real side of life much like being an NBA ball boy did.

I saw that athletes are just people, and people have flaws. Comedians are the same, and we’ve got even more flaws than the average person. I’ve never denied that, and hopefully what I write can help someone coming up the ranks learn how to behave better so they don’t have to waste as much time as I did trying to prove myself. Thank you for the inspiration, Jim. Happy birthday!

George Steinbrenner

July 14, 2010

Tuesday July 13th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

The Grim Reaper must be working on a commission basis these days. It’s hard to keep a current count of everyone of note who has died this year, and as the old time disk jockeys used to say “And the hits just keep on coming.” Every day seems to bring a new casualty.

Today’s #1 with a bullet was New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Actually, it was a massive heart attack at age 80. According to many, there were serious doubts that a heart even existed, but according to all of the news reports I read that’s what caused it.

I don’t know what to think about George Steinbrenner. There’s no doubt he was one of the most high profile pro sports owners of the modern era, but that doesn’t mean I have to like him. Nobody has to like anybody, and I resent the fact that when controversial people like this die, their negative side rarely comes out. Nobody ever seems to tell it like it is.

I’ve read lots of stories about him being an absolute ass. I don’t know if they’re partially true, completely true or mostly made up. I never met the guy or had cause to interact with him in any way on this cosmic plane during any of the time when we shared it. Now we’ll never do it, but his story still intrigues me. He got to live his life in the biggest fish bowl.

The Yankees weren’t the yearly shoo in to win the World Series from my first memories of them. They had guys like Celerino Sanchez and Freddy Beene and all kinds of ham and eggers nobody ever heard of. I had their baseball cards, but couldn’t have cared less about any of them. I followed my own mediocre to rotten hometown Brewers team back then.

I was ten when George Steinbrenner took over, and his name quickly became known for all the things he did to transform the Yankees. That was the very beginning of free agency and the Yankees turned it around in a hurry. Mike Kekich and Bill Sudakis gave way to a new crop of big stars from Reggie Jackson to Catfish Hunter to Goose Gossage and more.

I learned to loathe the Yankees over the years like any other self respecting baseball fan, but one has to admit that this current success run was built under Steinbrenner’s watchful eye and has lasted some 37 years. The question is, could that run have been even better?

The impression I got about George Steinbrenner was a cross between Thurston Howell III and the Incredible Hulk. He was always arguing with Billy Martin and firing or trading people, and didn’t seem interested in fair play. All he cared about  was the bottom line.

Granted, in 37 years he won seven World Series championships. Might there have been twice that many if he wasn’t an overbearing blowhard? That’s hard to say. Nobody speaks ill of him now that he’s dead, but I’ll bet there are a lot of stories right under the surface.

I always wanted to have money, but not if it makes me act like that. He was probably an ass even if he wouldn’t have been loaded, but money brought it out and enabled him to do whatever he wanted, without caring who was hurt by it. I want to leave a happier legacy.