“The Stadium was cool. But my memories of the players that I had read about are/were more clear.”
— Senators pitcher Carl Bouldin
In the first-year replies I’ve shared in “Baseball By The Letters,” I’ve loved player memories about the ballparks I never visited.
However, I’m beginning to understand the many half-answers I receive.
J.W. Porter remembered how close the fans in Tiger Stadium were. Pitcher Al Grunwald (who passed away in January) said he felt like he could reach out and touch the Green Monster from the pitcher’s mound.
Those are exceptions. So often, most players are like Bouldin. They’re so happy to be a major leaguer that the “where” of their career is almost a riddle. Stat-oriented players sometimes stop at quoting outfield dimensions to me. Of course, if you’re a pitcher afraid of gopher balls or a pinch-hitter hoping to tie a game, you may be fixated on how far that right field wall is (or isn’t).
I won’t give up yet. The list of people still here to tell you about playing in Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds or Crosley Field dwindles yearly. I realize that each question is like swinging for the fences in the bottom of the ninth. We’re supposed to take time to smell the roses along the way, says the song. I think too many players were so busy trying to keep their jobs. They never realized that their place of employment would become a baseball shrine that future generations could only dream about.
|Beloved in Venezuela!|
Here’s a quick tip for anyone wanting to correspond with former players:
Realize that there’s more than one way to judge a career highlight.
I thought Carl Bouldin would have some nice memories about Sept., 15, 1962, when he twirled a 7-hit win at home versus the White Sox. (Thank you, http://www.retrosheet.org/.) However, I never said “your best game ever seems like…” Instead, I asked about the day, then followed up with:
If this wasn’t your best game ever, please describe what was?
“Getting a complete game was big for me, or anyone, I think. I felt like I belonged and knew I could pitch in the ‘bigs.’
My best game was probably in winter ball in Caracas, Venezuela. In a big city rivalry, I pitched against a team with the three Alou Brothers and won, 3-1. Pete Rose was on my team and after that game the fans carried me around on their shoulders.
A fun time.”
Tomorrow: The Autograph Addict hits the jackpot with Cub Bob Will.
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Be a Floating Head?
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Carl Bouldin just wanted to play. Play what, though?
Bouldin started for the University of Cincinnati Wildcats basketball team. After the 1961 National Championship, he surprised hoops fans by choosing baseball. He advanced to the majors quickly. The glory was short-lived, enduring consecutive cellar-dwelling seasons for the Washington Senators.
“I had offers to play basketball for three teams in the following three years, but I just thought my chances of a longer career was in baseball. It turned out to be not so long though, because I hurt my arm (rotator cuff) in winter ball in Puerto Rico. I was on the same team with Tommy John there.”
Did Bouldin get a taste of quaint Griffith Stadium? He recalled:
“When I was called up in 1961, I went to Griffith Stadium. I didn’t pitch there, because they moved to D.C. Stadium shortly after I got there. The stadium was cool. But my memories of the players that I had read about are/were more clear.”
Just across the river from Cincy, boyhood home of the hurler, the Kentucky Baseball blog had some nice things to remember about Bouldin.
Tomorrow: Bouldin reveals his best game ever.