Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
3:14 am
Sat April 14, 2012

Former Yankees Pitcher Jim Bouton Plays Not My Job

Originally published on Sun April 15, 2012 1:27 pm

Jim Bouton is a former All-Star pitcher for the New York Yankees. His classic baseball memoir Ball Four, which was first published in 1970, is just out as an e-book.

Bouton famously wrote about shenanigans in baseball, which have arguably gotten worse since then. But compared to other sports around the world, baseball players are hardly immoral at all. We're going to ask him three questions about people who really know how to cheat.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now, the game where we invite on big names and ask them tiny questions. Our guest, Jim Bouton is a former All-Star pitcher for the New York Yankees and yet somehow they let him into Boston. His classic baseball memoir, "Ball Four," is now out as an e-book and as an audio book read by him. Jim Bouton, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

JIM BOUTON: Thank you.

SAGAL: So, as a baseball fan, I heard all my life that "Ball Four" was this amazingly scandalous book that blew the lid off the sport, revealed all these secrets. But I didn't get around to reading it until five or six years. And I was amazed to find out that professional baseball players drank, fooled around with girls and sometimes took drugs to help their performance.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: Oh geez.

SAGAL: Maybe I'm just jaded, living when I do now. Can you explain the impact the book had in 1970 when it came out?

BOUTON: Well, there was a great deal of objection from two corners, one with the sportswriters.

SAGAL: Yeah.

BOUTON: Because they didn't have the access I had and they had been sort of pushing, you know, a milk and cookies Boy Scout kind of view of players.

SAGAL: Right.

BOUTON: Also, the owners were against the book because "Ball Four" was the first book to tell people how difficult it was to make a living in baseball.

SAGAL: Yeah, it was hard.

BOUTON: Minimum salary was $7,000. My average salary for eight years in the major leagues was $19,000.

SAGAL: But did the other players get mad at you for telling tales out of the locker room, I guess?

BOUTON: Well, some of the guys did. But you've got to understand, in those days most guys who played professional baseball had, you know, a little more than a high school education. These were not readers.

SAGAL: Right.

BOUTON: You know, unlike today.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: If you were on a bus, a team bus going to some, you know, airport or something like that and you were reading a book, they called you the professor.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: You know, these guys were innocents and they were very vulnerable and that's why they were able to take advantage of these guys.

SAGAL: Sure. So we're here in Boston this week. What is it like, since you've done it, to play at Fenway Park?

BOUTON: It's like pitching at the Roman Coliseum.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: At any moment...

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BOUTON: Fenway Park is a great place to play ball. I'm telling you, it's the only stadium were you can be on the mound and hear personal insults from the stands.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really? They're that close.

MO ROCCA: It's interactive.

BOUTON: It's great. And it starts way before the game.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: When the team bus pulls up to Fenway Park at 3:00 in the afternoon for a 7:00 game, there are 200, 250 people hollering at you in a foreign language.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right.

BOUTON: And that starts it off.

SAGAL: Really? So you're welcome and made to feel warm as soon as you show up?

BOUTON: Oh yeah.

JESSI KLEIN: You realize that now that you've said that you can hear them, it's going to be worse.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah. Now they know.

KLEIN: Everyone's like, oh they can hear.

BOUTON: I loved pitching in Fenway Park. I thought it was a great experience.

SAGAL: You enjoyed it?

BOUTON: I loved it.

SAGAL: Did you enjoy infuriating the crowd?

BOUTON: Well, my best one was - I don't know if you remember - when Dick Radatz, the monster, 6'8" guy, a big guy, a great relief pitcher.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BOUTON: And he would come in to the ninth inning and he would strike out the side: Mantle, Maris and Tresh. And he would walk off the mound with his arms raised over his head. And he was the monster. And the crowd would roar. Well, on a Sunday I pitched and I pitched a shutout. And I decided that it would be a good idea to walk off the mound...

SAGAL: Sure.

BOUTON: With my arms over my head.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right.

BOUTON: I walked off like I was the monster and all this food and beverages...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BOUTON: Started coming. Hot dogs, beer cans, I was dodging food on my way to the dugout.

SAGAL: As you get to the dugout, you get closer to the people throwing the food. It gets harder.

BOUTON: Yeah, right, right.

SAGAL: You have less time to react.

BOUTON: But there was shelter there, too, you know, once you get underneath something.

SAGAL: Yeah, I know.

BOUTON: So Frankie Crosetti said "Are you crazy? Don't you know these people?"

SAGAL: Don't you know where you are? They'll kill you.

BOUTON: Right.

SAGAL: That's terrible.

BOUTON: Yeah.

SAGAL: One of the things in your book is you suggest that the coaches and managers have no idea what they're talking about.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: They have no effect. Is that true?

BOUTON: Well, at that time it was.

SAGAL: Right.

BOUTON: You know, today, I don't know what impact the manager has or what impact the coaches have because I'm really not close enough to the game. But back then, the manager was usually, you know, some former player who everybody liked. And then he chose a coaching staff made up of basically his drinking buddies. I mean so it was very unscientific.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You have guys coming in and telling you to do one thing one day and the next day they'd come in and they'd say do something else. And you'd be like, what?

BOUTON: Well they would say, hey what are you doing with that baseball? I was going to take it outside and throw it. No, put it back in the bag. The baseballs don't come out until later. You know that kind of stuff.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well that's an important bit of guidance for you.

BOUTON: Yeah, it was.

