He talked about his old manager with the Indians, Lou Boudreau: "Boudreau said he was going to call the pitches. I said, 'No, you're not.' "
He talked about the Indians' old owner Bill Veeck: "Veeck made a lot of mistakes. That midget."
And he said that during the war in the Pacific, "I'd play catch on the fantail of the USS Alabama almost every evening. I threw more balls into the Pacific Ocean than we threw bullets. When they renovated the Alabama, they found a lot of balls in the scuppers."
I asked him to sign his recent autobiography for a friend of mine. (I couldn't find my old copy of Strikeout Story—I'm slipping as a collector, even.) He had no way of knowing what an honor this was for him. The only other ballplayer I had ever asked, as an adult, for an autograph was Satchel Paige. But Feller complied readily, and he said, "You won't find a single four-letter word in there. I don't go for that bullshit."
So I'm going to quote Bob Feller as saying that? I guess I am. Cheap shot? Hey, I got a job to do.
No four-letter words, he said, "and no stories about your friends that they wouldn't want to read. We could all tell stories, but if you do that, you're worse than a prostitute, because at least a prostitute admits what she's doing."
If the cruise had been a writers' conference, Feller and Wills might have appeared together in a spirited panel addressing the topic, The Baseball Memoir: Where to Draw the Line. The first sentence in Wills's recent On the Run (with Mike Celizic) is "This isn't a kiss-and-tell book." The first chapter is about how Maury caught his son Bump in flagrante delicto (to put the matter much more delicately than the book does) with the woman he, Maury, was living with at the time.
I hadn't read the book (generally, when I read ballplayers' books, I think, "You guyyyyys"), just heard about it, and I wasn't going to bring it up. Maury did. He is in recovery from drugs and alcohol, and constant "housecleaning" is an important part of the process, he said. He showed the first chapter to his son beforehand, and Bump begged him not to publish it, but Maury did, and Bump stopped talking to him. "It's a good book," Maury said, but "I've lost my son over it."
Hey, I'm a writer, and I don't think a book is worth the loss of a son. But I read On the Run after the cruise, and unless you like your legends strong and silent, I recommend it. "I have sworn to a rigorous honesty," Maury said over lunch in San Juan, and that may be recovery jargon, but in this book it is no lie. There aren't many people who are staunch enough to have been a National League MVP and also crazy enough to tell the frequently childish and awful truth about themselves. There's something disturbing but also touching about the Maury legend, whether he's wetting the bed at the age of 33 or spiking people whenever he can.
That is one of the jobs of a writer, surely: to reveal usefully embarrassing things about himself. When I compared the things like that in Maury's book with the things like that in my books, I felt as if I had been hit by an iguana.