An athlete—any athlete, but especially a famous one—carries everywhere an indefinable resource, a certain glow that can only be dimmed by his ceasing to be an athlete. This resource, tangentially the inheritance of fame or talent, may be real or illusory. In the eyes of nonathletes, however, the athlete is different. He is privy to certain mysteries that elevate him. He is blessed in a world of the unblessed. In his book "The Summer Game''' Roger Angel I writes, "...we had never made it. We would never know the rich joke that doubled over three young pitchers in front of the dugout; we would never be part of that golden company on the field, which each of us, certainly for one moment of his life, had wanted more than anything else in the world to join.
Membership in this golden company brings a host of privileges. For an athlete certain rules are suspended, amenities not required, life's unpleasantness diminished and his every deficiency muted in the eyes of nonathletes. In his presence the conversation invariably revolves around the athlete, his talent and his sport. Even far removed from a stadium he remains the center of attention, the hub of a private universe that is satisfyingly simple. An athlete floats above the complex and the disagreeable, which become for him the unreal. His private world is the real world.
The loss of all this at the end of a sports career can be traumatic. The athlete fears it far more than his diminishing talent or giving up his salary. The following profiles show what happened to two professional athletes—Pitcher Jim Bouton and basketball player Art Heyman—who retired from competition while still quite young and found themselves in that other world.
It is 1 p.m. Football Coach Tom (Bull) Bulwith stands with his players and their mascot, a small goat that is urinating on the stage in the William L. Dickinson High School auditorium. Eight hundred students are screeching, chanting, cheering, stamping and otherwise exhorting their team to victory in tomorrow's game. Bulwith, a veteran coach in his first year at Dickinson, had not expected such a rally at this soot-stained, brick-Gothic school whose students ordinarily drowse in class and litter the graffitied halls with milk cartons, candy wrappers and cigarette butts. Dickinson, located close by the turnpike in the smog of Jersey City, has difficulty rousing its students for any endeavor, especially football since the team has not won a game in five years.
January 6, 1975
The cheering, however, seems off-center. It is not directed toward Coach Bulwith, who is shouting into a microphone at center stage, but to the right and below, at the foot of the stage where Jim Bouton, the former New York Yankee and now CBS-TV sportscaster, is aiming a microphone at the chanting students while a camera crew films them. The students, as if on cue, rise from their seats and surge toward Bouton. On stage Bulwith turns slightly and tries to follow them with his voice. Bouton is swept up in the pandemonium. "Jeez, look at 'em!" he shouts. "Imagine being 16 again! I'd give $10,000 cash to be tomorrow's quarterback!" The chanting students surround him, press him back against a wall and he disappears from view. Meanwhile, Bulwith has made a 90-degree turn and is shouting exhortations at the backs of the students.
3 p.m.—Driving back to the CBS building in Manhattan, Bouton says, "Any good reporter twists reality. He alters it just by the way he sees it. In my case, I alter it twice: once by the way I see it, and a second time just by my presence. My being there with a camera affected the way those kids acted. Who's to say how. You never know. Partly, it's just the camera and partly it's my being there, rather than my reason for being there. I ask them how it feels to lose 43 games in a row, and they ask me for my autograph. All they are thinking is, 'Hey, man, I'm talking to Jim Bouton!' It's nice being recognized, but I feel I would be anyway. It makes my job more fun but it doesn't help me do a good job. It would have made a better story if I could have gotten those kids to sing the school fight song. But all they wanted to do was cheer."
5 p.m.—Bouton, shirtless, bends forward, sticking his head into a sink. He turns on the water and begins shampooing his hair. Beside him in the cramped CBS men's room, Ron Swoboda, also an ex-Yankee and now a sportscaster, lathers his face with shaving cream, leans toward a mirror and begins to shave.
"We are doing our toilette," says Bouton from the sink bowl.
Swoboda, examining one half of his shaved face, says, "That's right, Jim. We always do our toilette before we go on the air."
"No kidding," says Bouton. "It's a tough habit to break. As a ballplayer you always took a shower and shaved as soon as you got to the clubhouse for a night game. It made you feel good, freshened you up so that you felt like you were starting the day all over again. It was a shock to discover that people in the real world didn't do that. They showered in the morning and that was it."
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.
Walking through the CBS studio, he says, "If I had a chance to be a big-leaguer tomorrow, I'd leave this job in a minute. When I was on the way out with the Astros—just before Ball Four was published—ABC-TV offered me a job for twice the money I was making. The network said I'd have to leave the Astros immediately. I said, 'Are you kidding? Leave the Houston Astros just to be on television?' I finally took the job when the Astros shipped me back to the minors.
