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Jim Bouton struggles with brain disease in his twilight years

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Jim Bouton, the former pitcher for the Yankees, Seattle Pilots, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves, is a seminal figure in baseball history. Less so for his pitching than his writing, as he is the author of the indispensable “Ball Four,” which for my money is the greatest baseball book of all time.

Bouton’s keen eye and sharp wit turned what could’ve just been a simple tell-all book into a masterpiece, and he has been dispensing his wisdom on baseball and life for nearly 50 years. Now, however, he faces a struggle to simply communicate. From the New York Times:

Bouton had a stroke five years ago this Aug. 15. . . Bouton’s body was largely unaffected by the stroke. But his mind, the one whose pointed and poignant observations produced the classic memoir “Ball Four” in 1970, will never be the same. This weekend in New York, at the convention for the Society of American Baseball Research, Bouton went public about his brain disease: cerebral amyloid angiopathy, which is linked to dementia.

As a result of the stroke and a subsequent hemorrhage brought on by blood thinners, Bouton’s language skills were “wiped out.” The Times story notes that he had to relearn how to read, write, speak and understand. He can talk now — he spoke at the SABR convention — but he forgets things and struggle to do what he’s always done so well: write.

Bouton is 78 years-old and, physically, remains in excellent health. Still practices with the knuckleball. But this challenge is definitely a tough one. Here’s hoping he continues to meet it as he’s met every other challenge in his life. With an admirable, stubborn determination to do things his way.

Video: Jaime Garcia hits a 399-foot grand slam

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Jaime Garcia has been at the center of trade talks for several days now, but on Friday night, he commanded center stage for an entirely different reason. The Braves’ southpaw went head-to-head with Dodgers’ lefty Alex Wood and mashed his first career grand slam: a two-out, 399-foot blast that cleared the wall in right field and put the Braves up 9-0 in the fifth inning.

The bases-loaded knock was the third career home run for Garcia, whose contributions at the plate have been few and far between over his nine-year track in the major leagues. Not only did the homer mark an impressive career first for the 30-year-old, but it was just the second pitcher grand slam in Braves’ history and the first since 1966.

Garcia looked almost as impressive on the mound during Friday’s series opener, issuing one run, four hits and three strikeouts through his first six innings. The Braves currently lead the Dodgers 12-1 in the top of the seventh inning.

As for whether the slam will affect negotiations between the Braves and Twins? MLB.com’s Mike Petriello put it best:

Ryon Healy exits game after taking a ground ball to the face

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Athletics’ first baseman Ryon Healy had a scary moment during Friday’s loss to the Mets. Lucas Duda smacked a single to the first base side, where the ball took a high hop and caught Healy in the left temple. He crumpled to the ground after getting struck by the one-hopper, but was eventually able to stand and walk off the field with assistance from a trainer.

Prior to the injury, Healy went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI single in the first inning. He was replaced by Yonder Alonso, who finished off the rest of the night’s 7-5 loss with a walk in two plate appearances.

Following the game, manager Bob Melvin told reporters that Healy did not appear to have sustained a concussion as a result of the hit. Healy said he thinks he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s game, though a final decision likely won’t be made until tomorrow.