Many moons ago, MBTN supporter Ed A. mailed me a copy of this book and for whatever reason I dug it out and read for the first time.
The book, published in 1967, is a first-person account, aimed at teen readers, describing what it was like to be a Shea Stadium bat boy (and ball boy) mainly in 1965 and ’66. It’s quirky and personal, and there are a ton of photographs. We learn not only Dom’s close-up observations about baseball, but about his Beatles records, his prom date, his misadventures camping, and some enlightening thoughts on draft-card burners (Dom’s 1966 season is interrupted as he reports to the US Air Force). There’s no real uni-number content (ball boys back then literally wore no numbers) but I learned the following things:
1.There was a hierarchy to the “boy” employees: back then at least, you started as a ball boy, graduated to visiting bat boy, then became home bat boy.
2. The ball boy along the third-base line is stationed in the visiting clubhouse; and the first-base ball boy in the home clubhouse. This makes sense but I never gave it any thought before.
3. Pay was about $5 a game
4. The Mets would take the bat boys on 1 road trip a year. Amazin’.
5. Ron Hunt never wanted to receive a bat by hand; he preferred to pick it up off the ground himself.
6. Jerry Grote ate black licorice rather than chaw, but wouldn’t share the game stash he kept in the dugout.
7. Casey Stengel was aloof and distant, had a separate dressing room for himself and his coaches, and the players didn’t like him (I knew some of that). Wes Westrum moved the staff in with the guys and was more personable.
8. Rob Gardner, who was a pitcher, preferred his bat stay cool when he hit, so he had his stored behind the water cooler instead of in the bat rack.
9. Dennis Ribant was called “Weasel” by teammates because he couldn’t sit still. Ron Hunt was known as “Pig.”
10. The author comes off as a strong believer in his co-workers but even his wild optimism has him imagining the Mets as a “first division” unit “in five years.”
All good stuff, right? It’s a little dated and by this I mean, it’s a lot dated, but there’s so little pretension that it serves as a nice little artifact of the perspective of a teen on the verge of cultural and baseball revolution.