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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.

Bryce Harper played some third base in an intrasquad game

Bryce Harper third base
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Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.

Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.

Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”

Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.

Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.