July 2, 2017

Jim Bouton — author of the classic baseball memoir "Ball Four" — reveals that he has a kind of brain damage that has undermined his ability to communicate.

In this terrific NYT article by Tyler Kepner, we also learn about Jim Bouton's wife of 35 years, Paula Kurman, "who has a doctorate in interpersonal communications from Columbia." Bouton had 2 strokes, one of which, 5 years ago, was "catastrophic," leading to a hemorrhage that "wiped out" his language skills. "He had to relearn how to read, write, speak and understand."
Kurman had worked with brain-damaged children many years before, and recognized troubling signs in her husband: repeating questions, difficulty organizing and categorizing information....

In her work with brain-damaged children, Kurman said, her boss would tell her to think about what remains, not what is lost. It is a lesson she applies now. Her husband can still make her laugh, still make her think. He has taken up painting again; he once studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. And he can still pitch.

“You need to learn that the person is still that person, and you have to focus more on what he can do, rather than what he can’t do,” she said. “And then you adjust.”
Most of the article is about "Ball Four" and the celebrity status it brought Jim Bouton in the 1970s. Here he is jousting with Johnny Carson in 1977



And here's "Ball Four," which could be the best book about baseball, since — as the NYT points out — it's the only sports book on The New York Public Library's Books of the Century. But if these librarians only came up with one sports book for their list, it might mean they weren't interested enough in sports to get it right.

"Ball Four" is listed in the "Popular Culture & Mass Entertainment" category — along with some novels ("Dracula," "The Turn of the Screw," "The Hound of the Baskervilles," "Tarzan of the Apes,"" Riders of the Purple Sage," etc. etc.) and 2 other non-novels: "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and "In Cold Blood." Great company to be in, no matter how much these librarians cared about sports.

What did the librarians care about? Novels. There are 12 categories, all (except "Nature's Realm") dominated by novels. And "Nature's Realm" was their way of saying science. That's the way people immersed in novels refer to science.

43 comments:

samsondale said...

Terry Jones of Python fame has something similar (Wikipedia says it is "primary progressive aphasia".

Laslo Spatula said...

"What did the librarians care about? Novels."

With the Internet's prevalence, the only reason I see for Libraries is to employ Naughty Librarians.

With the Naughty Librarian Eyeglasses.

"Excuse me, where would I find "The Story of O"?"

"You'll show me, personally? Thank you!"

"It's on the top shelf, and you need to climb up the ladder? Sure, I'll hold the ladder steady for you."

It's that zipper on the back of the Librarian Pencil Skirt: No Man Can Resist.

I am Laslo.

I am laslo.

St. George said...

His book was shocking back in the day. How innocent we were.

David Begley said...

"Ball Four" was considered ground breaking and scandalous for its time. I'm wondering how it would read today. What it really did was remove ball players from their pedestals. Now ball players are mostly viewed as overpaid entertainers thanks to Mr. Market. Bread and circuses. Bud and the Brewers (or the Spanish word on their uniform yesterday).

(Yankee lineup from yesterday and .I recognized one player's name.)

Laslo Spatula said...

"...her boss would tell her to think about what remains, not what is lost."

Yes.

Brain Damage stories get under my skin. I've had an extensive history of concussions (two more in the last eight months alone) and imagine my own brain is a bald tire...

I am Laslo.

Michael K said...

One of the toughest cases I ever had to deal with was that of a retired major league ball player. He was at a benefit golf tournament and coming home, after a few drinks, he hit a light pole in his car. He was not seriously injured but his GP, for some reason, put him in ICU to watch him overnight. His only injury was some pain in his left neck where the shoulder harness of his seat belt had struck his neck.

The next morning, he was eating breakfast and getting ready for discharge, when he began to have weakness in his right side. I was called and we took him to x-ray and did an angiogram. His left middle cerebral artery was blocked by a clot which seemed to have come from a tiny irregularity in the left carotid artery, about where the seat belt had hit his neck.

We were watching a severe stroke in progress and I called a neurosurgeon friend to see if he thought he could do anything. I wanted to try to go after the clot but the neurosurgeon was afraid it would not work. He was almost as aggressive as I was but those days were long ago and it seemed we would make it worse.