"I was terrified when I left baseball, a fish out of water. I still won't admit my career's over. I know the date and the hour, but my mind refuses to accept the fact that I couldn't go back if I tried. I'm only 36. Sometimes I'm pitching in this semi-pro league in New Jersey and for an inning or two I can feel it all coming back. After the game you say to yourself, 'I've got it again! If I work a little bit for the next few weeks I can get it all together. I'll get back there!' And the cruel thing is, the minute you start thinking that way, it's gone. The next game you're warming up and it's not there. You say to yourself, 'No, that's not it. Be patient, it'll come.' It isn't there after the first inning so you start the second, saying, 'No, you don't quite have it, but don't panic, there's still time.' And you go through the whole game and the touch never comes back. So for the next few games you forget about it, and then about a month later it comes back again for an inning or two. You start all over. It's like an evil elf tempting you."
6:30 p.m.—Bouton is sitting in a barber chair in a brilliantly lighted room and scrutinizing his image in a huge mirror. Also reflected in the mirror is a Formica counter littered with soiled tissues, artists' brushes, pencils, pastel crayons, jars of pancake make-up. Standing beside Bouton is a short, heavyset woman with a smooth, pink, baby face that is perfectly made-up. While Bouton watches, she pencils in his eyebrows and carries on a conversation with a gray-haired woman seated on the other side of Bouton and absorbed in her knitting.
The woman with the baby face puts down her pencil and stares at Bouton's reflection. Satisfied, she picks up an artist's brush, daubs it with make-up and begins covering Bouton's forehead, the hollows of his cheeks and under his chin. His face grows orange as she works. He watches her carefully, and when she finally puts down the brush they examine the result. His face has lost all its tone and is a solid, deep orange. There is no hint of beard. He moved his head slightly, left, then right and, finally satisfied, gets out of the chair.
"It's the camera," says the make-up lady. "It distorts reality, adding 20 pounds to a person's appearance. You need make-up to distort the person's face in such a way that when he gets in front of the camera the face appears the way it would in reality. By distorting it with make-up, it looks natural."
6:40 p.m.—Rolland Smith, Dave Marash, Ron Swoboda and Pat Collins, members of the CBS-TV news staff, are sitting behind a long, irregular desk under bright conical lights in the studio that serves as the Channel 2 early evening news set. They read from a script or smile straight ahead while, in the shadows, television cameras roll forward for close-ups, pause, and then retreat into the shadows as other cameras advance. In the darkness behind the cameras Bouton is waiting for the cue to replace Swoboda on the set so that he can deliver his news feature on Dickinson High School and its losing streak. Bouton, fidgeting with his tie, says in a hushed voice, "There's a great similarity between being on television and pitching before thousands of people. In both cases you're working under pressure, you have to be able to concentrate, to be able to focus on one thought quickly, and then just as quickly stand off from it. It helps to be a little tense. Most guys try to eliminate that tenseness before they face the cameras. I like butterflies in my stomach. When I was pitching I tried to manufacture butterflies. I used them to get a better pitch out of myself. I still do."
While Bouton is talking, Marash is delivering a news bulletin on recent developments in the case of Hurricane Carter, a black boxer serving a life term for murdering three men in New Jersey. Two witnesses to the murders seven years before have just come forth to say they lied at Carter's trial, when they swore they had seen him at the scene of the crime. Marash finishes, and there is a pause on the set for a commercial. Bouton slips into Swoboda's seat, shuffles through his papers and prepares to deliver his story.
7 p.m.—Just as he is about to leave the CBS building for supper, Bouton receives a telephone call from a woman chastising him for making a fool out of the winless high school football players. Bouton tries to explain that he wasn't trying to make a fool of anyone, that he really does hope the team wins its game tomorrow. The woman says something. Bouton replies and slams down the receiver. The call has upset him. "How could anyone take offense at that story?" he says. "It was just a funny story."
Bouton treats everything he talks about on television in a humorous vein. Even when he is being sharply critical of, say, the baseball Establishment, he strives for humor. This is his nature. Often he hits his mark. But when he does not, the result is strained. He is a natural entertainer, inclined to deal with the quick, the light, the superficial. He says, "I could have put in for the Hurricane Carter story, but decided not to. I took the Dickinson kids instead." He shakes his head. "That Carter story, I don't know. The magnitude of it scared me."
