Jim Bouton, Karen Hitchcock, Rip Torn, RIP

“certain flaws in my make-up”

Jim Bouton

Jim BoutonJim Bouton’s birthday was the day after mine. I used to religiously read the backs of baseball cards.

He pitched for my beloved New York Yankees beginning in 1962. He pitched well in successive World Series. Against the 1963 Dodgers, he lost despite giving up only 1 run in 7 innings. Then he won 2 games over the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals. The Yankees lost both series.

Jim Bouton continued to pitch for those mediocre/bad Yankees teams the rest of the decade until he was picked up by the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969. Writing the book Ball Four, a diary of that season, plus recollections of his time with the Yankees, Pilots, and Astros that has made him memorable.

“The book was a frank, insider’s look at professional sports teams, covering the off-the-field side of baseball life, including petty jealousies, obscene jokes, drunken tomcatting of the players, and routine drug use, including by Bouton himself.

“Upon its publication, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn called Ball Four ‘detrimental to baseball’, and tried to force Bouton to sign a statement saying that the book was completely fictional. Bouton, however, refused to deny any of Ball Four’s revelations.”

Ball Four was updated several times, including the chronicling of his brief return to Major League Baseball in 1978. I’ve only read the original, and it was both revealing and entertaining. It changed the sports biography/autobiography forever.

Rip Torn

Rip Torn was one of those great names like Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter that you figured was made up. But the surname was real -he was born Elmore Rual Torn Jr.

I noticed him in episodes of TV dramas when I was growing up. He was on seven episodes of 30 Rock. But he was best known for playing Artie on the Larry Sanders Show. I also saw him in movies such as The Seduction of Joe Tynan and Men in Black. Whatever I saw him in, he was always good.

An interesting item: “Appearing as an interview subject in Studs Terkel’s 1974 oral-history book Working, Torn confessed, ‘I have certain flaws in my make-up. Something called irascibility. I get angry easily. I get saddened by things easily.'” I definitely relate to that!

Kren Hitchcock

When I noted the death of Karen Hitchcock, the former head of the University at Albany, I checked out her Wikipedia page. While it correctly points out some difficulties, it seemed rather one-sided. It failed to note her concerns that provided to be spot-on.

The piece discussed tensions between Hitchcock and the SUNY Chancellor Robert King, the latter whom I distrusted over unrelated concerns. Their fight was over the eventual separation of the College of Nanoscale Sciences and Engineering from the University at Albany. She had opposed spinning it off for reasons I found academically credible. I thought the division gave CNSE head Dr. Alain Kaloyeros way too much autonomy.

All three died in the past few days.

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