Anyway, he had a massive stroke, lost his speech and took years to recover partially. He was about 35 at the time and his wife was a friend of my wife's. I was sick about it.

rhhardin said...

Was Ball Four responsible for beaver or was that some other baseball book.

Darrell said...

I've had an extensive history of concussions (two more in the last eight months alone)

Time to change your behavior, my friend, or find a suitable helmet.

rhhardin said...

Brain damage is a curious exception. Things get damage, organisms get injuries.

As if one wanted to stress mechanism.

Luke Lea said...

I had to relearn how to write after moderate LSD use in late 1960's. Could not construct a grammatical English sentence, even of the simplest kind. Is there a word for that? Just curious.

rhhardin said...

Still, tumors are compared to vegetables and hailstones to sports equipment.

Jose_K said...

Ball four validates what they think about sports.
The Glory of their time.The Natural. Baseball Ballads. Pitching in a pinch. Weaver on Strategy. Not a book but "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu". Nice guys always finish last. Pitching man. Shoeless Joe.

rhhardin said...

Aphasia.

Jose_K said...

Montero was DFA for doing what Jim Button did

rhhardin said...

There's Warnake's and somebody else's aphasia. Broca's.

Michael K said...

"I had to relearn how to write after moderate LSD use in late 1960's."

I was a medical student in the 60s when LSD was so common. I worked up a pre-op patient one night who had gone to his psychiatrist for one of a series of sessions where they BOTH took LSD and "communicated." The patient told me he curled up into a fetal position and became quadriplegic. He was finally able to get straightened out and his paralysis went away.

It turned out he had an AV malformation in his cervical spinal cord and was going to have it removed the next morning.

Pretty freaky experience, eh ?

Michael K said...

"There's Warnake's and somebody else's aphasia. Broca's."

There's expressive, where you cannot communicate, even by writing, and sensory, where you cannot understand what is said. Or read,

Wernicke's is another term for the sensory form.

William said...

Ball Four was a fine book. It really blew the lid off the fact that young men liked sex and drank to excess. Stunning revelations. Here's an incident from the book:. Coming back from a road trip, the wives were gathered in the lounge waiting for them. One of the players said "Here's the wives. Everyone pretend to be horny".........I read Jane Leavy's book, The Last Hero. It was a biography of Mickey Mantle. Bouton didn't tell even a small fraction of what went on. The biography was sympathetic, but Mantle was a stone alcoholic and a horn dog. It wasn't just the bad knee that caused him to miss games and curtailed his career.

David Begley said...

"Ball Four revealed publicly for the first time the degree of womanizing prevalent in the major leagues (including "beaver shooting," the ogling of women anywhere, including rooftops or from under the stands). Bouton also disclosed how rampant amphetamine or "greenies" usage was among players. Also revealed was the heavy drinking of Yankee legend Mickey Mantle, which had previously been kept almost entirely out of the press."

Yeah, they used to look up women's dresses. Heroes! /sarc Today they would be prosecuted.

Mantle was the biggest loser from the book.

Martha said...

...... imagine my own brain is a bald tire...

I am Laslo.

If clever Laslo's brain is a bald tire, Nancy Pelosi's brain is a flat tire:

Pelosi gives another muddled speech, confusing details and mispronouncing words....

http://dennismichaellynch.com/pelosi-gives-another-muddled-speech-confusing-details-mispronouncing-words/?newsletter_uid=2764&newsletter_date=07%2F01%2F17-



Meade said...

" Today they would be prosecuted"

Only in a small number of states.

Laslo Spatula said...

"There are 12 categories, all (except "Nature's Realm") dominated by novels."

Interesting sidebar on Novels:


From Wiki:


A novelization (or novelisation) is a derivative novel that adapts the story of a work created for another medium, such as a film, TV series, comic book or video game. Film novelizations were particularly popular before the advent of home video, but continue to find commercial success as part of marketing campaigns for major films. They are often written by accomplished writers based on an early draft of the film's script and on a tight deadline...

