The year was 1975. The average salary
for major-league players was $27,600 US. Meal money was $19 a day. No player
even heard of steroids, let alone used them. There were no free agents.
Baseball stories in sports sections concerned runs, hits and errors, not
matters of high finance.



Ah, but the employees of MLB were
anything but saints. They drank a lot. And nearly every person associated with
the game smoked in the dugout tunnels between innings or stuffed their jaws
with various vile forms of smokeless tobacco.


knew all this because he covered baseball back then for a Texas newspaper and he
meticulously took notes on the entire season. Which, 33 years later, has come
in quite handy, because Shropshire has written
an absolutely fascinating book about the 1975 MLB season.

It’s called The Last Real Season. Its
cover says the book is a “hilarious look back at 1975”, and that’s exactly what
it is. The Last Real Season will hit the book stores next month. Grand Central
in New York
is the publisher.

Shropshire provides readers with anecdotes and sometimes startling details
about a wide array of names employed by MLB in 1975.

“This is a baseball biography,” Shropshire writes. “Not of a player, but of a season. It
describes a time and a place that no longer exists. It was a season that said
farewell and adios to what can be termed baseball’s pre-agent era.”

In the same note, Shropshire whets
readers’ appetites by mentioning there was an MLB pitcher who spent 1975 living
beneath a pier, hiding from the law after he went berserk and kicked in half
the doors of a hotel during spring training in Florida. Eventually, Shropshire
tells us, this same dude would throw a perfect game.

The book is laden with stories Shropshire shares about his one-on-one conversations and
dealings with a large number of baseball types, many of whom are perceived as
legends. There are some real beauties about the late Billy Martin.

Do yourself a favour. Read The Last
Real Season.

  • The manager of the Pittsburgh
    Pirates publicly complained about maple bats this week after his hitting coach
    was struck by one.

    Batting coach Don
    received 10 stitches to his face. The incident occurred when Nate McLouth of the Pirates hit a
    broken-bat double to right field, shattering his maple bat. The barrel spun end
    over end, narrowly missing Canadian outfielder Jason Bay of the Pirates and slicing a three-inch gash in Long's
    face, just under his left eye. Long and Bay were in the Pirates’ dugout when
    the maple came flying at them.

    Baseball types think bats have been shattering more frequently
    than usual this season, but Pittsburgh manager John Russell complained specifically about maple bats, most of
    which have been made for decades by Sam
    of Gatineau, Que.

    "Those maple bats ... explode ever since they brought
    them into baseball," Russell said. "I know guys like them, but
    they're dangerous because they do explode and they always fly somewhere, and
    it's a sharp projectile flying through the air. It is scary."

  • Holman, the founder of the Original Maple Bat
    Corporation, has made maple bats for home-run king Barry Bonds since 1997.

    This year, Bonds asked Holman to be prepared to provide him
    with bats again. So Holman, according to The New York Times, set aside 12
    pieces of the lightest-density wood he had, stored them in his factory in Gatineau, Quebec,
    and waited to see if Bonds got a job.

    Bonds, however, remains unsigned. And Holman has doubts
    about whether Bonds will play.

    “I talked to (Bonds) about the bats yesterday and he said: ‘Leave
    them there. I don’t know if I’ll need them.”

    Bonds’ agent has insisted since spring training that he
    would play this season even if he couldn’t find a job in MLB. He said Bonds
    would sign in Japan
    if it turned out that he was being blackballed by MLB organizations.

    There remains some talk within baseball, you should know,
    that Bonds might just sign later this season as a designated hitter for one of
    three clubs – the Detroit Tigers, the Seattle Mariners and, yes, the Toronto
    Blue Jays.

  • And, I know Forbes Magazine is respectable and
    everything, but I just don’t know how much I can believe the publication when
    it reported this week that the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Blue Jays
    were the only three franchises in MLB that lost money last year.

    Do you buy it?

  • There’s a dearth of umpires in Ontario amateur baseball, by the way.

    Jim Cottrell,
    head of the Ontario Umpires Association, tells me he is desperately seeking
    recruits as he prepares for the coming season.

    If you’re interested in finding out what life is all about
    as a masked man, email Cottrell at