|Photo credit: Little Studio Films.|
In the mid-1960s, Joe Pepitone and Jim Bouton played together for the New York Yankees. Later, Pepitone famously dismissed Bouton’s Ball Four, only to co-author an epochal book of his own: Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud.
The two works are very different, but equally groundbreaking. Bouton rendered made major league ballplayers into genuine humans, and destroyed the heroic masks. Pepitone gutted himself with a crazed, self-loathing and relentlessly honest autobiography/confessional, pulling no punches to own jaw. It’s dark, hard to read — and absolutely essential.
I have not read Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud since the summer of 1976, and my dog-eared paperback disappeared before high school graduation. Last year I simply missed these two excellent essays by Dan Epstein in Rolling Stone.
If the Bookseller is reading …
His 1975 autobiography raised eyebrows, and 40 years later, it still shocks. Now, baseball’s all-time partier reflects on a life lived to the limit
Joe Pepitone is in an upbeat mood today. “Everything’s good, and that’s honest,” he confides over the phone to Rolling Stone. “Next time you talk to me, and I’m screaming and yelling at you and don’t want to talk to you, you’ll know everything’s horseshit” …
… Throughout it all, though, Pepitone has never lost his sense of humor – nor, as evidenced by his being name-checked on episodes of Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Sopranos, has he lost his pop-culture cachet. Last year, Little Studio Films optioned the book rights to Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud, and Pepitone is guardedly optimistic about seeing his colorful story make it to the screen. “I just sit back,” he says, “but it seems to be going really good so far. We’ll see!”
For now, though, he’s happy to strut down memory lane and share some thoughts with us about his book, his wild times and those infamous hairpieces.
As for the book itself …
Joe Pepitone partied with Frank Sinatra and Mickey Mantle and slept with half of New York. Now, 40 years after it was published, his raucous bio gets a much-deserved reissue
In 1970, Houston Astros pitcher Jim Bouton published Ball Four, one of the most influential baseball books ever written. Breaking the clubhouse code of omertà by portraying ballplayers as skirt-chasing, hard-partying regular guys rather than paragons of virtuous American masculinity, Ball Four forever changed the way that the press covered professional sports; it also unleashed a wave of massively entertaining (and deeply off-color) player memoirs, including Sparky Lyle’s The Bronx Zoo and Bill Lee’s The Wrong Stuff.
Though Bouton’s best-selling memoir was rather hilarious, most of his colleagues weren’t laughing at the time. “Why didn’t he write that he was the horniest [expletive] in baseball?” complained Joe Pepitone, who had been Bouton’s teammate in New York and Houston. But in 1975, Pepitone would follow the trail blazed by Ball Four and write a tell-all of his own – Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud – a book which was not only far more revealing than Bouton’s, but also made it exceedingly clear that the horniest expletive in baseball was, in fact, Pepitone himself.