8 p.m.—Two attractive women in their 20s enter the restaurant—a dark, paneled, sawdusty pub with an Irish name that gives it the license to charge $2.50 for a hamburger. They notice Bouton eating supper and move to the empty table beside him. Without glancing up, he smiles and says, "Things are going to go downhill from here." Then he returns to the subject of conversation. "The television job just fell in my lap. It scares me to think what I'd be doing if it hadn't. I like TV now. It has a lot of the advantages baseball had, pays a nice salary, and there is the recognition factor. When people keep asking for your autograph you don't feel you've lost it. I can have an impact. There are millions of people out there whom I can make see things through my eyes. Sometimes, though, you feel helpless. You wonder, do they really care what you think or say, or is it just that they're curious because you're a celebrity? Once you become a public personality everybody wants to use you for some cause or other. If I was rich I'd give them my money; if I was a nobody I'd give my time. Because I'm a celebrity I give them my face. You wonder, too, should they pay attention to you?
"I'm trying to show people that sports are fun, that the guy playing touch football in Central Park or the Dickinson team trying to break a losing streak is as important as the professionals. People should play sports more and watch less. I really loved to play baseball. When I wrote my book I wasn't trying to knock the game, just trying to show people how much fun the sport was. It upset me to go on a television talk show where they would sit me down with Dave Meggyesy. He would be wearing his New Left hippie costume and talking about the evils of football and society, and I'd wonder what the hell I was doing there. If I had my way right now I'd go back to the locker room. I might not fit in anymore, but I'd still like to do it."
Throughout the conversation the girls have been casting glances at Bouton. There is something about him that is strange, unreal. It is his face, waxy and orange. He has not removed his makeup and here in the restaurant, away from the distortions of the television camera, he looks unnatural.
"I live from month to month, doing whatever seems interesting at the moment," Bouton is saying. "Sometimes I wish I could do something anonymously. You know, like working with wood. I love the smell of freshly cut wood. I'd love to go off with my family someplace and just make things. But I don't think I could. Everyone would think I was crazy. If I really did go to the country, I might go crazy. Working with wood sounds nice, but maybe it would smell rotten after a while. Jeez, waking up every morning seeing that same wood. I'd have to enter something in a contest. I'd have to win a prize. And when I did, everything would change."
In the back seat of a taxi moving through New York traffic, Arthur Bruce Heyman, a balding, 32-year-old businessman, is silent. His face is blank. His mouth is open, long jaw dropping as if unhinged, eyes wincing as if with pain as he tries to focus on a half-remembered moment in his life, a moment once filled with intensity but grown hazy with the passage of time during a life now devoid of intensity. He leans forward and hugs himself. His knees are jacked up in a fetal position, and slowly, rhythmically, he begins to rock, back and forth, back and forth.
In 1963 Art Heyman, a 6'5" senior at Duke University, was voted the college basketball Player of the Year by the Associated Press, The Sporting News and the Atlantic Coast Conference. During his three varsity seasons he led his team to national rankings (10th in '61, 10th in '62, second in '63). Heyman was a three-time All-America and captain of the Duke team in his final year. "I put the school on the map. I was the first guy who ever went to Duke," he says, ignoring—or oblivious of—the athletic contributions of men like Ace Parker, Sonny Jurgensen and Dave Sime.
The product of affluent parents, Heyman grew up on Long Island in an area where everyone his age wanted to own a car, while he wanted only to play basketball. "I had to play by myself," he says, "so I would go to Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn where guys like Connie Hawkins and Tony Jackson hung around. There were about 10 of us, and I was one of those who didn't get caught in the fixing scandals a few years later. The fixers never approached me because I was too affluent. They figured I didn't need the money."
Heyman graduated from high school with superior grades and nearly 100 offers for college scholarships. One morning Adolph Rupp appeared on his doorstep. Rupp told Heyman's mother that her son should go to the best basketball school in the country, where he would be coached by the best basketball coach in the country. Mrs. Heyman, smiling, said, "Really, Mr. Rupp. And where's that?"
"He was speechless," says Heyman. "At the time I could have gone to any basketball school I wanted. But I was on an ego trip. I wanted to prove that even without basketball I could get into the toughest schools. I'd already had offers from Yale and Harvard, which knew about me, so I applied to one of the few schools that hadn't offered me a scholarship, Williams College in Massachusetts. I applied like any other student. I was going to pay my way if Williams would just take me as a student. But the school turned me down. When I told a friend what had happened he called the Williams coach and told him the university had just turned down the best high school basketball player in the country. The coach went out of his mind. The next day I got a call from Williams. They told me my application had been reevaluated and I had been accepted after all. I told them to go to hell."
