In action, in desire, we must submit perpetually to the tyranny of outside forces, but in thought, in aspiration, we are free, free from our fellow-men, free from the petty planet on which our bodies impotently crawl, free even, while we live, from the tyranny of death. (Russell, Bertrand. Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays. London: Allen & Unwin, 1949)


Philosophy, hated by tyranny, is a safe haven for it provides a sanctuary of inwardness that canʼt be reached by the tyrant. In his journals, Van Roth noted his discussions with his older brother about the German Transcendentalists, most notably Immanuel Kant with his transcendental idealism and Arthur Schopenhauer, or “Schoppy” as they jokingly called him. Schopenhauer was a solitary, a lonely philosopher, especially after only five students attended one of his lectures at the University of Berlin in 1920. He became nonacademic; still, his works influenced the thinking of some of the greatest minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries including Nietzsche, Wagner, Tolstoy, Wittgenstein, Einstein, Jung, Zola, G.B. Shaw, and Sam Beckett. It was Leonardo da Vinci who stated in his Notebooks: while you are alone you are entirely your own master. Like Leonardo, Schoppy lacked reverence for authority and scholasticism, and like Kierkegaard, vehemently challenged accepted philosophical wisdom, especially that of H.G. Hegel, God of philosophy at the time with his systematic view of the world.

   On the second shelf of Van Rothʼs library were four books that he would have read in 1967 when he was seventeen years old: Johann Wolfgang Von Goetheʼs Faust, Immanuel Kantʼs A Critique of Pure Reason, Schopenhauerʼs The World as Will and Idea (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung), and Friedrich Nietzscheʼs The Will to Power. On page twelve of his journals, he devised the formula: thing-in-Itself (Kant) + perfect ideal (Plato) + will (Nietzsche) = POWER.

   He notes Kantʼs “thing-in-itself,” that mysterious unfounded entity that lies inside each thing but canʼt be substantiated by science, as influencing Schopenhauerʼs thoughts; however, Schopenhauer added the importance of the inner experience along with Platoʼs perfect ideal form, all of which influenced Nietzscheʼs Übermensch or the enhanced individual in his Thus Spake Zarathustra. Although German soldiers carried copies of Nietzscheʼs werke for inspiration during WWll, his often misunderstood Overman is more like Aristotleʼs eudaemania, manʼs highest good, than the Aryan superman that has given the German philosopher a bad rap. Nietzscheʼs Overman represents a lifestyle of self-determination, self-mastery, self-confidence and becoming; becoming the best that you can, and overcoming; overcoming traditional values, the herd mentality, and overcoming oneʼs self so that one might gain a joyous spirit and attain something higher. Master the self, not others, and find a triumphant yes to life. Freud once said that Nietzsche had the most penetrating knowledge of the self than any other man. It was Nietzsche by way of Goethe who supposedly said, Be a man and do not follow me -- follow yourself. He also drove himself mad and wound up in an insane asylum.

   Schopenhauerʼs vorstellung, a mental image or idea produced by a prior perception, including memory and imagination, plus will (desire, striving, wanting, effort, and urging) leads to Nietzscheʼs will to power or the main driving force in humans – ambition and striving to reach the highest possible position in life or Übermensch -- the power to control oneʼs own destiny through rigorous self-examination and honesty. Unlike Nietzsche, who lauded his idea of will, Schopenhauer believed humankindʼs will to be the root of pain and suffering. We are at the mercy of our will and slaves to its demands. We should resist it for it infects that which we think and do.

   Van Roth had his encounters with these German scholars some four years earlier, but unfortunately, there would be institutional forces that were powerful and provided resistance. Roadblocks, headwinds, and minefields would have to be navigated with no warning lighthouse. Coaches had done more harm than good and older brother Bobby was long gone. There would be contempt for the individual man and decisions would have to be made, but choice can be a heavy burden. The easiest path to take would be to follow along amongst the herd; but then, there would be no passion, no excitement, no lust for life. Was Van Roth a slave to his own free will; a slave to his metaphorical God; a slave to baseball?

   It was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in his Table Talk and Omniana, who stated that every man is either born a Platonist or an Aristotelian. Bobby Van Roth was certainly born to follow Plato and became a pilgrim of the abstract with his idealism of living in a dreamworld before following his heart which led to San Francisco and beyond. Van Roth the younger may have begun as an Aristotelian, a wayfarer of the absolute with his early inductive scientific method of reason and analytical empiricism, but lifeʼs realities of burden were pushing him towards the other side. A dark wind continued to blow in his direction, leveling all of his accomplishments. He would spend much of his life as a troublemaker.

