It’s not often that the word horripilation pops up in conversation. I don’t think the word even exists in spell check. I had never heard it until I read an interview with Jim Brosnan.
He was a pitcher for the Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, and White Sox in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Nicknamed the professor because he wore glasses and liked to read in the clubhouse.
Brosnan had a bad habit of keeping a diary. Bad because the baseball world in his day frowned on Anne Franks in their midst. What was said in the clubhouse, stayed in the clubhouse. But the itch was too strong for Brosnan. He wrote two insiders views and they were criticized as “unfair, irreverent, and traitorous.“
The Long Season chronicles his 1959 season with the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. He was traded mid-season. The second book covers the 1961 pennant race season with the Reds. They were the first baseball books without a side kick author guiding the ship. In the words of Brosnan,,“trampling upon the tradition that a player should hire a sportswriter to do the work.“
Brosnan paved the way for the more popular tell all confessions; Ball Four by Jim Bouton and The Bronx Zoo by Sparky Lyle. Brosnan had no agenda other than writing an enjoyable book, but things changed and soon enough, it was cool and fashionable to publish “tell it like it is.“ books. In retrospect, Brosnan was to the baseball literary world what Michael Jordan was to basketball shorts. Nothing short of a revolution.
I love Ball Four or I love the fact that fans still carry the book around like a rebellious badge. I love that Bouton exposed the tabloids of locker rooms; the booze and one night stands. It’s entertaining, but seems a bit shocking for the sake of popularity.
Brosnan is far more sober than Bouton and for me anyway, easier to relate to. He focuses on the mundane because I guess most of life and most of a long baseball season is well, mundane, but Brosnan’s reflections gush side by side chatter with teammates, the drama of games and cities visited and so on.
How he remembered the conversations word for word is a miracle of Ginkgo Biloba proportions. He turns the water of daily life into hot whiskey and maybe in the long run; burns the baseball establishment even more than the Bouton’s of the baseball world. Brosnan is introspective. His honesty smashes the bullshit, keeps it real. As far as I can tell, there’s just as much bullshit today as 50 years ago and maybe more.
He was not well liked by the baseball powers. Joe Garagiola dissed him as a loner and a rebel as if that’s such a bad thing. There were clauses in big league contracts back then forbidding players to publish material without prior permission. Brosnan explained to Red’s GM Bill DeWitt that writing was an avocation. Brosnan was then traded to the White Sox.
Apparently , every general manager discouraged him from writing. Brosnan half joked in the interview from “The Best of Spitball” that he will write another book when the Cubs win the pennant. He was raised in Cincinnati, but is a die-hard Cubs fan.
I’ve never become so obsessed that I read every word of a particular writer. I watch too much TV I guess, but Jim Brosnan only wrote two baseball books and the truth is I’ve never been able to finish either , but it’s by choice and probably my greatest act of self discipline.
I’m savoring them, rationing the last few pages, but for what? Reading the end won’t change a thing. I’ve seen the Bad News Bears movie who knows how many times and every time I see something new. That’s my definition of love.
And about that word horripilation. The interviewer asked, “You were an essential part of the Reds 1961 championship team. Was helping them win the pennant your biggest thrill?”
Brosnan replied, “Getting the last out of the pennant clincher has to rank with the big thrills…I can tell they’re thrilling by the horripilation.
Speaking of hairs raising on arms, the Brewers crawled back into their game against the Marlins of Miami Saturday afternoon. A base hit and an error and holy mackerel, the tying run stood on third base and the go ahead on second. But it was the 8th inning. Outs were in short supply.
The score was Marlins 2, Brewers 1. Was this the same place where 7 home runs were launched less than 24 hours ago? Night and day. Roof open Friday. Roof closed Saturday. Well, in that hair-raising 8th inning with runners in scoring position and a 2-1 deficit, Mark Reynolds popped out and Scooter Gennett struck out. My arm hairs lost their erection.
The game featured 19 hits and 17 men left on base. I tip my hat to Jacob Turner and Wily Peralta; both of them pulling rabbits out of hats and escaping jams. Or I wish my hat would have been turned sideways or inside out…rally cap. Final Score; Marlins 2, Brewers 1.
The Brewers are 29-21.