According to publishing industry estimates, about one or two percent of the audience of a film will buy its novelization. This makes these relatively inexpensively produced works a commercially attractive proposition in the case of blockbuster film franchises. The increasing number of previously established novelists taking on tie-in works has been credited with these works gaining a "patina of respectability" after they had previously been disregarded in literary circles as derivative and mere merchandise...

Although novelizations tend to have a low prestige, and are often viewed as "hackwork",[2] several critically acclaimed literary authors have written novelizations, including Arthur Calder-Marshall,[11] William Kotzwinkle[12] and Richard Elman.[13] Best-selling author Ken Follett early in his career also wrote a novelization....


Novelizations also exist where the film itself is based on an original novel: novelist and screenwriter Christopher Wood wrote a novelization of the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. Although the 1962 Ian Fleming novel was still available in bookstores, its story had nothing to do with the 1977 film. To avoid confusion, Wood's novelization was titled James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me.[17] This novel is also an example of a screenwriter novelising his own screenplay....


Occasionally a novelization is issued even though the film is never made. Gordon Williams wrote the script and novelization for producer Harry Saltzman's abandoned film The Micronauts...


I am Laslo.

AMDG said...

Ball Four is a love letter to the game of baseball.

rhhardin said...

The beaverization of baseball.

William said...

Professional athletes are pretty much guaranteed to have a tragic end. So far as athletic ability goes, I was a couple of notches above klutz but a far, far distance from jock. I liked sports but it was an unrequited love affair. They were more often a source of frustration and agita than of enjoyment and accomplishment. I was able to stop playing tennis without any deep regrets. It's easier to put away childish things when your toys were cheap and broken.. No one looks at me now and and remarks about how graceful and elegant my movements used to be, but when you look at Joe Namath with his canes and clumsiness you can't help but feel s pang. Old age is easier on klutzes than on bonus babies.

rhhardin said...

Cavell on baseball, read to the middle of the next page.

Michael K said...

Baseball makes less of an impact on the body than football and I've known other baseball players who had interesting post career lives.

The problem that baseball players often get into is that many began in high school and are not well educated.

I imagine the same thing is true in basketball.

College baseball is a good farm team if the guys take advantage of the education.

I think the problem with football is the arms race toward bigger and bigger players, Physics is unsympathetic. Mass times velocity.

rhhardin said...

Mass times velocity is just the oomph, not the force. It can be benign or harmful depending on the time it's applied over.

Dog trainers use the principle with throw chains. You throw a small self-linked chain at the dog to impress him that you can reach him even when he's off leash.

The momentum of the chain is considerable, and provides oomph, but the links don't all stop at once but rather one at a time, so the mv is spread over a longer Ft time, giving a low force and no damage.

Throwing a juice can HALF filled with pebbles works the same way. The pebbles don't all stop at once.

David Begley said...

Just noting that the College World Series finished in Omaha. Much drama. The difference between the college game and the pro game is the mistakes; by the umps, players and coaches. Mistake by Oregon State may have cost them the championship.

Guildofcannonballs said...

"Colony guard: Oh. Hi, Mr. Lennox. Say, you're up kinda late.
Terry Lennox: Come on, lay it on me.
Colony guard: Okay. Let's see, I didn't - Barbara Stanwyck, I've been working on Barbara Stanwyck.
[as Barbara Stanwyck]
Colony guard: 'I don't understand. I don't understand it at all. I've never understood it, Walter. I just don't understand why I don't understand it all. I don't...
Terry Lennox: Okay, just remember that and you'll be alright. "

http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0254625/quotes

Bill Peschel said...

"Ball Four" was a book for it's time, when Bouton wondered why we made heroes out of athletes, when he knew damn well they weren't.

They went too far, though. He recounted an anecdote where a girl in a restaurant asked an astronaut for his autograph, then torn it up to make her point.

Yes, astronauts were horndogs, but they risked their life as part of their job, and that counts a lot more than pitching .000 ERA.

(I read the book several times as a kid, and still remember one of the major subplots was Gene Brabender, a pitcher trying to hang on to the Seattle Pilots. He even tried developing a knuckleball under Bouton's tutledge. Jim wrote about how, after one bad outing, Brabender was in the back of the bus, after slamming back several Buds and telling himself "it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter." And Bouton writing, "But it did."

