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Jim Bouton Plays Not My Job

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Jim Bouton Plays Not My Job

Jim Bouton Plays Not My Job

Jim Bouton Plays Not My Job

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The former Yankees pitcher tells us the secrets of the locker room. (This segment originally broadcast on April 14, 2012.)

BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT DON'T TELL ME - the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis and here's your host at the Nourse Auditorium in San Francisco, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, Bill. Thank you everybody.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Thanks San Francisco. Listen it is summer, finally. It's summer and you know what that means.

KURTIS: NPR's annual staff nude beach retreat.

SAGAL: Well, OK, yes that among other things. But since we're going to need a week to scour that image from our brains, let's spend today listening back to interviews about our other favorite summer pastimes. A few years ago, we went to Boston to talk baseball. And naturally in Boston we called Jim Bouton, who pitched for the New York Yankees. I started by asking him about his famous baseball memoir "Ball Four" and about the scandal it caused when it came out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

JIM BOUTON: Well, there was a great deal of objection from two quarters, 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.

(LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: If you were – 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.

(LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: You know, these guys were – these guys were innocents and they were very vulnerable. And that's why they were, you know, 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.

(LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: At any moment...

(APPLAUSE)

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

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really, they're that close?

MO ROCCA: It's interactive.

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

(LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: When the team bus – 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.

(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.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah. Now they know.

JESSI KLEIN: Everyone's like oh, they can hear. (Unintelligible)

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, big guy, great relief pitcher.

(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…

SAGAL: Yeah.

BOUTON: …His head. And he was the monster. And the crowd would roar. Well, on a Sunday 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.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right.

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

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

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

SAGAL: And 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…

SAGAL: Yeah, I know.

BOUTON: …once you get underneath something. So Frankie Crosetti said "Are you crazy? Don't you know these people?"

(LAUGHTER)

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.

(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, you 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 that was very unscientific.

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, I have no - what?

BOUTON: Yeah. 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.

(LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: I wish I could say I was kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

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?

(APPLAUSE)

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

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

(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.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

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

(LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: Hey, look at me. I just hit a home run. In our day, you hit a home run, you put your head down, 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.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

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

BOUTON: I never hit a home run.

SAGAL: Well, then how do you know?

(LAUGHTER)

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

SAGAL: I'm just saying – God knows I would.

BOUTON: But I’ll tell you what - if Bob Gibson were pitching today, they wouldn’t be doing that.

SAGAL: Well, that’s what I was going to ask you about because – what was your feeling as a pitcher about the brush-back pitches or the bean balls?

BOUTON: I never used it intentionally. Once in a while a ball would get away from me and, you know, I broke Wayne Causey’s wrist. He was the best player on Kansas City and I broke his wrist and I felt very bad about it. As a matter of fact, they ran up to home plate to see how he was and after the inning was over, one of my coaches said you don’t run up there and ask how they feel. They’re going to think, you know, that it was unintentional.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You want them to believe you - they meant it.

BOUTON: That’s right.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But you were a knuckleball pitcher. You had no idea where the ball was going anyway.

BOUTON: Yeah, it’s true. Once I hurt my arm, then I had to resurrect this knuckleball.

SAGAL: Yeah, that must’ve - and was that difficult? To…

BOUTON: Well, I had thrown it when I was a kid. I had learned it after reading the directions on the back of a cereal box.

(LAUGHTER)

(LAUGHTER)

(LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: There was a picture of Dutch Leonard and it explained that you throw it with your fingertips, not your knuckles.

SAGAL: Yeah.

BOUTON: And the idea is to throw the ball without any spin. Well, if you go out and try to do that, it’s almost impossible to do it. And I must’ve thrown about – over a course of two weeks – 500 knuckleballs with my brother. And then finally, I accidentally threw one correctly and the ball went perfectly still, didn’t move. My brother reached up to catch it, and just before it went into his glove, it broke down and hit him in the knee.

(LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: And he was lying on the ground saying what a great pitch, what a great pitch.

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: And did you want him to think it was intentional?

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

CARL KASELL, BYLINE: 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?

(APPLAUSE)

BOUTON: I'm ready.

SAGAL: Ready to go?

( 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?

(LAUGHTER)

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

(LAUGHTER)

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

(LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: I like the Finnish fencer idea (buzzing noise).

SAGAL: (buzzing noise) 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.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: 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.

SAGAL: All right, you still have two more chances here. Jockey Sly Carmouche - that's this real name - Sly Carmouche 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?

(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?

(LAUGHTER)

BOUTON: Whoa. I like the horse stopping thing.

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

BOUTON: Yeah.

SAGAL: That's what he did.

BOUTON: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: A huge fog bank, nobody could see him.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: 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.

(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 crowbar fencing?

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: I know the answer to this.

BOUTON: I think – I think it was the bobsledding thing.

SAGAL: You think it was bobsledding?

(BOOING)

BOUTON: No? No? No.

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)

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

(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.

(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 home run.

SAGAL: Yes, exactly.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Jim Bouton, thank you so much for being on WAIT WAIT DON’T TELL ME.

BOUTON: Thank you.

SAGAL: Jim Bouton, ladies and gentlemen.

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