Ballplayer/author and monthly mag end their runs
By Ken DeLaat
I have been a baseball fan as long as I can remember and though admittedly on some days the memory doesn’t stretch much beyond breakfast the long term stuff seems to remain fairly well intact.
There are photos of me in a baseball cap with glove in hand in pre kindergarten days courtesy of my significantly older brothers who both played the game, and played it rather well, mind you. Going to their many games was an integral part of my summers and when the stars would align I would get to be the batboy for one or more of the many teams they played on. This meant access to the broken bats (all wooden then) that would be taped and sometimes even screwed together for the plethora of sandlot games played in our neighborhood.
My brothers (did I mention them being a lot older?) and their teammates were idols to kids like myself who adored the game and that meant pro players were like gods. They were not only paid to play the best game in the world but seemed to be (from their publicists’ pens) fine upstanding citizens as well.
As age progressed me out of the hero worship years my view of ballplayers (and nearly everything else) became a little more realistic once I sensed they were people like anyone else with faults and stumbles along the way but it many ways they still held some reverence and their lives remained mysteries behind the usual promotional stuff the teams put out.
Then came ‘Ball Four’ the 1970 book that changed it all.
Jim Bouton who passed away this week gifted us a treasure trove of inside info on what the Major Leagues were like.
And boy, was he ever vilified for it.
He was called out for having the nerve to give us all a peek behind the curtain. For showing heroes like Mickey Mantle and his cohorts and colleagues as incessantly imbibing, frequently voyeuristic, and perpetually profane boys disguised as men playing a boys game.
I loved it.
Bouton gave us “Bull Durham” long before the movie was even an embryonic idea. His work was the no holds barred skinny on how booze, women and performance enhancing substances (amphetamines back then not steroids) held a prominent place in the culture of pro ball.
For me it didn’t demonize ballplayers, it humanized them. Of course, not all were rowdy reckless rakes as those who made the most interesting reading, but in a way the book provided a unique kind of transparency. A reminder that most things (and people) are rarely as they seem.
Which is why I mourn the loss of one of the most influential readings of my youth.
Mad Magazine recently announced they will cease putting out their monthly publication.
I haven’t read a single issue in many years, perhaps decades but their influence on my generation is incalculable.
Talk about irreverence?
Mad poked fun at all comers, anyone in the public eye without exception.The ‘usual gang of idiots’ feared no one and seemed to live by the philosophy that there are no sacred cows. Mad ridiculed everything from the doings in D.C. to the hype of Hollywood and all to be found in between.
Mad taught us to question everything with their satirical take on the events of the day. I loved Dave Berg’s “The Lighter Side of…” pieces and the imaginative marginal drawings of Sergio Aragones always required a second look. And back in the 'fold out cover' days they put out some serious narrative with those innovative designs.
Most of all Mad held up a revealing mirror allowing us to not only take a thoughtful look at our country, our culture and our lifestyles but also to serve as a reminder to not take ourselves quite so seriously.That when life seems complicated and confused there is always one philosophy that can prevail under dire circumstances, a philosophy captured in a phrase often uttered by their frequent coverboy Alfred E Neuman.
“What, me worry?”
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