of William Charles Monbouquette began in Cleveland in the late afternoon of May
10. He had been to see Casino Royale with his Detroit Tiger teammates, Dick
Tracewski and Larry Sherry, and had returned to his hotel room to change his
clothes before strolling to the downtown lakefront ball park. In his room the
phone rang and Mayo Smith, the manager, said he wanted to see him. Monbouquette
knew what the call was about. He was certain he had been traded. When he turned
the knob into Smith's suite, he smiled to show he was not upset, and said
brightly, "Where am I going?"
The manager asked
him to sit down. "Bill," he said, his gravelly voice flat and grave,
"we're giving you your release."
register. "My what?"
unconditional release," Mayo Smith said.
When he talked
about it 10 days later the pain was still visible in Bill Monbouquette's
yellow-flecked hazel eyes. The square face, with the attractively masculine
cleft chin, hunched into his thick shoulders. The balding spot on the top of
his head was not quite concealed by the hair he had combed over it.
Monbouquette looked rather like a middle-aged man who had just learned he had
been deserted by his young wife. He was sitting on a low stool in front of a
bleakly impersonal locker cubicle (any locker without a name on it looks like a
nail on the wall) in the cool and cavernous Red Sox clubhouse in Fenway Park, a
visitor to a place in which he used to live. The sweat of his work was still on
him, and he ran his hand over his thickening middle, pinching the flesh with
his fingers as though he wanted to hurt it. "It shocked the hell out of
me," he said. "It really did. I couldn't believe it. 'You mean to tell
me,' I said to Mayo, 'you really mean to tell me I can't help this club?'
That's what Mayo
meant to tell him. He did it as gently as he could, but it was a shock.
It was only the
first of a series of shocks to Bill Monbouquette, right-handed pitcher, a man
who had won 20 games only four seasons before, a man who, in 1962, came within
a single base on balls of pitching a perfect game. And here he was at age 30, a
man without a baseball team.
you," he said, his eyes filling, "it's a tough thing to take. I know it
has to happen. It has to happen to everybody. That's this damn game. But I just
don't feel this is the time for me."
It was five days
before Monbouquette could do any more than go home to West Medford, Mass. and
be comforted by his wife. Waivers are supposed to take only 72 hours, but there
was a weekend in there and a baseball executive has to have time to play golf.
Of course, during that time any one of 19 teams could have claimed
Monbouquette. "Nobody will," he told himself. "I make too much
money." He was right.
As soon as the
waiver period elapsed Bill Monbouquette sent out 17 telegrams (none to
Cincinnati or the White Sox—"I felt they had good pitching."):
"Physically sound. Ready to pitch. Sure I can help you." He gave his
telephone number and began the long wait.