   Neither of these Van Roth boys were born to follow. They had traveled in opposite directions but both were headed towards the same place -- the land of Romanticism -- Bobby with his Dionysian spirit of unharnessed passion and sense of wonder; with his Rousseau, Yeats, Blake, Pushkin and Keats, along with his roaming around North America with changing states of consciousness and transcendence into his world of the nonphysical ... and Davie with his Goethe and inner unrest along with a troubled soul which was reminiscent of the rebel movement that began in Europe during the late eighteenth century. Goethe was a leading figure of Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress), the movement that celebrated Promethean restless spirit and paved the way to Romanticism -- the way of life and thought that highlighted freedom, distrust for established accepted values, incapability for a lasting relationship, and a refusal to be bound and tied -- a passionate effort to self-assertion, and most of all ... individualism -- the individual mind and the supremacy of that mind; all key ingredients of existentialism and the making of an existential ballplayer. Both of these Van Roth boys were hell-bent on resisting their inherited world and postulating one of their own.

                                                                                                 ---

Quo Vadis Mr. Van Roth? Where are you going? Back to Rome to find your Lygia only to be crucified again? The scholarship turned out to be a scam. It didnʼt include a dorm room that was promised. Lodging was about seven blocks from campus in a two-story converted frat house. You gotta be kidding me, he thought after opening the front door. This is unbelievable. The sign above the door might just as well read: Pass through these Gates of Hell at your own risk -- abandon all hope, those who enter here. To his left was a stairwell leading to three upstairs bedrooms, already taken by the football team's quarterback, a running back, and a wide receiver. The downstairs living room was transformed into makeshift bedrooms, sectioned off by portable partitions and appearing somewhat like an office complex with a maze of cubicles. Cramped quarters of approximately sixty-four square feet were separated by five-foot-tall partitions, room enough for a twin bed and small writing desk. Van Roth was to live out of a suitcase stored under the bed. He had to weave his way around the other compartments to reach an area that was right smack dab in the middle of the room. Privacy was nonexistent. A stall next to a window would be considered a luxury suite as it had access to fresh air. The place reeked of dirty socks and other laundry that was draped over the tops of the partitions. Van Roth was the lone ballplayer and expected to live amid the starting offensive line of the school's football team. There would be no studying done here as several transistor radios blared at the same time. He spent one night at the party-house -- one and done.

“The music stopped and the lights went out around midnight but I could still hear the grunting, snoring, and heavy breathing of these huge blocking dummies. The football players had meal tickets to the school cafeteria but I didnʼt, nor did I have money for books and tuition, so I complained to coach Mallard. Itʼs only temporary, he said. Hang in there until your scholarship money comes through. The paperwork will take some time. Maybe you should consider a student loan to tide you over. I moved back home and made the forty-five-mile commute each day to classes and practice. Baseball money, saved during the summer, took care of tuition, books, hamburgers, and gas. Off-season practice for pitchers included running up a forty-foot-high hill made of almond husks. Skiers traversed the southern slope while pitchers ran up and down the northern side. We didnʼt perform any live pitching; but instead, mimicked the act with the aid of a resistance device..... “
(Van Roth, Davie. Recollections & Journals of a Ballplayer. April, 1971)


   The resistance device, a metal cylinder with a looped rope running through it, was a training aid used by athletes with the intention of strengthening the throwing arm. One end of the rope is attached to a wall-hook while the other end has a handle that a ballplayer grasps while going through the motion of tossing a baseball. The cylinder could be twisted or adjusted to varying degrees of resistance. Van Roth had just tossed 273 innings and didnʼt need any further resistance or work from his pitching arm. What he needed was rest. Davie Van Roth had “Dead Arm.”

   The 273 innings pitched the previous year had taken its toll. Tendons and ligaments of his pitching arm were overstretched from overuse and it would be eighteen months before heʼd pitch again. Tommy John surgery had not yet been invented. John Stam and Tony DeArcos handled most of the pitching with Stam posting a 2.26 earned run average, twelfth best all-time and end his two seasons with a career 2.54 ERA, seventh-best in school history. Box scores indicate that Van Roth played in the outfield and hit third in the lineup. Late in the season, they were leading the conference by two full games at 11-1 with seven games remaining on the schedule. At the time, Van Roth was leading the team in hitting with his .320 average.

