This Week's Question: Deleted Scene
This week’s question for Pandemic Baseball Book Club authors isn't so much a question as a suggestion: Share a favorite deleted passage from your book.
I have always been fascinated by the story of the Manson family, so it was interesting to me that one of the characters from that macabre chapter of history is buried in the same place as Hall of Famers Charlie Gehringer and Harry Heilman. I was keenly aware that if I strayed too often into the sensational side of death, my book would run the risk of becoming something I never intended, which is why I cut this from the manuscript:
One final grave of note, which admittedly has nothing to do with baseball, is that of Jay Sebring. A world-famous hairstylist and the man who helped introduce Bruce Lee to America, he also had the misfortune of being the former lover and good friend of actress Sharon Tate. He was with her and two other friends when they were murdered by the Manson family on the night of Aug. 8, 1969.
When the Dallas Texans football team moved to Kansas City in 1963 and renamed themselves the Chiefs, the city council allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to build them new facilities, and charged them only a dollar per year for rent for their first three years. Charlie Finley, paying as much as $70,000 for a similar deal, was outraged, and refused to renew his lease on Municipal Stadium. The league, fearful that he might skip town, stepped in.
In January 1964, still with no contract in place, Kansas City evicted the A’s from their stadium offices, forcing Finley to set up shop in the garage of one of his scouts, Joe Bowman. (The Owner actually grew angry when Bowman’s wife used the house telephone line for personal calls.) The process did not humble him. If anything, his bluster only grew. The A’s were not leaving Kansas City — the league had already decreed as much — but that detail did not strip Finley of leverage. “Rather than yield on any point, I will rent a cow pasture and put up temporary stands for the team to use next year,” he proclaimed. “The A’s will play in Kansas City and that’s definite, but they won’t use the stadium unless they are given what I consider a fair lease.” This was the Owner at his power-tweakingest best. He sent assistant Pat Friday location scouting to area farms, and settled on a 320-acre pasture in the wondrously named Peculiar, Missouri (city motto: “Where the ‘odds’ are with you”), upon which he could lavish some diversionary attention.
When league owners responded by threatening to strip Finley of the team if he didn’t come to terms on a lease at Municipal Stadium, he quickly signed a four-year pact.
When I interviewed George Foster, he told me a cool story about Willie Mays and Pete Rose. When the Giants traded Foster to the Reds – one of their many trade blunders in those days – Foster thought he’d have a tough time fitting in among established players on what was becoming the Big Red Machine. But when he arrived, he got summoned by Rose and quickly felt accepted. Why? Because as Foster tells it (and Rose verifies), Mays had called Rose and asked him to “take care of the kid.” In 1977, Foster hit 50 home runs, the first to do so since Mays 12 years earlier, and told me that it justified what Willie had done for him. Although I found no perfect place in the book for it, there was an alternative. Barnes & Noble and St. Martin’s Press had worked out a deal for exclusive content, with all B&N books including an extended Q&A I did with Willie on topics he had never addressed previously: golfing with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Dean Martin; his appearances on sitcoms and game shows; and a hilarious Bob Gibson story. One of my questions for the Q&A was about the Foster-Rose yarn, and Willie had a splendid reply.
Shea: "You watched out for the younger guys. In your final years, you took George Foster, a young outfielder, a fellow Alabama native, under your wing. He idolized you growing up. The Giants traded him to Cincinnati in ’71, and he went on to win an MVP award with the Big Red Machine. He told me he felt accepted with the Reds because you had called Pete Rose and asked him to “take care of the kid.” He said that when you no longer were teammates, you continued to check in on him, have him over to your place and help his game. He became the first player to hit 50 home runs since you, 12 years earlier. He told me it justified what you did for him."
Mays: "George was a good kid. He could throw, he could run, he could hit. He had a lot of power. I don’t know why we got rid of him. I tried to help those guys. You knew they could play. They just needed a chance. I remember talking with him quite a bit about that, and you’d talk more than just baseball. Even though you’re no longer teammates, you still want to take care of them."
From the exclusive material found in books purchased through Barnes & Noble, a Q&A with John Shea and Willie Mays from “24: Life Stories and Lessons from the Say Hey Kid.”
