Sex and Baseball
By John B Holway
After several weeks of heavy diet, I thought you all need a little dessert.
The Bible exhorts us to “go forth and multiply.” Ballplayers (like the rest of us) have enjoyed multiplying ever since.
If sex were a disqualifying character flaw, the Hall of Fame today would have about six plaques, and they would probably be drunks, who couldn’t even see the gal on the next bar stool, and if they could, couldn’t do anything about it.
If you’ve ever been to the winners’ locker room after a World Series final game, you know that, to get in, you have to push and squeeze through a gaggle of the most beautiful chicks you ever saw. There isn’t even one 9 1/2 among them.
The guys are handsome, at their hormonal peaks, and with more money in their pockets than they have the vaguest idea how to spend in their lifetimes.
I had a girlfriend once who was fixed up with a visiting football coach. She said she’d never date an athlete again. All he did when he wasn’t pawing her was talk about himself. Apparently writers make better lovers.
On the other hand, if a gal can get a wedding ring, or at least get pregnant, her lawyer can take care of the rest, and she’ll be set for life.
Babe Ruth biographer Robert Creamer described a World Series clubhouse after the door was opened. Someone yelled, “Any girl here who doesn’t want to get [ahem] better leave now!”
He added: “Nobody did.”
Ruth would leave his car at a red light with the motor running and hop into the adjoining car if it had a beautiful woman in it.
Historian Bill Nowlin describes Ted’s hotel lobby when he arrived after a game. It was filled with girls with low neck lines and short tight skirts, pursing their lips, batting their eyes, arching their backs and crossing and uncrossing their legs. Ted surveyed them, nodded to the lucky one, and they disappeared into the elevator. The others trouped sadly out, to return the next night and try again.
The first time I met Ted was in his hotel room in Washington in 1957. We were having a lively interview when the phone rang.
“Hello.” In a gruff baritone.
Then his eyes narrowed, and his voice switched to a sexy purr. I could imagine the poor woman slowly melting to a puddle on the rug as he played her like a marlin on a line. I said to myself, “Man, I’m glad I’m not a woman; I’d be pregnant all the time with this guy!”
His room-mate, Charlie Wagner, told me: “He had a million women chasing him with mattresses strapped to their backs.”
Women swooned in Ted’s arms. Until they married him. With the obvious exception of Henry VIII, he was the world’s worst husband.
I once asked Ted why he couldn’t hit in New York.
“Whaddaya mean?” he boomed – Ted always boomed everything – “I was a hell of a hitter in New York! Of course, I didn’t do so good right after the war. I was gaga over some broad and in the sack every night.”
It’s true. I think he went 1-for-20 in the Big Apple that year (1946). He told the press it was because he wasn’t getting any good pitches to hit (!) Uh-huh. His wife must have found out, because she began making the trips to New York with him. But that made things worse; he missed his girlfriend so much, he couldn’t concentrate on hitting.
Houston pitcher Bob Knepper got in hot water for saying women shouldn’t be umpires, because God intended them to be subservient to men. It raised an outcry from many feminists. However, apparently not all women were upset.
Billy Loes of the Dodgers (1950-61) had to lock himself in the men’s room on the train between Brooklyn and Philadelphia to avoid a process server in a paternity suit.
Roy Campanella had a similar problem in the Negro leagues.
Wade Boggs got in trouble when the papers – and his wife – discovered he had a “road wife,” Margo Adams (left), who went on all road trips with him for four years.
A connoisseur of fine food, fine wine, fast cars, and fast women – not necessarily in that order – he called himself “the best Jewish pitcher since Sandy Koufax.” (He was virtually the only one then, along with Kenny Holtzman.) Intelligent, witty, puckishly handsome, a poet and gormand, Stone was named one of America’s sexiest men by “Playgirl” Magazine.
In a velvet dinner jacket with ruffled shirt and a stunning woman at his side, he became a familiar figure at all the best restaurants on the American League circuit Smiled general manager Roland Hemond: “It’s the first time I ever signed a player in a tux at the Pump Room.”
Casey Stengel didn’t mind if his players had girlfriends. What bothered him was when they stayed out all night finding one. When Don Larsen wrapped his car around a pole at 3 a.m., reporters wanted to know why he was out so late. Casey shrugged: “Maybe he went out to mail a letter.”
Bo Belinsky, who pitched for the Angels and Phils, 1962-70, almost never got to bed before 4:30, and usually 6:00. He once met a blonde, stayed out until 4, then threw a no-hitter. It cost him a lot of money, though, because he had to buy drinks for everyone. “Like getting a hole in one.”
“Happiness,” he said, is “a first-class pad, good wheels, and a little action.’ Sex helped him relax. “No one ever died of it.”
His teammate, Dean Chance, tried to keep up with Bo. Once he was out all night, then pitched in his first All Star Game. He threw a two-hitter.
By contrast, their Angels pitching mate, Burt Hooten, was so square, according to announcer Vin Sully, when he went out, “he painted the town beige.”
In the minors, Bo drilled 20 holes into his hotel room wall to peek at Miss Universe in the next room. When she raised a storm, his manager demanded an explanation. “What holes?” Bo asked.
“These holes,” the skipper said, poking his finger into one of them.
“Oh,” said Bo, “those holes.”
Hollywood columnist Walter Winchel fixed him up with several movie queens, such as Mamie Van Doren [right] and one real one, Queen Soraya of Iran. Winchel publicized them all. “I put that team on the map,” Bo boasted.
But he maintained the highest standards: “I don’t take out a broad without checking her references.”
One night he found a beautiful woman clinging to the ledge of his hotel room windowsill. “What could I do?” he shrugged, “I had to pull her in to save her life.”
