Thursday, July 11, 2019

The now-late Jim Bouton gave us the lasting memory of 'Chicago Shirley'

I couldn't help but notice the reports Thursday about the death of one-time major league pitcher Jim Bouton at age 80.
Back in the days when Bouton was a future star

The one-time New York Yankee who is probably better known for his diary of the 1969 baseball season -- when he was struggling to hang on in baseball with the expansion team Seattle Pilots -- got his attention even though his death wasn't really a shock. He suffered a stroke in 2012, then later was diagnosed with a condition that could cause brain vessels to burst under pressure.

BUT I COULDN'T help but reach out to for my copy of "Ball Four," that diary from a half-century ago when Bouton offended much of the baseball world for telling the truth about some of the antics of the jocko world.

Such as the practical joke once played on fellow pitcher Fred Talbot, who hit a grand-slam home run in a ball game, then got a phony telegram purporting to be from a fan who won $27,500 in a local radio contest tied to the ballgame.

Supposedly, the "fan" was willing to share $5,000 of the prize with Talbot. Yeah, suurrre!

Which, by the way, happened 50 years ago this very week.
What Bouton will most be remembered for

SOME PEOPLE CLAIMED that such insider stories were an embarrassment to baseball. While others felt they offered some color by making ballplayers seem a tad more human -- rather than so jock-ish.

I actually re-read the book every spring. The coming of a new season always makes me want to revive a few past memories.

And I always get my kick out of his entry for June 15 -- which became an essay about the availability to ballplayers of women, particularly stewardesses,, who were a step up on the social scale from "baseball Annies" (a.k.a., groupies).
Where it seems the ultimate "Annie" was a woman known as "Chicago Shirley," who even held orientation briefings for rookie ballplayers to make her services known -- and Chicago was supposedly the best city because we have ballclubs in both leagues. Maybe that's why our ballclubs went for so many years champion-free.


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