I spoke to a professor of rhetoric at Duke about the prose of Ball Four, and why it works as well as it does. He went into incredible detail about the musicality of Bouton's writing, how its rhythm allows certain words and ideas to hit the ear at precisely the optimal moment. It was amazing stuff — the science behind how we hear and process words was fascinating, and explained so much. Unfortunately, it required too much setup; the amount of time it would have taken to provide the necessary context for his analysis would have sent the book careening off into a Ph.D. dissertation. This is what it sounded like:
“Bouton understood or intuited that MLK’s famous passage relies on the ancient rhetorical figure of speech called anaphora. It is the name given to structuring a passage by repeating the same thing at the beginning of each sub-unit. His use of ‘I ... dream’ here is anaphoric: After being highlighted at the end of the first sentence, it begins each of the next three paragraphs, organizing the content, convincing us that this order will be maintained until we have a signal that the anaphoric passage has come to an end.”
Good points, but I would have had to go deep into what he was getting at in order for anybody to make sense of it. So it got cut. I did end up including a sentence or so, just to provide a suggestion of what he was saying, but the entirety of it was so much more. Alas.
One of the hardest parts of writing a book is knowing that you have to leave 95 percent on the cutting room floor, killing your darlings or whatever that expression is. I got some good baseball stories, but if they didn't fit with the higher meaning of the scene I couldn't justify including them. Rance Mulliniks shared several anecdotes from his career, including the tale of one of the two times he got tossed from a game. This was significant, because Rance was not one to mouth off to umpires; he was generally a Boy Scout.
“The first time I got thrown out, we were in Chicago and I was playing third, and it’s first and third, bottom of the eighth, one out. We had a one-run lead and Harold Baines is hitting. There’s the 2-2 pitch, a curveball to Harold, and he gets way out here checking his swing, I mean he literally took a step towards the dugout ... but the home plate umpire didn’t ring him up. I’m yelling ‘Check it, check it!’ so they appeal to the third base umpire, who was a young guy, filling in for somebody on vacation. He hadn’t been up in the big leagues very long. He says, ‘No, he didn’t go.’ So I look at him and say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ He says, ‘No, he didn’t go,’ and I said, ‘Yeah he did. It’s obvious he went.’ The umpire is young, so he’s not going to overrule the plate umpire.
“On the next pitch, Harold hits a deep fly ball, sac fly, runner scores, ties the game. At that point I look at the ump and say, ‘This one’s on you.’ He says, ‘He didn’t go,’ and I say, ‘Yeah, he
did, and the reason you didn’t ring him up is that it was a home-team call — we’re in Comiskey Park and it’s Harold Baines. You didn’t have the guts to ring him up.’ He goes, ‘Oh really?’ and then I’m gone, he throws me out.
“I start heading to the dugout, and the plate umpire, a veteran guy, is walking towards third base, and I basically come face to face with him. He looks at me and says, ‘Get your ass off the field. Who do you think you are, complaining about a call?’ I said, ‘Who the f do you have to be to complain about a call out here? George f’ing Brett?’ I take it one step further and say, ‘Do you know what? If we were on the other side of that wall right there, you wouldn’t talk to me like that. I’d kick your old ass!’ ”
Rance may have been right, but the discussion was over. He headed for the showers.
Part of the objective of From the Stick to the Cove was to celebrate what baseball in general and the Giants in particular were like during bygone years – the years when Mike Murphy gradually metamorphosed from batboy to clubhouse manager to franchise legend. One guy who definitely was not a legend was a right-handed pitcher named John Pregenzer, who compiled a 4.88 ERA in 19 relief appearances for the Giants from 1963 to 1964. He looked kind of goofy, with a gangly 6-foot-5 physique and eyeglasses, but he became a cult hero among Giants fans. Somebody started a John Pregenzer fan club, which Murph enthusiastically joined. At its peak, the club reportedly had a couple of thousand members. Somebody scheduled a gala dinner in Pregenzer’s honor at the Blue Fox, an upscale San Francisco restaurant back in the day. Murph actually had a photograph taken that night in which he’s plainly visible, along with the blonde who was his date. The event was dampened by Pregenzer’s absence, which was understandable given that he had been sent to Triple-A the night before. I thought this and the photo might add a little color to Murph’s tale. Apparently my editors disagreed.
[Ed note, from Wikipedia: "Novella O'Hara organized in 1963 the remarkable John Pregenzer Fan Club, after hearing that the Giants had acquired a rookie relief pitcher of that name for the waiver fee of $100. Miss O'Hara was fascinated with the idea that a baseball player could be acquired for such an affordable sum, and she asked the Giants if she could buy one, too. The fan club lasted longer than Pregenzer, who pitched in 19 games before being booted to the minors. Before Pregenzer's departure, however, Miss O'Hara had arranged for him to receive a baked pheasant testimonial dinner, a quality transistor radio and a scroll naming him honorary mayor of Fresno. At its peak, the John Pregenzer Fan Club attracted 3,000 members."]