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Thursday, June 15
Chess? Only on the computer

Editor's note: How much has life in the big leagues changed since Jim Bouton wrote "Ball Four" 30 years ago? We sent a few passages from Bouton's book to Red Sox catcher Scott Hatteberg, who gave us the inside scoop.

In the bullpen
I think coach Eddie O'Brien is going to prove to be a gold-plated pain in the ass ... when I reached into his ballbag he said, "What are you going to do with it?"

"I'm going to count the laces," I told him. "And then I'm going to juggle it."

Later on O'Brien noticed some of the guys were eating sunflower seeds in the bullpen. "Hey, none of that," he said. "No eating in the bullpen."

Eddie O'Brien will have to be clued in on what happens in the bullpen. Maybe the way to cure him is to make him head of the refreshment committee.

Scott Hatteberg
Red Sox catcher Scott Hatteberg says technology is a big innovation from 30 years ago.

Hatteberg: If there is one place where baseball will remain unchanged it is the bullpen. It is a sanctuary from the world (at least for five or six innings). In the "pen," men turn to kids and mind-numbing games abound. The days of counting laces on baseballs and juggling have taken a backseat to flicking pumpkin seeds for distance and chewed gum toss for accuracy. Despite the trivial nature of such competitions, one's prowess in these events is held in high regard among the members of the bullpen.

Snacks are also an important staple to the crew of the pen as was the case 30 years ago. Today, however, seeds are used more for flicking than eating. Snickers, Jolly Ranchers, and other high octane foods are more the norm.

The bullpen coach is the only adult around and in my opinion is more a baby sitter than a coach. His main job is to answer the phone and make sure the pitcher entering the game has no powdered sugar on his lips. If a coach tries to expand his duties in the pen and actually "coach," he will quickly get housebroken, just like ol' Eddie O'Brien, I have a feeling.

On the plane
Mike (Marshall) was concerned when one of the reporters wrote that he and I play chess on airplanes and sometimes carry the board out of the plane and into the bus without dropping a single piece. He didn't think it helped our images any.

Hatteberg: With the exception of increased technology, plane rides are pretty similar. Guys will gather in groups and entertain themselves in a variety of ways. Some will play cards, some will watch DVDs on portable units, others will play games like cribbage or chess.

However, instead of using an actual board, the fellas will use computers with pentium-3 processors and 15-inch screens, a convenience Marshall and Bouton I'm sure would've appreciated.

Pregame meetings
And when we were going over the hitters, a lot of the comments consisted of, "He likes the ball over the plate."

Let's see, now. When the ball is over the plate isn't that what the umpires call a strike?

Also, there seemed to be a lot of first-ball hitters in the crowd. Brooks Robinson, Don Buford, Paul Blair, all first-ball hitters. One day I want to hear somebody say, "Good third-ball hitter. Likes to hit that third pitch."

Hatteberg: These meetings have become more elaborate with the advent of databased statistics and video. Computers have enabled scouts and coaches to track each pitch hit or thrown by every player in the league. However, with such technology, coaches still have a knack for saying things that seem a little vague. A typical report would be,

"Let's get ahead of this guy and put him away with the breaking ball."

Though I've never asked, I have always wanted to know how to get ahead of him. It seems like a practical question, but after looking around the room I always find a bunch of blank faces not the least bit concerned. This usually means one thing -- if it doesn't work, just blame the catcher.

It cost me a dollar to the pitchers' fund because I didn't back up third base the other night.

Hatteberg: Fines usually vary with the team. Some teams I have been on have fined guys for everything. From missing signs to not backing up a base. Usually it costs a guy five bucks per offense. My first year I was called up halfway through the season and sat in on my first court session. Though I hadn't played an inning yet, I was fined $20. Five dollars for being late for the season, $5 for wearing my hat in court, $5 for speaking without being recognized, and finally, $5 for muttering an obscenity beneath my breath. If they had better ears they could've got me for more.

The first thing I felt when the Yankees showed up at the park today was embarrassment. That's because our uniforms look so silly with the technicolor gingerbread all over them. The Yankee uniforms, even their gray traveling uniforms, are beautiful in their simplicity.

Hatteberg: Today's uniforms, in my opinion, are all pretty sharp. They aren't too flashy or too loud. But Bouton is right. The Yanks have great uniforms. They are very simple and traditional. The Red Sox have the same sort of feel.

I do, however, think a lot of the look of the uniform depends on who is wearing it. Some guys just make everything look good. I bet you could put Griffey in a brown paper bag and say to yourself, "Man, he looks pretty sharp."

At the start of the trip, (manager) Joe Schultz called in Steve Hovley and said, "I want you to start dressing like a major-league ballplayer."

Joe only said that because Steve wears Levi's to the park sometimes and thinks nothing of wearing his famous nondescript corduroy jacket seven days in a row.

Hatteberg: I think, judging from Steve Hovley's fashion sense, times haven't changed all that much. Clothes are an afterthought for most major-league players. If it weren't for shoe and glove contracts, most players would wear the same shirt three or four times a week.

But with these contracts players are able to order merchandise. Usually an order will include 20-30 polo shirts in a few different colors and patterns. These will then last a player for the entire year. They will show up under suits, with jeans, or perhaps a pair of shorts. All you have to do to find out what shoes or gloves a guy wears is check out his shirt. I guarantee there will be a logo of some kind.

Postgame music
The country western music got a big workout in the clubhouse after the win. There are four or five different tape-players around and they make quite a racket. One of the favorites is "Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog." Gene Brabender knows all the words to that one.

Hatteberg: At least in Boston, postgame music is a thing of the past. Too many people listen to too many different types of music. It may sound trivial, but people are very picky about what kind of music is played. Some of the worst arguments I've seen have been over music. So, thanks to the advent of the portable CD player, people can listen to whatever they want, whenever they want.

A great -- and important -- book

"Ball Four" remains a baseball classic

Harper still passes on "Ball Four"