Yankee Slugger Tom Shopay Owns Souvenir, Courtesy of Fast-Acting Teammate Jim Bouton

Kudos to Jay Grossman and
for preserving this sad
specimen of hobby history:

Time to create a new statistic. Jim Bouton gets the first “historical” assist. Okay…save one for Tom House in the Atlanta bullpen when Hank Aaron set homer history (but that’s another story).

Tom Shopay began his baseball life as a New York Yankee. On Sept. 23, 1967, Shopay collected his first-ever home run, off Minnesota’s Dave Boswell at Metropolitan Stadium. Meanwhile, Bouton collected the artifact, negotiating with partisan Twins rooters. I’m guessing that the famous author-to-be served as a horse-trading Santa Claus for more than one rookie in his pitching career.

As Shopay saw it:

“The pitch was a fastball on the inner half of the plate. Jim Bouton traded a fan a couple of new balls for my ball. He was in the bullpen.”

(Thanks to www.retrosheet.org for the details!)

Shopay was a Rule 5 draft acquisition by the Orioles, ending his brief time in pinstripes. I asked him to compare the media attention he observed with each team.

“At the time I played, it seemed that you had more newspaper coverage. But New York is New York. The sports writers were always around, and plenty of them.

Baltimore was always doing a lot of radio and TV interviews. They also had the same beat writers that were with you all the time. They were good human beings, too.”

Tomorrow: Words of wisdom from Baltimore manager Earl Weaver.

St. Louis Brown Don Gutteridge Shocked Over 1944 Play Ball Card

I’ve just read the eye-opening Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession

This is more history of the card INDUSTRY than I ever imagined.  The book is not a love letter to card makers.  Readers will recoil over some early behaviors of Bowman and Topps. For instance, Jim Bouton shares how he felt a Topps exec bullied minor leaguers into signing away their exclusive card appearance rights for a $5 retainer. Bouton didn’t bite, insisting his father should review the contract first.

Instead of interviewing card company officials, I’d rather know more about how it felt to be a face on those cards. When I wrote to former St. Louis Brown Don Gutteridge in 2000 about his 1944 “Play Ball” card, I got a surprising letter in return:

“I do not even remember giving anyone permission to use my name on a card. In fact, I did not see the 1944 (Play Ball) card until a few years ago (in the 1990s) when someone sent me the card and asked me to please sign it for them. The company never contacted me. In fact, I would like to have a couple of those cards for my own mementos. I think it’s very nice to have your picture and data on a card. It is so nice to be remembered.”

Pilot Jerry McNertney Never Forgot Seattle

Catcher Jerry McNertney found that his most productive season in a nine-year career came with the 1969 Seattle Pilots. Looking back, those career highs at bat weren’t the only things he missed about the Pacific Northwest. McNertney wrote:

“Wonderful time in Seattle! Great fans, loved the game! Great outdoors country! Wish we could have returned!”

McNertney relocated to Milwaukee, serving as opening-day catcher for the Brewers. He returned there in 2010 to relive those uncertain first days with the Brew Crew in a special ceremony.

Ribbed by author Jim Bouton in Ball Four
for his clean-cut Midwestern attitude, McNertney claimed years later that he never read the book. Bouton didn’t seem to recall McNertney’s one-day vacation from good behavior. McNertney wrote:

“That ejection in Detroit: I can’t remember the ump. But I remember the hitter and pitcher, Norm Cash and John Gelnar. We had him K’d, but the ump disagreed!”

The ever-fascinating www.retrosheet.org uncovered McNertney’s clash with authority. Cash was awarded a walk. Subsequently, umpire Larry Napp provided McNertney a long walk back to the dugout, ejecting the normally-stoic backstop.

One of McNertney’s greatest accomplishments in baseball came in never forgetting his Iowa roots. His hometown honored him in 2009 with Jerry McNertney Day.

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