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Finally, a retired player says not everything was better 40 years ago

Jan 21, 2010, 12:50 PM EDT

Jim Bouton wrote my favorite baseball book of all time, so he could say just about anything at this point and remain on my good side, but it was still nice to see him give the following answer when asked recently what he thinks “about today’s emphasis on pitch counts”:

I think it’s smart. If we’d had that in my day, I might have pitched more. I might have had some more 20-win seasons than I did. I pitched 249 innings in 1963, 271 in 1964, and in 1965, my arm was completely dead. That’s why I had to resurrect the knuckleball. I just couldn’t throw hard any more. There was no elasticity in my muscles. There was no life there, and it was because I pitched so many innings.

Every four days. Having to go eight, nine innings all the time. I had 23 complete games in two years. Now there aren’t 23 complete games on a whole pitching staff. I can see now looking back that it took too much out of me. I’m not 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. It took everything I had to throw as hard as I did, and it took its toll so I think the pitch counts are smart.

The default reaction for retired ballplayers seems to be “things were better in my day” regardless of the topic, so it’s refreshing for a 70-year-old former All-Star to suggest that perhaps limiting a young pitcher’s workload is a good thing.

  1. Ron - Jan 21, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    No pitchiing coach or manager would ever suggest a pitcher throw every pitch as hard as they can. In fact, every one I’ve ever met/read about/saw an interview advocated exactly the opposite.
    Don’t throw hard, but get movement on the ball. Randy Johnson became successful when he learned how to pitch, not just throw it as hard as he could. Same with a guy named Koufax and thousands of others.
    If Bouton was throwing the ball as hard as he could every time, it’s no wonder he threw out his arm. But if he would have backed off some he could have thrown the innings he did. Or not been as good as pitcher as he was. If had to throw that hard every pitch, then he was overachieving and wasn’t going to last much longer regardless of the innnings.
    And I’m a Bouton fan, by the way.

  2. stroboy51 - Jan 21, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    Jim Bouton expended so much energy on each pitch that his hat continuously flew off his head. And by the way, Bouton is over 70 years old now.

  3. Jason @ IIATMS - Jan 21, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    Craig, but you omitted his classic “in my day” part of that interview…
    [i]”I wish the players today were more respectful of the game, were more humble. Not so into themselves. When Mickey Mantle hit a home run, he put his head down and ran around the bases as fast as he could so as to not show up the pitcher, went in the dugout, and sat down. Now, a guy hits a home run, oh my goodness, his hands go up in the air, he’s going around the bases, he just found a cure for cancer you’d think. He takes his time. He’s pointing to the sky. He’s kissing jewelry. Gets to the guys in the dugout, he takes a big bow. Then he goes in to sit down. Then he has to come out for a curtain call…and this is all in the second inning!
    “I don’t know who these guys think they are. They’re just baseball players, and home runs have been hit before. I don’t like the over-inflated thoughts of themselves that you have with today’s athletes. There’s just no humility what-so-ever; no self-awareness; no modesty. There’s just no respect for the game or the opposing team. If they did that in my day, the next time up, he’d be on his ass. Believe me, he wouldn’t be doing that any more. (Bouton chuckles.)[/i]

  4. GimmeSomeSteel - Jan 21, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    You’re right–DOB 3/08/39. He was a rookie in 1962, so there’s no way he’s only 60 now.

  5. moreflagsmorefun - Jan 21, 2010 at 1:23 PM

    Get a life, get loss, you sound like a miserable jerk!!!!!!
    I pumped my fist while typing the above, I hope it bothers you!!
    By the way it’s called Cadillacing ………..
    I wonder if you get pissed when The Big Unit pumped his fist……

  6. Charles Gates - Jan 21, 2010 at 1:35 PM

    Jason, I’m with you (assuming you agree with Bouton’s remarks). I’d like to think that if I were playing MLB, I’d approach the game with a quiet dignity. But then, I remember that the more I get my face on Sports Center, the more money I can bring in via endorsements.
    Not that I think a lot of these egotistical celebrations are premeditated marketing campaigns…but that being said, I have a hard time believing that agents/PR managers are trying to get their clients to tone it down a tad. You know, IIAMTS after all…

  7. Seth - Jan 21, 2010 at 1:35 PM

    Had to laugh at Bouton griping about showboating. Has he ever seen a football game? A big, fat guy tackles a smaller guy, then flexes and struts like he just captured Bin Laden. At least baseball players only do it when they do something *significant*.

  8. moreflagsmorefun - Jan 21, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    The only SPORT you don’t HAVE EMOTIONS is Jumping Rope, I have a feeling you fellas were good at jumping Rope.

  9. Old Gator - Jan 21, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    Bouton got most of his showboating in on his book tours and later, as a hysterically funny sportscaster for ABC’s Eyewitness News in New York, where he was protected in the lineup by the immortal Roger Grimsby and the somewhat less immortal Tex Antoine, and a merry crew of eccentrics. A gashouse gang for those last years when you could sort of believe what you heard on television.
    He also put in a tasty turn as a con man in The Long Goodbye. Elliot Gould: Yeah, I even lost my cat. Bang! Bouton: dies and falls in the pool.
    He definitely should have done more acting.

  10. Jason @ IIATMS - Jan 21, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    Dude, you DO know that was merely a copy/paste from Bouton… not me. Right? Um, hello?

  11. Jason @ IIATMS - Jan 21, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    My personal views (which don’t count for diddlysquat) is that there is a happy medium somewhere between old school (Bouton) and new school.
    I love celebrations. I want to see joy, pain, frustration, elation. I don’t want to see showboating. These players work their collective asses off to succeed and I don’t think it’s bad to celebrate something. So long as it’s not done towards the pitcher/other team.
    Sure, it’s a fine line but personally, I have an idea where MY line is and it’s probably different than yours.
    So watch out for the beanballs!

  12. TF in Tampa - Jan 21, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    When I was a young lad growing up in Queens, NY, and getting hooked on baseball, I watched, studied and admired Jim’s pitching motion. He was the only one I remember who’s fast ball delivery was directly from overhead. Most pitchers threw 3/quarters or sidearm.
    I duplicated his pitching motion starting in Little League, then thru high school, into college and a brief stint with a local semi-pro team with modest success. I struck out a few with my overhead fast ball, and gave up some dingers as well. Thanks Jim for getting me started and for the great games you gave us.
    Gator , you forgot to include Roger’s co-anchor Bill Butell. When they adlibbed, they got themselves in more trouble than the network could take, hence they became no more.

  13. Old Gator - Jan 21, 2010 at 9:17 PM

    Bill was kinda the straight man, though, and Grimsby, may the Buddha cause his countenance to shine upon him, was the provocateur. And when Grimsby was on his mephistophelian schtick, Bouton picked up the vibe and became as cheerfully subversive as the rest of them. Tex Antoine was the one who got himself in the worst trouble, joking about rape – but then he used to show up for work stoned and no doubt that helped him torpedo himself.
    It will, I’m sure, come as a great shock to you when I say that Grimsby was one of my formative influences.

  14. TF in Tampa - Jan 22, 2010 at 9:02 AM

    No, I’m not shocked at all. Lets face it, in order for Grimsby to get to where he was, the most watched news anchor in NYC, he had to be cutting edge, and he was the ringleader on his broadcast,
    all very entertaining. Ratings, ratings, ratings. And yes, Tex did himself in with his untimely rape comment.
    Talk at ya later.

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