After his record fell to 2-9, he was farmed out to Honolulu, where he checked out bikinis on the beach. When he was recalled to the majors, he didn’t want to go.
But he quickly got back in the swing. One morning the team plane arrived at three a.m., and Bo dashed into the arms of three waiting gals while his drowsy teammates cheered.
Another time he tooled back to the hotel in his candy apple convertible about five o’clock, hoping to sneak in undetected. Instead, he was greeted by the manager and the whole team on the sidewalk because of a fire inside. It cost him a $500 fine.
He gave one lucky teammate a hot phone number. It turned out to be a drag queen.
He slipped a rival pitcher another number, which turned out to be the manager’s hotel room. “Who the hell is this?” the sleepy skipper bawled. The pitcher was soon back in the minors. Bo knew how to handle a rival.
Belinsky himself was shipped to Philadelphia. He didn’t like the town: “The fans would even boo a funeral.”
Bo later admitted that his love life may have been a little exaggerated. “If I did everything they said I did, I’d be in a jar in Harvard Medical School.”
Ask Questions. Question Answers
Letters may be edited for length
Roids in Valhalla
No proof, no story. (Dan Walsh)
(As Mark Twain said, “It’s the difference of opinion that makes a horse race.” The facts – the stats – need no proof. I’ve given you two interpretations. How do you interpret them? John)
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Interesting points, but we can’t prove that drugs caused the high performance of these players in their late 30s. All we can do is speculate. (Mark G. Chalpin)
(When guys suddenly start going like superman in their late 30s, I think we should all be speculating. Especially Hall of Fame voters. If I were a lawyer, I’d tell a jury.)
1. Hank had a strong motive to have his best year at age 39.
2. He did have his best year at age 39. See below. (John)
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If you look at Aaron’s home-road splits for 1971 & ’73, compared to the rest of his career, you wouldn’t see any smoking gun. In 1971, Aaron’s slugging average was .786 at home, .556 on the road, compared to his .553 career mark on the road, and .594 and .564 in the two years prior. Generally, Aaron did better on the road in his Milwaukee years, better at home in his Atlanta years, but for whatever reason, ’71 was the most lopsided split. Atlanta, plus restoring the strike zone in ’69, made Hank’s numbers jump, but he was just a great hitter throughout his career. There’s no smoking gun. (Bill Deane)
Bill: Aaron averaged 31 homers per 550 at bats in Milwaukee, ages 22-31. He averaged 37 in Atlanta ages 32-38. It came to 34 lifetime. So the Atlanta Park, which was then the highest elevation in the majors, obviously helped him. If he had stayed in Milwaukee, he would never have come close to Babe. Let’s concentrate on his Atlanta years:
Year Age HR/550
1966 32 42
1967 33 36
1968 34 26
1969 35 44 expansion
1970 36 41
1971 37 52 a 25% increase to a personal best
1972 38 42
1973 39 56 up 33%, best of his life; tied Ruth at season end
1974 40 32
1975 41 14
1976 42 20
To me, home/away splits don’t explain why his homers per AB jumped startlingly at ages 37 and 39. League home runs didn’t leap that much.
His numbers returned to normal for his age after he broke the record, though his final season looks a little iffy.
It’s a matter of personal judgment. But I still see a wisp of smoke curling out of the muzzle of that gun. John
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I always wondered about Aaron myself, but expansion-era pitching plus the advent of smaller ballparks must have been factors. Expansion started in 1969, when Aaron was still productive. He was one of three men to reach the CF bleachers in the Polo Grounds. Would you say he was “juicing” then? (Dan Schlossberg)
(No. I hate to point the finger at Aaron, Gwynn, Ryan, and other nice guys. But should we have a double standard, one for nice guys on roids and another for ess-oh-be’s? By the way, the Aaron who reached the Polo Grounds CF was Hank’s brother Tommy. John)
I was never convinced McGwire was on roids. When a guy comes into the Majors and hits 49 homers at 23 years old – he’s got some power. In looking at your stats, he fell off and began to get injured. But with Canseco aiding him, I again thought Mark was not on roids. With that combo it was tough on pitchers: Which one do you pitch to? But with the jump in drugs in the Major Leagues in that era, I have to agree with you. (John Bushman)
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When were steroids banned in baseball? (Ed Walsh)
(I would say in 2004, when testing began. John)
I don’t like the idea of “Super Gold Plaques.” Determining HOF quality is hard enough; there are no specific criteria.
Adding the “Super Gold” category would only complicate determinations. If “Pee Wee” Reese had not befriended Jackie Robinson in public and played for one of the game’s most charismatic teams, would he be in the Hall ahead of Omar Vizquel and Buddy” Myer, who performed with teams with less media luster? What foggy intangibles would differentiate between “Great” and “Super Great”? Frustration and madness lie there. (Bob Reising)
(I envision that decisions about this decade’s gold plaques would be made in the year 2060 by kids who are still in diapers now. I agree with you: They should go by performance, not anecdotes. John)
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I have followed your postings religiously. My last book was never published – Baseball’s Steroid Era. Two publishers decided not to publish it for fear of legal ramifications. If you would like to review the book, I have a copy I would be pleased to send you.
Keep up the good work. You are an oasis of great baseball information in a vast wasteland of same-o-same-o. (William McNeil)
(Sounds like a block-buster. Please send an excerpt. And I might just know a publisher. John)
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These are very thought-provoking articles. Thanks for researching and writing them. Ditto for what happened in Kiev and its aftermath. (Kit Crissey, past-president, SABR)
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I have no idea where you got the idea that Babe Ruth retired at 35. Since he was born Feb 6, 1895 and played in 1935, that makes him 40 when he threw in the towel. You need to proof-check things like this. (Paul Haas)
(We caught the error and corrected it – then sent out the uncorrected version! John)