This season Oglivie has been struggling at the plate, batting only .215 at the end of last week, but he has five homers and his 30 RBIs lead the team. Nevertheless, his teammates aren't worried. They know Oglivie will find the answer somewhere, in his swimming, or his Jeet Kune Do, or his backgammon. "There aren't enough hours in the day for Ben Oglivie," says Hisle. Cooper, who's been watching him for years, says, "He's always into something. Karate, poetry, crosswords. The other day I saw him go through The New York Times crossword puzzle in about two minutes."
Oglivie has tried to continue his education throughout his baseball career. While with the Red Sox he took courses at Northeastern. With the Tigers, he enrolled in the Wayne State philosophy department. "Philosophy taught me that we have to prove ourselves and justify our existence every day," says Oglivie. "That's especially true in baseball. You can go 5 for 5 and still have to justify yourself tomorrow."
Oglivie doesn't always read books; he often talks them. "I'll take a book and read it aloud into a tape recorder," he says. "I still have a little trouble reading English, and I find I retain things better. Sometimes it'll take me a year to read a book, because I want to be sure I understand everything." When Oglivie played his tapes for the Tigers, Mark Fidrych, the very model of sanity, thought he was weird. Actually, Oglivie is a little weird. Last year in Baltimore, he left the water running in the bathtub of his hotel room while he went to the ball park. When informed that the ceiling below his bathroom had collapsed, Oglivie said, "Did I do that?"
He no longer plays the piano, but he fiddles around with a flute. "Very classical, very passive," he says. "It calms me." His interest in the martial arts, particularly in the Jeet Kune Do of Bruce Lee, is more mental than physical, although he exercises with nunchaku sticks. "I'm not interested in black belts," he says. "The only purpose of a belt is to hold your pants up. Once you've attained the mastery of the art, you learn to be humble instead of overconfident. Besides, when I get into a fight, I'd rather talk my way out of it." Oh, yes. Oglivie can also twirl a baton with the skill of a Miss Teenage Louisiana.
"He's the most intelligent athlete I've ever known," says Pennacchia. Oglivie's wife, Tammy, says, "They say that people only use about 6% of their brain power. Well, Benji uses at least 7%." Ben's new family—Tammy, 15-month-old daughter Trianna and 7-week-old Benji Jr.—takes up a good deal of his time now, but that's all to his delight. "They are my life now," he says.
Still, Oglivie feels that some years are owed to him. "Right now I'm 32," he says. "There are players who are 32 getting released, and here I am, just starting. I want to take the five or six years I didn't play and add them onto the end of my career. I think I can.
"One of the best quotes I know comes from Augustine. He said, 'The body manifests what the mind harbors.' "
Was that, by any chance, Augustine as in Saint Augustine?
"Actually," says the philosopher-home run king, "it was Jerry Augustine, our relief pitcher."