Jesse Jarnow

ball four

The steroids hearings today, coupled with the stories about the rise of Adderall and Ritalin prescriptions among players, reminded me off a few passages of Jim Bouton’s Ball Four (1970), where the then-active pitcher makes clear how entwined drugs, quack science, and baseball are. Besides speaking of rubs like “First Atomic Balm” and “Heet!”, Bouton writes:

I’ve tried a lot of other things through the years — like butabolidin, which is what they give to horses. And D.M.S.O. — dimethylsulfoxide. Whitey Ford used that for a while. You rub it on with a plastic glove and as soon as it gets on your arm you can taste it in your mouth. It’s not available anymore, though. Word is it can blind you. I’ve also taken shots — novocaine, cortisone and xylocaine. Baseball players will take anything. If you had a pull that would guarantee a pitcher 20 wins but might take five years off his life, he’d take it.

More present throughout are the omnipresent amphetamines:

We’ve been running short of greenies. We don’t get them from the trainer, because greenies are against club policy. So we get them from players on other teams who have friends who are doctors, or friends who know where to get greenies. One of our lads is going to have a bunch of greenies mailed to him by some of the guys on the Red Sox. And, to think you can spend five years in jail for giving your friend a marijuana cigarette.

And earlier:

There were 30,000 people in the park and it was exactly the kind of day in which you want to look good against your old club and in honor of the occasion Gary put down at least three greenies. They didn’t do him a bit of good.


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