As in many of the stories Heyman recounts about his career, the latter may be an exaggeration, if not a downright fabrication; these days officials at Williams College deny it. Recalling his more glorious past, Heyman remembers things as they should have been for a man of greatness.
He enrolled at Duke in the fall of 1959 because the basketball team was only fair and it appealed to his vanity to imagine that he could singlehandedly reverse its fortunes. He had a genuine affection for the new head coach, Vic Bubas, whom he describes as being "like a father." Heyman needed a father, for it soon became obvious that his talent for basketball was exceeded only by his talent for troublemaking. He was involved in numerous fights both on and off the court, one of which (a fraternity-house scuffle in which he allegedly struck a premed student causing him eye damage) resulting in Heyman unsuccessfully being sued for $85,000. On another occasion he was accused of assaulting a North Carolina University male cheerleader at halftime. The charges were dismissed.
On still another occasion he claims he absconded with a 19-year-old Duke coed, crossed into South Carolina and checked into a motel for the weekend. He signed the motel register Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Robertson. ("Oscar was always my hero," he says.) The clerk knew that Heyman, a white man with a New York City accent, was not the Big O, so he promptly called the state police, who arrested Heyman and charged him with violating the Mann Act. In jail, he was allowed one phone call. "I called Bubas," he says today. "He phoned the Duke president, and he called the governor of North Carolina, who called the lieutenant governor of South Carolina. That man got me out of jail and flew me back to Duke in his private plane." Again, the principals deny the entire story.
"I was the biggest thing that ever happened to Duke," says Heyman. "At that time it was a Methodist school that hadn't integrated, and I, a Jew, was the star of the team. Of course, not too many people knew I was a Jew. They thought I was a Wasp from Connecticut. Those Southerners couldn't comprehend a Jew being a great athlete. I was always getting letters of praise from organizations like The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and a man in Tuscaloosa named Shelton used to regularly exhort me to keep upholding the principles of white Christian supremacy. Once he offered me a membership in the Ku Klux Klan. He was the head of the Klan. Man, I really loved Duke. I was a hero."
Once Heyman left the university he never was a hero again. He did, however, continue to play basketball. He was the No. 1 draft choice of the New York Knicks and received a sizable bonus. He played with the Knicks for two years without cracking the regular starting lineup, and in 1965 was claimed on waivers by the San Francisco Warriors. All told, Art Heyman played six seasons of professional basketball with seven different teams in the NBA and ABA. At times during those years he was a good basketball player, but more often he was merely a journeyman.
Not surprisingly, he takes little delight in recalling his professional days. "I never did live up to my God-given potential," he says. "It's the one thing I feel bad about." The reasons for this failure, he claims, are varied, although he refuses to admit that his talents simply paled in comparison to those of players like Jerry West and Oscar Robertson. Heyman blames his failure on a chronic bad back and the fact that "I couldn't adjust to the cold professional attitude. It was a head thing with me. When I first came into the NBA I was dedicated, but the other pros didn't care. They would go through the motions all season and only try hard in the playoffs. During the season they only hustled the last five minutes of a game so they could make the point spread. Without gambling nobody would watch a pro game.
"I remember one night against the Royals in Madison Square Garden. We were losing by 30 points with five minutes to go, and nobody would leave. The fans were waiting to see if the Royals would make the spread, which was 22 points. We cut their lead to 21 with five seconds left and the fans were going wild. Finally Jerry Lucas [then with the Royals] hit a 30-foot shot at the buzzer to boost the Royals over the spread, and the fans ran onto the court and carried Lucas off on their shoulders. I couldn't adjust to that. In the pros everybody's out for himself. Guys like Wilt Chamberlain would push away little kids asking for autographs. Man, those guys should thank God for what they got. Instead, they're making $300,000 a year and bitching about the long season, how tired they are, how they have to wake up at nine o'clock in the morning for a team meeting, and here's some poor guy stuck on the thruway every morning at seven o'clock trying to get to the city. I'd like to see those jocks go out into the real world instead of living in that fantasy world. Man, I thank God I had a brain so I could make it outside of basketball.
"I was 28 when I quit. I could still be playing, but I was disenchanted, wanted to do something else with my life. I loved basketball. In college, if I let my team down I couldn't sleep. I would have been the greatest basketball player ever if only I could have found that college atmosphere in the pros."