SAGAL: To tell you not to take the baseball out until later. That's the kind of guidance you got? Like put the damn baseball down.

BOUTON: Right, right, right.

SAGAL: He's going to help you with your pitching. Put the baseball down.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: What are you doing with those baseballs? I'm bringing them outside. Just take one. OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: I wish I could say I was kidding.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: If you were talking to a non-baseball fan, and believe it or not there are some, how would you pitch the game? What excites you about the game?

BOUTON: What doesn't excite me about the game is the stepping out of the batter's box. Stay. What are you stepping out of the batter's box for?

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: You mean when the people step out and delay the game?

BOUTON: Yeah, after every pitch, the guy steps out of the batter's box. He's got to fix the straps on his glove.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: He's got to spit in his hand, depending.

BOUTON: All that. If they eliminated Velcro, it would knock 20 minutes off of every game.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BOUTON: And I don't like guys hitting homeruns and then raising their arms up like they just discovered a cure for cancer.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: Hey, look at me, I just hit a homerun. In our day, you hit a homerun, you put your head down and you ran around the bases. You went into the dugout and you shut up. You know why?

SAGAL: Why?

BOUTON: Because it's just a homerun.

SAGAL: Right.

BOUTON: It's not a religious experience.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: You weren't much of a hitter, though. Did you ever hit one?

BOUTON: I never hit a homerun.

SAGAL: Well then how do you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: All right, so maybe I would have raised my hands.

SAGAL: I'm just saying.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: All right, Jim Bouton, we have asked you here to play a game we're calling?

CARL KASELL: A fistful of greenies, that's nothing.

SAGAL: So you famously wrote about shenanigans in baseball, which have arguably gotten worse since then. But compared to other sports around the world, baseball players are hardly immoral at all. We're going to ask you three questions about people who really know how to cheat. Get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is Jim Bouton playing for?

KASELL: Jim is playing for Margaret Brown of Hamilton, Massachusetts.

SAGAL: Ready to go?

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BOUTON: I'm ready.

SAGAL: Here is your first question. First question: one of these was the biggest scandal of the Sydney Olympic Games of 2000. Was it A: The Spanish Paralympics Basketball team, none of whose members were actually disabled?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B: the Estonian Sailing team, which used an outboard motor?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C: a Finnish fencer, who hid a taser in his glove?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: I like the Finnish fencer idea, buzz.

SAGAL: You're going to go with that?

BOUTON: I'm going with that.

SAGAL: You're going to go with that? Sadly, it was the Spanish Paralympics basketball team.

The scam was revealed by a journalist who actually got onto the team. And after the Olympics and they won their gold medal, he revealed that nobody on the team was actually disabled. They were all faking. And once the report was published, they had to give up their gold medal.

BOUTON: Oh, see I never read the sports section.

SAGAL: I understand. There's nothing there of any interest for any person.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right, you still have two more chances here. Jockey Sly Cormouch - that's this real name - Sly Cormouch once used a heavy fog bank to win a horse race. How? A: he just stopped his horse, waited for the rest of the horses to come around the track and then raced ahead of them to cross the finish line first?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B: he got off his slow horse, rode around on a faster one then jumped back on the slow one to win? Or C: he moved a fence so that all the other horses got lost?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: I like the horse stopping.

SAGAL: He stops and waited for them to come around?

BOUTON: Yeah.

SAGAL: That's what he did.

BOUTON: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: A huge fog bank, nobody could see him. So, as soon as they get out of the gate, he just reigned up, waited for them to come around, and then he just rode in ahead of them to win. Although, he got greedy, he won by too much, so people started asking questions.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Last question. This is good. If you get this one right, you'll win.

BOUTON: Two out of three?

SAGAL: Get two out of three you'll win.

BOUTON: All right.

SAGAL: Perhaps the most famous sporting scandal ever was the strange attack on Nancy Kerrigan, right before the 1994 Winter Olympics.

BOUTON: Oh yes, yes.

SAGAL: Remember this?

BOUTON: Yeah.

SAGAL: Arranged by her rival, Tonya Harding.

BOUTON: Right.

SAGAL: Ms. Harding was banned from figure skating after that was all done, but her athletic career did not end. She went on to do what? A: have a stint as the third seat in a professional bobsledding team? B: fight Bill Clinton accuser Paula Jones in a celebrity boxing match? Or C: she founded a very short lived and new sport called crow bar fending?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: I know the answer to this.

BOUTON: I think it was the bobsledding thing.

SAGAL: You think it was the bobsledding.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOOING)

BOUTON: No? No? No. It wasn't the crow bar one, so it'd have to be the other one.

SAGAL: Well, you have to decide.

ROCCA: Oh, my god, it's...

BOUTON: Now I remember, it was the boxing.

SAGAL: It was. You were right, they were right, Mo was right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: She had a celebrity boxing match with Paula Jones. And as the boxing writers like to say, she stopped Ms. Jones in three.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And there you are. Carl, how did Jim Bouton do on our show?

KASELL: Jim did well enough. Two correct answers, Jim, so you win for Margaret Brown. Congratulations.

SAGAL: There you are.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: If you want to throw your hands up in victory, we really won't mind here.

ROCCA: Yeah, this is the public radio homerun.

SAGAL: Yes, exactly.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Jim Bouton's classic baseball memoir "Ball Four" is now available as an e-book and an audio book. Jim Bouton, thank you so much for being on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!.

BOUTON: Thank you.

SAGAL: Jim Bouton, ladies and gentlemen.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.