Wednesday, January 24, 2007


All the recent harrou over Barry Bonds' alleged use of speed, coming on the heels of the Great Steroids Uproar, provoked me to do a swift scan of Ball Four, the first great inside baseball tell-all book, written by major league pitcher Jim Bouton in 1970. Note that year. 1970. 37 seasons ago.

My little search for irony produced four relevent excerpts, reproduced verbatim below. My favorite would have to be the last one, which depicts a kind of chemical prequel to roid rage.

As some notable foreign personage--I'm thinking either Churchill, Einstein, or Tokyo Rose--once said, "To understand America, you must understand baseball."
True enough, brother.

"How fabulous are greenies?" The answer is very. Greenies are pep pills -- dextroamphetamine sulfate -- and a lot of baseball players couldn't function without them. [p. 80]

We've been running short of greenies. We don't get them from the trainer, because greenies are against club policy. So we get them from players on other teams who have friends who are doctors, or friends who know where to get greenies. One of our lads is going to have a bunch of greenies mailed to him by some of the guys on the Red Sox. And to think you can spend five years in jail for giving your friend a marijuana cigarette. [p. 159]

At dinner Don Mincher, Marty Pattin and I discussed greenies. They came up because (John) O'Donoghue had just received a season supply of 500. "They ought to last bout a month," I said.
Mincher was a football player in high school and he said, "If I had greenies in those days I'd have been something else."
"Minch, how many major-league ballplayers do you think take greenies?" I asked. "Half? More?"
"Hell, a lot more than half," he said. "Just about the whole Baltimore team takes them. Most of the Tigers. Most of the guys on this club. [Seattle Pilots, pre-Mariners] And that's just what I know for sure." [p. 198]

John Kennedy flew into a rage at [umpire] Emmett Ashford over a called strike and was tossed out of the game. Still raging, he kicked in the water cooler in the dugout, picked it up and threw it onto the field. Afterward we asked him what had gotten into him. He really isn't that type. And he said, "Just as I got called out on strikes, my greenie kicked in." [p. 206]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read this book with great pleasure. I seem to recall that Bouton quoted Birdie Tebbets to the effect that he told his ballplayers that they should avoid blow jobs in hot weather because it would weaken their game. I suppose the greenies might restore equilibrium.

January 24, 2007 at 10:18 PM  

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