With yesterday’s passing of Mark Fidrych, it seems fitting for MSNBC’s Ethan Slotnick to pester some of baseball’s more noted free spirits to essentially ask (I’m paraphrasing here) “why are today’s ballplayers so damn boring?” (link culled from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory) Or in other words, how did Derek Jeter and David Wright become the prototypes? Jim Bouton has an interesting theory :
Many players today have had one or more years of college, which “tends to be a very homogenizing experience.” When Bouton played, most guys arrived in spring training as “partially-formed people” who were “big stars in their hometown” and thus “centers of their own universe.” Huge training camps, many times larger than those today, would create tension, and tension (oddly enough) often created comedy.
“They combined an ignorance of the world with arrogance and confidence and talent,” Bouton says. “One of the things I found fascinating, here I was playing D ball, my first year of pro baseball, you got a guy from Brooklyn, you got a guy from Alabama. You got Brooklyn, you got Alabama. You got extremes from those locales. Then you throw them together in the same locker room and have them compete for jobs. It was combustible, it was fun.”
“Here comes Joe Pepitone, two days late, in a brand new Pontiac Bonneville,” Bouton says of the first baseman, who later would pose frontally nude for Foxy Lady magazine. “It’s not something a junior in college would do.”
Then there’s the money … and the risk that may come with it.
“Too much money,” Bill Lee says. “We actually had to work for a living. These guys don’t work for a living. We had second jobs, you know we were kindergarten teachers, I was a locksmith. You know I locked Bob Dylan out of his house. I locked Neil Diamond out of his house. We actually worked for a living. I built houses, I hauled wood, took care of my three brats, changed diapers. Did all that stuff that the modern ballplayer has some nanny from Yucatan (for).”
“I hate pinstripes,” Lee says. “They really make me want to puke. Let’s say A-Rod and Jeter fall out of an airplane. Which one hits the ground first?”
“Who gives a …. “