Heyman retired from professional basketball in 1970, playing his last game with the Pittsburgh Pipers. He had been told he would need a spinal fusion if he were to continue. His back still cause' him such pain that the slightest unexpected movement makes him grimace. He walks with his shoulders hunched, his arms pressed tightly to his sides, his legs stiff and unbending. He can take only the tiniest steps, as if shackles bind his ankles, and each painful stride jerks his shoulders left, then right. The walk was made famous by Charlie Chaplin, only Heyman's is even more restricted than Chaplin's, and Heyman is so much taller, a towering man, a trussed Gulliver in a world of Lilliputians. Heyman takes whirlpool treatments and almost daily massages at Opus, the combination restaurant/discotheque/health club he recently opened on New York's East Side. He cannot avail himself of the club's exercise room, paddleball court or billiard table because of his back.
Opus is unimpressive on the outside, with a drab concrete facade and a pennant proclaiming its name, but the interior is plushly decorated in a style best described as Bordello Gothic—crushed red velvet and mahogany. It is only one of the many business investments Heyman has made with the bonus he received from the Knicks before his rookie season. During his playing years he invested wisely in Southern real estate and New York City discotheques so that today he is relatively wealthy, leading an entrepreneur's life—waking at noon, lunching at his restaurant, checking menus, counting the house, greeting people, sitting for long hours in a booth off the dining room, waiting for the last of his patrons to leave before closing up and returning to his apartment at dawn.
Heyman was sitting in the Opus bar one recent midnight, waiting anxiously while Bob Arum, the promoter of Evel Knievel's Snake River Canyon jump, dined with friends. Whenever Arum's waitress passed, Heyman whispered in her ear, listened to her reply and nodded. Sitting across from Heyman and looking equally anxious were his business associates in Opus, Joel Korby and Dr. Arthur Weider. Weider was wearing a white plantation suit and smoking a cigarette in a long holder. Korby, attired in crushed velvet, resembled a twitchy Joel Grey. Beside Heyman sat his girl friend of the moment, a thin, plain girl with a Brooklyn accent. She had only known him a few weeks but found him not at all what she expected. "I'd heard he was such a wild man," she said. "But he's nothing like that."
"No one would think I ever was an athlete," Heyman said that night. "I don't even think of myself as an athlete. I don't feel like one anymore and shy away from jocks and people who knew me then. I'm a businessman. I would feel like an intruder in that jock world. You are forgotten quickly."
Bob Arum appeared, looking for the men's room. Heyman motioned to him and asked about Knievel's jump. After some small talk in which Arum complimented Heyman on the decor of the restaurant ("Very classy, Art, very classy") and wished him luck, Heyman could restrain himself no longer. "Bob, how was your steak?"
Arum paused a deliberate beat, and then said, "It was very good, Art, really good."
"No, tell me the truth. How was it?"
Arum nodded. "It was O.K. Not bad."
Korby blurted out, "We got to know, Bob. It's important to us."
Arum threw up his hands. "Well, actually, it could have been better."
"Thanks, Bob," says Korby. "That's the kind of thing we got to know, else how are we going to improve?"
"Actually, it could have been a lot better," added Arum. "It wasn't too good at all."
Shortly after midnight Heyman and his girl friend left Opus for the short taxi ride to his other East Side restaurant, the Gobblers Knob, a less flamboyantly decorated singles bar managed by Heyman's ex-wife Barbara. "We're on very good terms," he said.
Barbara Heyman is a striking strawberry blonde with huge eyes, an upturned nose and moist, pouty lips. She bears a close resemblance to Xavier Cugat's discovery, Charo. Like Charo, she, too, has a soft, full figure, although there is nothing of the dumb blonde about her. She was born and raised in Texas, has lived in New York City for seven years and now possesses that typically New York wariness about things and people that tends to give her soft physical appearance a sharp edge. She met Heyman when he was with the Pipers. Then, he had the confidence only an athlete can have, knowing his every deficiency, personal or physical, would be masked by an inexhaustible resource, the drawing account of his fame.
"Art is a very intelligent man," his ex-wife said. "He is the kind of man who could fall out of an airplane and land on his feet. We are good friends, even after the divorce. I don't know if I should mention this but, well, you see how he's getting bald. He's so conscious that he's losing his hair that whenever he has a big date with a new girl he comes over to my place and makes me set and wrap his hair, and then comb it over his bald spot."