Thursday, March 30, 2006

"Ex-Yank Bouton cries foul" MetroNY 03/30/06

Ex-Yank Bouton cries foul

by patrick arden / metro new york

MAR 30, 2006

MANHATTAN — When pitching its new stadium proposal to a City Council subcommittee on Tuesday, the New York Yankees relied on the star power of ex-slugger Reggie Jackson, who now works as a team executive.

That same day, another former Yankee great posted a different suggestion on his Web site, “Instead of acting as cheerleaders for this trashing of history, former Yankee players should plan to lie down in front of the bulldozers.”

“All those guys who they use to promote stadiums are on the payroll,” complained Jim Bouton, reached at his home in Massachusetts.

His last book, “Foul Ball,” told the story of his own unsuccessful attempt to save a historic minor league ballpark in Pittsfield, Mass. It’s just been released in an expanded paperback edition by Lyons Press.

“They wanted to build a new $18 million, publicly financed stadium in the center of town — a stadium people had voted against three different times,” he recalled. “They rejected our plan to restore the old ballpark with private funds, because it would have put a stake in the heart of their stadium dream.

“That’s why most of the old stadiums get torn down,” Bouton explained.

“Unions are behind it — they say it gives jobs. They don’t march in front of a school, though, and say ‘Let’s get the city to build classrooms.’

“I don’t know how a businessman can walk into a community with overcrowded schools and ask that city for a dime,” he said. “That’s what’s happening in New York City. In Pittsfield they were turning out streetlights; in New York City they’re closing firehouses. The city’s in this huge debt mode, and they’re going to spend hundreds of millions on a stadium?”

Not surprisingly, Bouton has strong opinions about the Yankees’ plan, which he’s been following in the press.

“Breaking up the park, and putting some of it on top of parking garages, is another horrible thing,” he said. “The city should simply say, ‘No, you’ve drawn 4 million people last year. You’re the most successful sports franchise in the country. You don’t need this, and the city doesn’t need it.’

“There’s no consideration given to the neighborhood. The plan’s been presented as a done deal. People don’t get a chance to vote on it. The city can’t put it to a vote — people would vote against it.”

Bouton grew up in New Jersey and didn’t set foot in Yankee Stadium until he was on the team. “I don’t like what they did in the 1970s renovation, but now it will be ruined even further,” he said. “I don’t know where they got that new design — it’s just ugly.”

Who’s Jim Bouton?

• He began his major league career with the Yankees in 1962, where he became an All-Star pitcher, winning 21 and 18 games before injuring his arm in 1965.

• He wrote the best-seller “Ball Four” which was noted for its humorous and unflattering depiction of baseball. MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn slammed the book as “detrimental” to the sport.

• He invented Big League Chew.


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