So we got to thinking the other day when Thurman Munson got some headlines, since it’s been 30 years since his tragic airplane accident.
First off, we’ve got some ties to Munson indirectly. One of our best friends is a lifelong Canton, Ohio resident. Former teammate of ours in fact. In talking to his father who is around Munson’s age, he knew of him well. Munson was a hometown hero that never forgot about his roots. When you travel to Canton and talk to those that knew him, there’s a lot of stories.
One of those stories involves the man this post is about. His name was Boot Butrey. He’s forever buried in the annals of baseball history, but he indeed holds his place. A Google search of Boot will not turn up anything significant, and in fact there is no trace of his name on the internet. Boot isn’t the type of guy who probably ever wanted to end up on the internet anyway. But as of today he’s achieved that.
We first heard of Boot when we were playing with our teammate Mike. No clue how it came up. But he talked of this guy who was childhood friends with Thurman Munson who used to travel with the Yankees. George Steinbrenner loved the guy so much that he ended up giving Boot a spot on the payroll to entertain his squad. In several books, Boot is mentioned in an unnamed manner as the guy who ate beer cans and performed sideshow acts in the Yankee clubhouse to keep the team loose. But that just scratches the surface of this crazy fucker.
Tales will vary depending on who you ask, but one thing remains the same. Boot Butrey was a human anomaly when it came to consumption of well, anything.
Not only could this specimen take down a case of beer without throwing up, but he did it differently then you and I would. He would take a case of beer, eat every can and eat the box that it came in.
Another story of Boot? Well he was known to order a large pizza and instead of opening of the box and eating the pizza piece by piece, the son of a bitch would eat the pizza in the box. Now why the fuck would anyone do that? Because Boot could.
Our friend Mike was telling us that there was this steakhouse in Canton who had a special offer. If you could eat a 60 ounce steak at this place, your meal was on the house. If you couldn’t finish every bite of what amounted to an entire fucking cow, you had to foot the hefty bill. That steakhouse ran up against the wrong buzzsaw when Boot Butrey sat down and tied his napkin on. He did this so many times with ease, that the restaurant was concerned with him putting them out of business or causing them to lose money. It was a wise concern and Boot was told he was no longer welcome.
If you ever talk to anyone who was part of those mid 70’s Yankees teams and ask them about the legend himself, they’ll surely know of Boot. Everything he did was about mass consumption. It’s a damn shame that he never made it to Brooklyn for a hot dog eating contest or that competitive eating hadn’t made its way into this world in Boot’s era, or he might have had the fame he so deserved.
As fate would have it, Boot died of a heart attack many years ago. When you spend your life eating beer cans, light bulbs, glass, and pizza boxes; basically treating your body like an ashtray, you don’t last forever. This larger then life character lives on forever in the history of the New York Yankees and Canton Ohio’s lore.
And he lives on with my friends and I. After a long drunken night in which we’d go to our fraternity house basement, we’d retreat to the basement and eat everything in site. One night our buddy Mike from Canton ate something like 7 cordon bleu’s, 5 bags of Doritos and anything else he could get his hands on. He summed it up with one simple phrase.
“How’s your Boot Butrey?”
Boot, if you’re up in Heaven with Babe Ruth and Dimaggio and all the other Yankee Ghosts eating cue balls and starfish, we salute you brother.