Uncle Jack commented, “Makes me feel my age when several of your followers say they never knew Jackie Gleason was a musician.” Jackie recorded some thirty-odd albums between 1953 and 1971, so I’d say he was quite the musician, as did three-quarters of you in Battle “Tenderly.” The final results:
Red Norvo Trio: 5
I liked both of these about the same, Jackie’s for the strings and his trumpet, Red’s for the rhythm and the combination of his vibraphone and Tal Farlow’s guitar. Anyway, congratulations to the Great One, and kudos to Red, Tal, and Charles Mingus (who played bass with the trio) for a job well done.
I didn’t get the email for this month’s question and only got the question after I saw Arlee’s and Alex’s responses. More than likely, I did get it and was a little too aggressive in cleaning out my mailbox. Anyway, the question is:
A while ago, I talked about my encounter with Sophia Loren in the elevator of the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, but that was more a chance meeting.
One of my favorite books, and by far my favorite baseball book, is Ball Four by former major-league pitcher Jim Bouton. Written during the 1969 season, when Jim was with the expansion Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers) and Houston Astros, it was a diary of that year for him and the guys who were on both teams, the managers, coaching staffs, umpires, former teammates, and front-office personnel. It was an honest portrayal of what it’s like to spend half your year with a major-league baseball team, and wasn’t always flattering to the game, at least not by the standards set by previous baseball books. For example, most books about Mickey Mantle, certainly one of the greatest players to put on a baseball uniform, neglect to mention that the man was an alcoholic and not always the nicest guy to deal with. Most books don’t go into detail about contract negotiations between owners and players, who at the time were indentured servants to the team, unable to become free agents and sell their services to the highest bidder, due to the “reserve clause” that bound them to the team until the team chose to dispose of them or they decided to retire. And no book ever discussed how twenty-five men in their twenties and thirties filled their time away from the field, particularly on road trips and away from their wives and families, or what went on in the locker room.
Naturally, the book was (for lack of a better word) condemned by the Commissioner of Baseball, Bowie Kuhn, and Bouton was criticized by the players (particularly the ones mentioned in less-than-flattering terms in the book). Bouton was asked on at least one occasion to disavow the contents of his book, and he refused. Despite all this, he managed to spend another ten years as a player, and fans who read the book thought it was entertaining and felt a kinship with the guys who play a kid’s game for money. For me, it made me a fan of the game for life.
I was in Raleigh, North Carolina doing training classes for a week back in the early 1990’s, and learned that the Durham Bulls, then the Class-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, were at home playing Pittsburgh’s Carolina League affiliate. I decided I would go to one of the games while I was there, because I had seen the Durham Athletic Park in the movie Bull Durham and wanted to see it live, plus I wanted to see the guys who one day might be playing for the Braves. I had such a good time there that I ended up going every night that week, and in typical fashion the Bulls lost the four-game series.
One evening they announced that Jim Bouton was at the park, signing autographs and throwing out the first pitch. After some hemming and hawing, I decided to go out to the plaza and meet him. There was a long queue waiting to see him. Some people had really prepared for the occasion, brandishing copies of his book and rehearsing the questions they would ask him. I just stood and wondered what I would say. I really had no questions for him, I just wanted to meet him and tell him his book had made a difference in my life. He autographed a card for me (he brought his own), handed it to me, shook my hand, and I managed to squeak out that his book had changed my life. He said “Thanks,” and waved as I walked away.
I lost the card, probably throwing it out by mistake, but it doesn’t matter. I really don’t care about collectibles, and besides, a baseball card off “Jim Bouton, Businessman” probably wouldn’t get me a lot of money, anyway. But I was happy for the opportunity to meet him and tell him what his book had meant to me.
(Monday’s Music Moves Me is on its way!)