Thursday, July 11, 2019

On the Death of Jim Bouton

I saw Jim Bouton on the streets of this Western New England town several weeks ago. He was moving unsteadily, his wife by his side to protect him from the ravages of time and disease. It was strange that he and I had crossed paths in several of his iterations through life.

In his first incarnation, there was the hard throwing, hat escaping, young star for my beloved Yanks. But by 1965, as the team fell from the sky so did he,  fastball and glory ephemeral. 

His career disappeared after several years of futility of recasting himself as a knuckleballer, no Hoyt Wilhelm he.

Next he surfaced in my universe as the mastermind behind Big League chew, the bubble gum alternative to the Nellie Fox wad of tobacco, cancer inducing image of a ballplayer. He appeared at my son's school as inventor and reinventor, now having reshaped himself by using the power of his brain, not his arm.

And his most famous reincarnation was as author, revealing the secrets behind the curtain in an era where what happened in the clubhouse, or the White House, stayed there. 

In the last decades of his life, on occasion, I would spot Mr. Bouton, not holding court but merely blending seamlessly into the fabric of life in this town. Once or twice, including just a few weeks ago, I wandered up to him to say hello.

Little did I realize I was saying goodbye. 

Thank you Jim Bouton for a lifetime of memories and for your ability to demonstrate that capacity and greatness come in many forms. Even after you have lost your fastball.


Anonymous said...

Very nice. Send this to the Times Sports section


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Anonymous said...

It captured Jim so well


Anonymous said...

Nice. He lead a very interesting life


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute!


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing it.


Anonymous said...

Fabulous. I knew Jim.


Anonymous said...

This was particularly lovely.