Sunday, January 15, 2017

Countdown to 2017 Topps #17: Busting His Balls

Rarely will I read a book twice, but one that I have read and am wanting to revisit is Jim Bouton's classic Ball Four. I was in either sixth or seventh grade when I first read the memoir and do not remember anything from it (we're talking 36, 37 years ago, folks). But thanks to the magic of the world wide web, I was able to glean at least enough information from it to use for today's post. We're now only 17 days from the release of 2017 Topps 1.

"Talbot was the book's biggest victim-of Bouton's putdowns and of regional prejudice, but nothing more so than clubhouse pranks."~ David J. Markowitz

I don't know much about former major league pitcher Jim Bouton, but I do know this: he must be (or at least, was at one time) insecure about himself. Why else would he constantly denigrate and demean Fred Talbot, his teammate adversary of only three months while with the Seattle Pilots?

Bouton wasn't alone in busting Talbot's balls. One particularly cruel prank that had been attributed to Bouton was later revealed to have Merritt Ranew behind it. In this hoax, a policeman hand delivered a letter (on attorney stationary) informing the Pilots pitcher that he was recipient of a paternity suit.

“(Talbot) opened the letter,” wrote Bouton, “looked at it, put his head down, looked at the floor for a while, gazed up into the air, shook his head slowly from side to side, started to read the letter again. Then he folded it, put it back in the envelope, tossed it onto the shelf in his locker, lit a cigarette and stared around the room . . .
“Talbot stomped out his cigarette, reached up into his locker, opened the envelope and read the letter again, as though he was hoping it would say something different this time. Finally after he’d devoured both pages, put them back in the envelope and thrown it on the floor of his locker, (teammate Gene) Brabender felt he had to tell him it was a joke.”

According to Bouton, Talbot was mentioned 48 times in Ball Four. I only hope that he (Talbot) was able to get beyond any grudges he might have held before his death three years ago.

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