Q: How is vintage base ball different from the modern game?
From: Michael Martin - Abcouda, Netherlands
A: Jim Bouton's Reply: In vintage base ball (originally two words) the games are an hour shorter because there was no Velcro in the 19th century. And there are other modern annoyances that vintage base ball does without. Besides no batting gloves, there are also no helmets, wrist-bands, elbow pads, sunglasses, logo shoes, pajama pants, gold chains or earrings. No arguing with the umpire, no stepping out of the batter's box, no calling time out, no charging the pitcher, no posing at home plate, no curtain calling, chest bumping, high fiving, pointing to the sky, or kissing jewelry. Just base ball.
Q: Mr. Bouton, I have two questions. (1) What is your opinion about 11-14 year olds throwing curve balls? (2) How did Moe Drabowsky order a pizza from the bullpen, as described in your book Ball Four?
From: Dave Peck - Wheaton, Illinois
A: (1) If kids want to play in the big leagues one day, they need to throw curves (and other pitches) as early as possible - just as elite musicians need to start playing before they are 10 yrs old. Sore arms? They'll have dozens of them over the years - like most big leaguers have had. But if kids want to save a perfect arm for science one day, they
shouldn't throw curves. Or climb trees, etc.
(2) As I understand it, Moe found an outside line through the Yankee stadium
Q: What are your thoughts about the idea of an openly gay man playing major league baseball?
Patrick Brassell - Chula Vista, CA
A: It will happen one day, and the sooner the better. The first openly gay player will need to be as talented on the field - and as mentally tough off it - as Jackie Robinson was. The first gay player will likely be an established star that comes out toward the end of his career.
Q: C'mon, did Jason Giambi really NEED that $121 million contract when the As' were offering $90 million? That's more than the people selling hot dogs and beer at the game will see in a lifetime.
James May - Sacramento, CA
A: James, what planet are you living on? We don't pay people according to their worth. Nor do we pay them according to their worth. In America you're paid what someone else is willing to pay you. Why should ballplayers be any different? At least theirs is an arms length transaction, not a sweetheart deal with a board of directors that they've appointed.
Q: Jim, why is it called "question of the week," when it is not changed every week? Is it kind of like the "Daily Special" at Joe's in Tijuana that has been the same for 25 years?
Dan Thornton, Crawford, NE
A: You got me there. And it's even worse in that Joe's, at least, offers other items on the menu, whereas I have only the one question.
Q: I am getting married this summer. Any chance of you coming out to play a round of golf and talk me out of it? Also, what is your opinion of Wiffleball? I am 30 and I still play every chance I get.
Scott Dykeman - Easton, MA
A: Teach your wife how to throw a knuckleball.
Q: Hey, Jim! Will you be in Florida for any spring training "related activities?"
Anne Moreau, aka Baseball Annie - Tampa, FL
A: My wife does not think I need to go to Florida for spring training since I am no longer playing professional baseball, and especially not for "related activities."
Q: Do you have any comments about Hurricane Katrina, specifically regarding the use of the Superdome as the "homeless shelter from hell.
Dave Zirin - Tacoma Park, MD
A: A lot of poor people finally got to visit the Superdome to see where their tax dollars went. When they weren't fainting or dying, they could stroll around inside the building and check out their "engine for economic development" that was guaranteed back in 1975 to improve the neighborhood through better housing, schools and infrastructure (like levees, for example).
Q: Do you think that Bud Selig's purchase of the Seattle Pilots was really the first step in a 35 year plan to destroy baseball?
Rich Minahan - Huntington Beach, CA
A: In retrospect, Bud Selig has done a fantastic job as the Commissioner of Baseball. Especially his concept regarding the Playoffs.
Q: I am writing a book about television in the 1970's and will be including Ball Four, the sitcom. (I watched all four episodes). What I want to know is, was the character of Bill Westlake supposed to be gay?
Stephen Tropiano - Los Angeles, CA
A: Where were you when we were looking for writers?
Q: What are your thoughts about putting a Major League Baseball franchise in Mexico?
Michael Shay, Gillsville, GA
A: Good idea. And then Havana. But not with public money.
Q: While watching the news, I was shocked to see a Pittsburgh Pirate ballplayer take a swing at a sausage mascot with his baseball bat. Is this, in fact, a kosher play? What if the sausage has to go on the disabled list for 15 days in the middle of the season?
David Rothman - Needham, MA
A: I will have to speak with a Rabbi.
Q: Who would be the more annoying life insurance agent - Joe Pepitone or Barry Bonds?
Richard Marcovitz - Toronto, Canada
A: Barry Bonds. Joe would at least be amusing. "Hey, let's go some place like Hooters so we can talk insurance," Joe might say. And he'll explain "why whole life is better than half a life."
Q: I really wanna play for the Seattle Mariners someday as their starting Firstbabemen. ANy advice?
Ben Bryan - Huber Heights, Ohio
A: Dear Ben. Your spelling and punctuation suggest that you could become a great ballplayer. Over the years, I've known many great Firstbabemen. Not to mention Secondbabemen and Thirdbabemen.
But have plan B ready JUst in case.
Q: Should there be more nudity in movies?
Mark Roulty - Fredericksburg, VA
Q: What do you think of the rise in bowling scores and perfect games due to changes in technology in balls, pins and lanes? Isn't it like livening the baseballs to produce more home runs?
Merilee Reed - Seattle, WA
A: Unfortunately, we are obsessed with records. It reminds me of the pole vault controversy in Track & Field where the standard poles were replaced with fiberglass, allowing an athlete to "slingshot" himself over the bar. Now swimming federations are experimenting with swim-suit fabrics to help propel swimmers through the water. Eventually, all the records will all be debased, which is not good for any sport.
Q: Now that baseball is back in Washington, DC, do you think the teams will stay at the Shoreham Hotel and if so, will the players will go up on the roof at 2:00 a.m., looking in windows like you guys did.
A: I expect to see the roof of the Shoreham Hotel as part of a travel package: Experience the Ultimate Baseball Fantasy. "Spend a night with your favorite team on the roof of the Shoreham - only $5,000. Bring your own beer. Includes binoculars."
Q: What do you think about George Steinbrenner building a new Yankee Stadium?
Peter Gibbons - New York, NY
A: Just as the current bishop shouldn't be allowed to tear down St. Patrick's cathedral and build a new one across the street, Steinbrenner should not be allowed to do the same thing with Yankee Stadium. And instead of acting as cheerleaders for this trashing of history, former Yankee players should lie down in front of the bulldozers. And I'd join them, except I'm not sure the bulldozers would stop in my case.
Q: Do you think President Bush is making the right decision in taking up a war with Iraq?
Danny Diaz - Bronx NY
A: No. For the simple reason that we lack the cross-cultural expertise - wide fluency in middle eastern languages would be a minimum - to manage the aftermath of such a war. Of course, if we had that expertise, we might not have to fight in the first place. Our weapons scientists are way ahead of our of our social scientists. We are cowboys with lazers. Monkeys at the controls of a rocket ship.
[Note: this particular Q & A was posted on October 14, 2002. That was before we invaded Iraq.]