It sounded more like a baseball urban legend than a real trade when minor leaguer John C. Odom was dealt last year from the Calgary Vipers of the Independent Golden Baseball League to the Laredo Broncos of the United League for 10 maple baseball bats.
But the tale was not only true, it apparently weighed on the 26-year-old pitcher so much that it sent him on a downward spiral that led to his death.
Toxicology tests show Odom, who died in November, had a lethal combination of heroin, methamphetamine, benzylpiperizine and alcohol in his system when he died. The case was ruled to be an accidental overdose.
According to a story on fanhouse.com, the former Giants farmhand Odom went along with the hoopla when he was traded, granting interviews and smiling politely when the theme from Batman was played while he warmed up in the bullpen. But the fact that his efforts to become a major league player had turned into the answer to a trivia question or a punchline to a joke turned out to be too much for him.
After he was blasted for eight runs in a 3 1/3 inning appearance, fans turned on Odom and heckled him with references to the infamous trade. He couldn't stand to hear it anymore, but even umpires referred to him on the field as batman. Laredo manager Dan Shwarm noticed a change for the worse in Odom after that game and called a clubhouse meeting to say that there was to be no more talk about the trade. Shortly thereafter the withdrawn Odom quit the club and went home.
Two months later he was dead.
Odom who was thrown off his high school team because of discipline problems had run ins with drugs, alcohol and the law before his professional career. His managers said he was prone to depression and mood swings even before the trade.
"He was manic," Odom's college coach Mike McLeod told fanhouse. He'd sometimes come in with dark glasses and you'd know he was in a black mood. But he had so much going for him.''
Calgary President Peter Young said the deal was not a publicity stunt. He said the team liked Odom and wanted to keep him. But a 1999 conviction for assault prevented him from getting into Canada to join the club after he signed his contract. So Young tried to find a U.S. team team that would take Odom's contract. Laredo offered $1,000 to buy the deal but Calgary officials didn't want to do a cash deal out of fear that it would make the club look financially unstable.
So, instead, a deal was struck for the bats, which were worth less than $700.
What was supposed to be a second chance turned into a nightmare for a young man. It must have been terrible to have his dreams taken away in such a cruel way.