Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of John Odom. The former Giants' farm league pitcher, deeply depressed and the victim of a drug overdose, gained notoriety after he was traded last year in a highly unconventional trade. He was traded for ten maple baseball bats.
Odom was drafted by the Giants in 2003, when a was a 21-year-old rightie with a 90-mph fastball. Odom even once bunked with Giants' Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum.
The Giants released Odom last season, but he resurfaced in the Golden Baseball League with the Calgary Vipers. Or he would have, except for the 1999 misdemeanor arrest that prevented him from getting a Canadian visa. So Calgary had to trade him, but a trade for a pitcher fell through and the Vipers wanted the guy to have a chance to play. The team would have traded him for cash, but felt that cash trades made them look financially desperate. So they traded him to the Laredo Broncos for nearly the cash equivalent in mint condition maple baseball bats.
The Vipers insist that the trade was not a publicity stunt, but the best workable option the two teams could agree upon. In defense of the trade, these were expensive bats valued at nearly $700 for a set of ten.
Odom briefly became an Internet sensation over the trade, and became known to his teammates as "Bat Man". But opposing fans were merciless, taunting him with the "Batman" theme song and waving bats to remind him of the predicament.
"I guarantee this trade thing really bothered him. That really worried me," his Laredo coach told the Associated Press. "The chants, the catcalls, they were terrible. I had to get him out of (one particular game) for his own good. He was falling apart, right in front of our eyes."
Days after the game in question, Odom spontaneously quit the team. Three months later, he was found dead from an overdose of heroin, methamphetamine, and alcohol.
Odom's family tells the Associated Press that the death was not a suicide, but an election night party gone too far.
The Vipers auctioned the bats for charity, and the Ripley's "Believe It Or Not!" Museum paid $10,000 for them.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who does not believe the Ripley's museum would actually make a display of these bats.