Bouton and Swoboda take great pains with their afternoon toilette partly because they are not as sure of themselves in their present profession as they were in their former ("Would you believe," says Bouton, "that we get more letters commenting on how we look on TV than what we say?") and also because it is a link with the clubhouse camaraderie of the past.
Bouton lifts his wet head from the sink, rubs his hair with a towel and says, "Can I borrow your-drier, Ron?"
"Sure you can," says Swoboda, and he hands over a woman's hair drier.
"You know how it is, Ron," says Bouton, fingering strands of damp hair. "I can't do a thing with it. Those frizzies."
"Yes, Jim, I know just what you mean. The ends split. The technique is to dry them while you're combing."
"You better believe it, Ron. That's the great thing about this ConAir, Pro Style hair drier. It lets you dry your hair without blowing it all over your face." Bouton bends over so that his hair falls toward the floor, then turns on the blower. Through the noise, he says, "Can you imagine a ballplayer from the '30s walking into today's clubhouse? All those guys with their hair driers. Jeez, I'd love to see that."
When his hair is dry and he has taken pains to see that it looks properly rumpled (a few quick tosses of the head until it falls in place), Bouton says, "Seriously though, this is the kind of thing I miss most. Locker-room humor. I used to love the bawdy way of ballplayers. You never find that gross humor in the real world. Around here, if you have a complexion problem nobody mentions it. In the locker room they call you 'pizza face.' That may be cruel, but it's an open, refreshing honesty, the kind of thing you'd expect among young kids. Maybe that's why I loved sports. They provided an extended childhood. Everyone else was wearing a suit and tie and you could still be a child. There were other things, too. Special privileges. My bags were carried, my room arranged, my uniform hung in the locker, a special parking sticker always on my car. Everything was arranged. You flowed through the system with all the little annoyances eliminated. A place was made for you at the head of the line. Now I have to make my own reservations, carry my own bags—little things, really, but a constant reminder of what I no longer am. It's a hard reality to face. Jeez, I used to love waking up in the morning. It was great to get out of bed knowing you were a big-league ballplayer. It was fun to walk down the street. You felt good, physically and mentally, and never seemed to get colds like other people. You felt you could knock down walls. Of course, I never thought baseball was an important thing. But I was lucky to be doing it. A guy I played with says I was a fan who got to pitch in the big leagues. Willie Mays wasn't a fellow player to me, he was the Say Hey Kid.
"It was like getting on a bus heading for Oregon and getting sidetracked in Las Vegas. You only have a dime in your pocket so you figure, what the hell, throw it in a slot machine and pull the lever. A whole load of dimes comes out, so you go to the roulette table and you win there, and before the day is over you've got all this money, someone else's money. Know what I mean? You wake up and say, 'What am I doing here?'
"There were disadvantages. I hated the travel, being away from my wife and kids half the year. But there was even something good about that. The time I did spend at home was richer, the hours with the kids more important. Now I see them all the time and things are not the same. As a ballplayer everything was richer. You had more extreme ups and downs but that just made the taste buds work better."
Bouton puts on his shirt, his tie and then a black velvet sport jacket. He studies himself in the mirror, narrows his already narrow eyes and leaves the room.