Bobbie Bouton and Nancy Marshall became friends in 1969 when their husbands pitched for baseball’s Seattle Pilots. Jim Bouton had been a World Series hero for the New York Yankees in the mid-1960s, but arm trouble slowed down his career. In 1970 he wrote Ball Four, a best-selling behind-the-scenes exposé that made him a leper in the locker room. Mike Marshall, long considered one of the game’s true eccentrics, played for nine major league teams and won the 1974 Cy Young A ward during his stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Though both marriages flourished early, neither survived. The Boutons were divorced in 1981; the Marshalls, who separated two years ago, are now in the process of divorcing. In Home Games (St. Martin’s/Marek, $12.95), Bobbie Bouton and Nancy Marshall candidly recall how the pressures of being baseball wives—loneliness, frequent uprooting, infidelities—led to the decline of their self-esteem and the demise of their marriages. They also tell how they regained their self-confidence after their marriages collapsed. Nancy, 40, is quick-witted, an animated conversationalist, self-assured and engagingly blunt. She lives in Shorewood, Minn. with her daughters, Deborah, 19, Becky, 18, and Kerry, 15, and has completed one semester of law school at William Mitchell College of Law. Mike Marshall, out of baseball, lives on the same property as his family. Bobbie Bouton, 43, is more timid than Nancy, talks softly and smiles easily. A substitute teacher, she lives with her daughter, Laurie, 17, in Englewood, N.J. Jim Bouton has remarried and lives in nearby Teaneck with new wife Paula, sons Michael, 19, and David, 18, and Paula’s children, Lee, 21, and Hollis, 19. Nancy and Bobbie talked about baseball’s not-so-glamorous side with PEOPLE’S Carol Wallace.
Isn’t the book just sour grapes?
Marshall: If people read the book and listen to what we’ve said, they’ll realize that’s an unjust criticism. What bothers me is that nobody seems upset at what the men did, only that we’re telling about it. I don’t think I should have to give up my freedom of speech because I was married to a pro athlete.
Didn’t it bother you to air your dirty linen in public?
Bouton: I don’t think of it as airing dirty linen. The book is about the growth of two women. We wrote in the introduction that this was just our side of the story, how we felt. If we hadn’t put in certain details, the book wouldn’t have been as honest. Or believable.
Marshall: If I could have written this book without mentioning Mike’s name, I would have loved it. But I couldn’t.
When you marry a ballplayer, shouldn’t you know what you are getting into?
Bouton: I fell in love with Jim when he was still wearing braces and didn’t have any money. His chances of becoming a major league ballplayer at that point were not great.
Marshall: I don’t think anybody who falls in love—at least I didn’t at age 19—sits down and says, “Okay, now what are the pluses and minuses? If he’s on the road, will he be faithful to me? If he makes the major leagues, will I like it?” You wouldn’t do that any more than you would if you were marrying an accountant.
How are the pressures on baseball wives different from those on other wives whose husbands travel a lot?
Marshall: If you had to go home and tell your roommate that you spent the night with Joe Schmoe from Podunk or Mike Marshall, the baseball player, which would you rather do?
How do the ballplayers mask the cheating from their wives?
Marshall: Mike would say things like, “I think it’s really stupid that these guys are risking their marriages by going out with these really dumb broads.” And you think that if he’s telling you this, then he certainly wasn’t one of them.
Did you suspect that your husbands were having affairs?
Bouton: I had a nagging suspicion from time to time, but never any real proof, so I never had to confront it. But when Ball Four came out, [former New York Yankee] Joe Pepitone called Jim “the horniest bleep in baseball.” That’s got to give you a few doubts.
Marshall: In 1967 Mike went on a road trip and there were a half-dozen prophylactics in his suitcase left over from the last time we had moved. When he came home, there were only two or three left. I don’t think he was using them as water balloons.
How widespread is the cheating?
Marshall: I once asked Mike how many ballplayers he knew who were faithful to their wives. He said he could think of two—Tommy John and one other guy. I do think some are more active than others. I don’t think a lot had the stacks of names in their address book Mike had.
Bouton: Jim said just about everybody but Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek cheated on their wives.
Do most wives accept road-trip affairs as just part of the game?
Marshall: If you’re a sensible person, you know they are. But if wives get asked about it, they’ll give a flip answer instead of expressing their feelings. I did accept it, but I didn’t like it and it had a very negative effect on our marriage.
