“There’s trouble on Joe Pepitone’s line,” was the title Bill Madden gave a chapter of his 2003 book Pride of October: What It Was to be Young and a Yankee. The title alluded to what Madden heard when he first called Pepitone at his Long Island home to arrange interviews for the book. Long before he struggled to reach the former first baseman, there was trouble on Joe Pepitone’s line. And there would be again, nine years later.
Which is worse? A baseball commissioner trying to suppress a from-the-inside book written by an active player? An opposing team burning a copy of the book?
When Jim Bouton’s Ball Four reached the magazine-excerpt stage and, then, full publication, in 1970, the former Yankee fastball standout, reduced by arm miseries to knuckleballing, marginal Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros middle reliever/spot starter, had both happen. But if you wonder whether Bouton shriveled into a shell and disappeared as a result, you don’t remember much of his post-playing life. Not to mention the book he published a year later.