Thorn: Jim Bouton: An improvisational life

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on December 16, 2016:

I first met Jim Bouton in April 2004. What brought us together at the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack, New Jersey was an ESPN mock trial of the New York Yankees and their spending habits. We were to be “expert witnesses” in this televised silliness — along with Mike Torrez, Goose Gossage, Mike Veeck, and others; attorney for the prosecution was Alan Dershowitz, for the defense Bruce Cutler. The jury decided that after all the Yankees were not bad for baseball, but only a mock sigh of relief was evidenced in Hackensack or in the Bronx.

Before the proceedings commenced in earnest I had introduced myself to Jim timidly. I had known about him for a long time, of course — beginning with a memorable game played on Sunday, June 24, 1962. He was a rookie with the Yankees; I was a teenager stuck at the home of my parents’ friends, with the TV my only friend. I turned on the Yankees game with Detroit and watched every pitch of what turned out to be a 22-inning New York victory, with Bouton throwing blanks for the final seven innings to claim the win when reserve outfielder Jack Reed hit the one and only home run of his big-league career.

Eyeing Jim in the makeshift “green room” of the courthouse, I was still that kid on the other side of the TV screen. What emboldened me to approach him was my knowledge of his ongoing efforts to bring baseball back to Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, which had hosted baseball on this same spot since 1892.

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Originally published: December 16, 2016. Last Updated: December 16, 2016.