   A loss is a loss. What difference would it make if the final score of an exhibition game ends 2-1 or 3-1? You wouldnʼt think that losing a non-league game by two runs instead of one would cost a team a championship and drastically alter the course of a young ballplayerʼs life. The score was tied at one apiece in the eighth inning of a non-conference ballgame against the Raiders of Southern Oregon when Raider shortstop Joey Balkan singled to left with a man on second base. “I knew before the pitch was thrown that Iʼd try to gun down the potential winning run at the plate if the ball came my way. It would be our best chance of winning. I charged the ball and came up throwing but the ball sailed up the line with the hitter taking second base on the throw. He would score on another base hit and the score ended at 3-1.” (ibid)

   Van Roth didnʼt throw the pitch that put the runner into scoring position, or the one that produced the game-winning hit, nor the one that led to an insurance run; however, an angry coach Mallard was waiting for him as he approached the dugout. It was the first and only time that heʼd get his butt chewed out by a baseball coach, and to make matters worse, it came in front of his teammates and fans. He took the abuse without a single word of rebuttal even though his decision to try to stop the winning run from scoring was the right one.

“Coach Mallard was waiting for me in front of the dugout. I got my ass chewed out in front of our fans and my teammates. I was going nowhere as an outfielder. There was no future in it. I hadnʼt pitched all year and Chabotʼs Mike Salsedo had a lock on second base. I hadnʼt received a penny of the promised scholarship so I visited the administration building to check it out. There never was one. After explaining my situation, I was told that I could apply for a grant, provided my parents were poor enough to qualify for one. The process would take a couple of months but school would be over by then. A year of athletic eligibility was wasted and I was ticked off. Problems first began when “Hawk”, our #5 hitter, got kicked off the team because of his long hair, or more likely because he wasnʼt hitting. Mallard was good at hiding his lying eyes but sucked as a human being.” (ibid)

   Bad faith is an intentional dishonest act by not fulfilling legal or contractual obligations, misleading another, entering into an agreement without the intention or means to fulfill it, or violating basic standards of honesty in dealing with others. Existential philosophers J.P. Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir often used the act as a philosophical concept to describe the phenomenon in which human beings, while under pressure from social forces, adopt false values and disown their innate freedom, thus acting inauthentically.

   Mallardʼs scholarship was a fraud and Van Roth got faked out by the coachʼs dupery. He walked across campus to the ball field and began grooming the mound, all the while fuming and mulling things over. A whirlwind of rage was brewing before the tempest when an unsuspecting coach Mallard came out of the dugout and started ragging again about the bad throw. They met toe-to-toe, face-to-face, vis-à-vis. Like a storm on the loose, the disgruntled ballplayer hurled the rake aside. I can only imagine the look on his face -- cold-blooded glacial eyes with the lethal fixed stare of a basilisk, king of all deadly serpents; that same look described by Mr. Hughes -- sharp malignant peepers: a leery gaze not unlike one described in Joseph Conradʼs Heart of Darkness -- an immense stare of condemnation and a loathing for all the universe. Van Roth had had enough of Mallardʼs lies and skullduggery ... had enough of his flimflam ... enough of his boondoggle. There would be no absolution this time ... no turning the other cheek ... no taking it on the chin without saying a word. This time, he bellowed, letting it all out.

TAKE YOUR BOGUS SCHOLARSHIP AND SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS YOU TWO-FACED, COLD-BLOODED SON-OF-A-BITCH! I QUIT!

“In every act of rebellion, the rebel simultaneously experiences a feeling of revulsion at the infringement of his rights and a complete and spontaneous loyalty to certain aspects of himself.” (Camus, Albert. The Rebel. NY: Alfred. A. Knopf, 1961. pp. 14)

   Whoa! The superficial Mallard was speechless and so too were Van Rothʼs teammates. He turned, marched back to the administration building and withdrew from all his classes. He also had had enough of college. The vicious diatribe created a whirlwind that spiraled the Wildcats into a tailspin, losing their last six games by a combined score of 55-12. Like an anchor tossed overboard, the team plunged into third place and finished with an 11-7 league record and 19-17 overall. Was it Coach Mallardʼs chiding, lambasting, and tomfoolery that cost himself, his team, and Van Roth a championship, or was Van Roth to blame with his convictions and stubborn temperament? None-the-less, the school's last baseball title came in 1959 and would not win another one until 1978 -- a dry spell that would last eighteen years.