How did you feel about groupies, the so-called Baseball Annies?
Bouton: Oh, it was terrible. We would go to parties and Jim would be surrounded by women and I would have to force my way in there to get next to him. He would never introduce me or say “This is my wife” unless he was stuck with an ugly woman and wanted to get rid of her.
Marshall: The problem is that the players treat Annies like jokes, switch them around, laugh at them. I have a feeling that you can’t have that kind of derisive attitude toward a block of women one week, then come home to the woman you married and treat her with dignity. It has to affect how you view women in general.
Don’t baseball wives play around, too?
Marshall: Very few, because they’re home taking care of the kids, keeping everything going. You’ve got to make a conscious effort to do it—get a babysitter or whatever. With the guys, they’re in the hotels, in the bars, and it’s just a natural sort of event. I did know of one wife, though, who decorated her house on the money she made while her husband was gone, and she wasn’t doing it standing up.
Did you have affairs?
Bouton: I never even thought about another man. I was true-blue.
Marshall: Yes, but at the time of my first affair, it was just because I was very lonely. Even when Mike was home, I wasn’t talking and sharing things with him. After the first one, they were more out of anger.
Do players’ wives lack self-esteem?
Marshall: It’s just that everything you do seems mundane by comparison. Here’s this person getting all of the interviews, all of the attention, and you’re just the one who cleans the toilet bowl.
What was the hardest part of being baseball wives for each of you?
Bouton: I found it very difficult during the years Jim was doing badly to keep his spirits up. He was always worried about his arm. I went to the extreme of scoring the ball games and counting the pitches so we could discuss them afterwards. I could feel for him, but I couldn’t do anything about it.
Marshall: The hardest part is what you have to give up, like family. When I was growing up, there were family picnics and things. My children hardly know their grandparents. They have cousins they have only seen four times in 18 years.
Why didn’t you pursue careers?
Bouton: When Jim was a McGovern delegate [in 1972], I was asked to do some canvassing and I agreed. Jim was furious. He wanted me home when he was home.
Marshall: The first summer with Mike in Minnesota, there was a wife on the team who was going to law school and didn’t join her husband until school was out. Mike thought that was incredibly selfish, that it would be very difficult to get his baseball career going if he didn’t have his family there.
How representative are your marriage experiences?
Marshall: The baseball wives I knew had the same frustrations and problems that being apart brings. People grow apart naturally even when they live together all the time. If you’re apart half the year, the odds of growing in different directions are even greater. The women get discouraged by the life-style. They get all the crap. They’re the ones packing the car on 24 hours’ notice, driving around for six hours with three kids in the backseat trying to find an apartment, while the guys stand out there with everybody applauding. Oddly enough, I found the years that we were poor to be among the better ones. There’s something about struggling that keeps you close.
How do the wives cope?
Bouton: They become very involved with their children.
How did your children react to the book?
Bouton: I had a different reaction from each youngster. Michael was upset by parts of the book, specifically where I said Jim colored his hair. He said, “You mean Dad might be gray?” David is still quite upset. He doesn’t like the way I made his private life public. He’s still pretty angry, and he doesn’t talk to me much. My daughter thinks it’s terrific. She says she would have made it longer.
Marshall: They all thought I was incredibly fair to him.
Would you want your daughters to marry an athlete?
Bouton: No. Laurie’s completely the opposite of the way I was, so she’s not going into something with her eyes closed or starry-eyed. But if she falls in love with someone, there won’t be any talking her out of it, no matter who it is.
Marshall: No, but I wouldn’t stand in her way. The concern I have for athletes is that to do what they do—perform in front of thousands of people under all of that pressure—they have to have such strong egos that many short-circuit on empathy for others.
Do you believe your marriages would have survived if your husbands had not been ballplayers?
Marshall: I say yes, Mike says no. If we had stayed in one place, and he had been a high school baseball coach, I think that we would have done more things as a family and that the separations would not have drawn us apart. I don’t think we would have had the stresses or our infidelities. Mike insists he knew within a year after we got married that our personalities were so different that it wouldn’t work.
Bouton: Yes. The fan adulation would not have been there and he might have been content with my adoring him.
Do you have any advice for other baseball wives?
Marshall: Deal with the problems more up front and quicker than I did. If he won’t go to counseling, go yourself. Definitely rock the boat.
Bouton: Don’t be an appendage.
Do you still attend ball games?