I wonder if Gene eventually forgave him. He certainly didn't ask to see his life exposed.

EDH said...

Does this speak in favor of paying for those early detection preventive screening tests you see advertised on TV?

Ultrasounds of your carotid artieries and whatnot.

Whether you buy the TV advertised package or not, is there the possibility of early detection and the ability to do something about it?

m stone said...

Newton's Fourth Law:

Oomph

Bill Peschel said...

And I see on the cover of today's Parade magazine World Series MVP Ben Zobrist with his "all-American family." So rest assured, any deviations from the norm were temporary, and the uber-culture has been repaired.

m stone said...

Bill Peschel:

Brabender died of a brain aneurysm at age 55 on December 27, 1996.

Jay Vogt said...

Ball Four was a wonderful read.

For me it was an unexpected motivational book. Bouton's internal mantra, "Please Lord, don't let me screw up too badly in front of all these people" was liberating to me in that first it resonated with my own internal monolog, second it set realistic goals and lastly it was absolutely contrarian to the prevailing "In Pursuit of Excellence" mime of the time. And he made it work at the highest possible level. So perhaps could I.

Wish that good man all the best

Michael K said...

" is there the possibility of early detection and the ability to do something about it?"

Some things are worth screening for. Brain aneurysms probably not.

Colonoscopy when you are 50 is one. I still have an 18th century book I was given by a woman who wanted me to fix her hemorrhoids and I insisted she get a colonscopy first, which found her curable cancer.

Amexpat said...

In high school, Jim Bouton along with Joe Namath were the sport stars I most admired. I even overlooked Bouton's weak performance in the otherwise great Altman film, the Long Goodbye.

I greatly enjoyed Ball Four when it came out. Have no idea how I'd enjoy it now

swellmaniany said...

Bill Peschel: It was Gary Bell you are referring to, not Gene Brabender.

Mountain Maven said...

Man, do I love my obscurity and anonymity.

The Godfather said...

I've never read Bouton's book, and to be honest I'd never heard of him before (and I was BORN a Yankees fan), but the Carson interview was very good.

What interested me most was the list of books from the NY Public Library. I counted 46 that I've read, and another 17 where I've read another major book by the same author. The list is obviously left-slanted; for example, they've got a categories for "Women Rise", and "Protest & Progress". Still, they do have Milton Friedman, Hayek, and Heinlein. I'm always amused when leftists discover "Stranger In A Stranger Land", as some of my hippie friends did in the '60's; I suggested that if they like Heinlein they should try "Farnham's Freehold" or "Starship Troopers" next.

exiledonmainstreet said...

It's sad about Bouton. I emjoyed "Ball Four" when I was young.

Michael K wrote:

"College baseball is a good farm team if the guys take advantage of the education."

Under MLB rules college players cannot be drafted until they are 20 and have completed their junior year. Hence most mlb players who played in college never completed their degrees. It's a tough choice - if you are 20 and a major league team wants you as a prospect, how can you turn that down? Especially since the Hispanic players, who are being signed at age 17 or so, are already ahead of you in the minor league system?

I figure many players drop out, thinking that if it doesn't work out for them, they can always go back and complete that final year. If the Yankees or the Dodgers come calling this year, that is no guarantee they'll want you next season.

Henry said...

But if these librarians only came up with one sports book for their list, it might mean they weren't interested enough in sports to get it right.

Major League Player Jim Brosnan wrote two excellent books about baseball, both focused on the experience of a single season. The books are diaries, but Brosnan carefully handles the pacing of his material, making the books as much about a lifestyle and era as a particular baseball season:

Pennant Race: The Classic Game by Game Account of a Championship Season, 1961
The Long Season: The Classic Inside Account of a Baseball Year, 1959

Brosnan is also, like the best diarists, a master of the epigram:

Seen through a glass of Scotch the sun looks like a fertile raw egg. (Perhaps that was the reflection of my eyeball.)

Unenforceable laws of conduct usually stem from a lack of human understanding on the part of the rules-makers.