   Mallard, the condescending Shylock of coaches, turned out to be a zealot, a grifter; a con man; a coach who swindled by means of deception and fraud. While the diabolical, stone-faced McCrackin never attempted to hide his Spartan-style of coaching, the often Woody Hayes-like Mallard was two-faced. It was Matthew 7:15, who said, Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheepʼs clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. And in Psalm 52, David says of them, Your tongue plots destruction, as a sharpened razor, working deceit...The wolfish coach put on a false front with his silver-tongued oratory and handsome exterior, but underneath it all, existed a vitriolic heart of granite that pumped sulfuric acid through its leaded veins. Like crooked politicians who never intend to make good on their promises, Mallardʼs subterfuge produced a false narrative, lied about it, and then stonewalled till the season was nearly over. Mallard was a ravenous wolf in sheepʼs clothing.

   Van Roth could not have possibly known at the time, but his misjudgment would stir up a hurricane of unforeseen results. There were no signals, no red flags, no forewarning harbinger. If only he could have turned back the pages of time for the decisions of the past are the building blocks of the future. Not unlike Joe Boyd in Damn Yankees, the Faustian Van Roth had signed a contract with a hoodwinking Mephistopheles. Again, he had agreed to provide services to the wrong man and the ramifications would prove to be life-altering. Three coaches ... three malefactors, all pariahs with their own egotistical ways. Three strikes and youʼre out. Coach McCrackin, who never attempted to hide his unyielding dictatorship, was strike one. The parasitic Forty Niner coach who had extracted every drop of blood that he could possibly suck from the right arm of Van Roth was strike two, and now, ... the serpentine coach Mallard with his nefarious counterfeit free-ride and cloke-n-dagger performance was strike three.

   Like an ominous dark cloud looming over Seattle, a stalking umbra of ill fate hovered over Van Roth where ever he roamed. Did he bring all this calamity upon himself, or were the hands of fate merely playing out her prearranged role? At times, baseball had put this philosophical ballplayer in a happy space, but tragedy always seemed to rain on his parade; hence, his up-and-down roller coaster ride of life -- flying high above the clouds one day; only to come crashing down to earth the next. He constantly found himself dodging the shadowy fringes of society and was now quite certain that the gameʼs waters were shark-infested. It was Joltinʼ Joe DiMaggio who said that baseball was no longer a game when the fun was taken away.

   Apparently, Mr. Hughes was right about Davie Van Roth. There was something about the man that coaches didnʼt like, even detested. Perhaps it was his aura or the persona that he exuded; or perhaps it was that look in his eye. Iʼve seen those kinds of wary leers before -- the damnable eyes -- a penetrating gaze that peers right at you and makes you feel like you donʼt even exist. Van Roth -- the quiet solitary, the lone wolf for he ran with no pack and a slave to no other; that is, ... a slave to no other than his own free will. Van Roth, the closet-philosopher for he told no one and kept it all under his cap. Why should he sacrifice his freedom, his integrity, his honor, his virtue, his ideal, his honesty, his principles; his independence of thought? These were his silent supreme possessions and refused to live for the sake of another man; refused to give up his prized individualism. The bureaucracy of baseball was infringing upon Van Rothʼs freedom, independence, and individuality.

“Nothing, nothing had the least importance, and I knew quite well why...From the dark horizon of my future a sort of slow, persistent breeze had been blowing toward me, all my long life, from the years that were to come. And on its way that breeze had leveled out all the ideas that people tried to foist on me...” (Camus, Albert. The Stranger. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1951. pp. 152)

   After a few delays, Van Roth finally received his orders to report for boot camp during the latter part of April, 1971. He would be living in cramped quarters and share a barracks with thirty-nine other soldiers, most of which would be headed to Vietnam. He would be facing the nakedness of man with all his absurdity while taking orders from one of the most tyrannical beings on the face of the earth -- a United States Army drill sergeant. There would be no spring training in Florida. Professional baseball was put on hold, if not completely lost. I could only cringe with the thought that something ominous was about to happen. Overcome, Mr. Van Roth. Godspeed.

HELLCAT