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On June 5 in Amarillo, the "Batman" theme played while Odom warmed up for Laredo, and he tipped his cap to the sound booth. But he was battered for eight runs in 3 1-3 innings and mercilessly taunted by the crowd. Shwam went to the mound.
"The chants, the catcalls, they were terrible. I had to get him out of there for his own good. He was falling apart, right in front of our eyes," Shwam said.
When Shwam noticed Odom becoming more withdrawn, he called a team meeting. The message: No more talking about the trade or the bats by anyone.
Odom pitched five good innings at San Angelo on June 10 in what turned out to be his third and last start. On the bus after the game, Odom said he needed to speak with Shwam the next day.
"He came in and said, 'Skip, I'm going home. I just can't take it. I've got some things to take care of. I've got to get my life straightened out,'" Shwam recalled.
And with that, Odom disappeared.
Several baseball people tried calling him, but got no answer.
In January, Shwam called Odom's cell phone, seeing if he wanted to pitch this year for a team in Alexandria, La., but got only his voice mail. A few weeks later, Shwam learned that Odom was dead.
"I was shocked," he said. "Unfortunately, it doesn't surprise me."
Melendez and Young found out only recently, and his old Giants teammates hadn't heard.
Remembered infielder Kevin Frandsen: "He was always wanting to joke around, always wanting to keep the clubhouse mood light."
Odom's roommate in Laredo, former Twins prospect Nathan Crawford, now lives in Australia. He didn't learn about Odom's death until a few weeks ago.
"As far as the trade, I can say it started getting to him," Crawford wrote in an e-mail. "Something would happen, like a umpire walking past would be 'What's up, Batman?'"
"We would stay up some nights after the games and jam on the guitar, talking about pitching, the trade, family. I said goodbye to him finally after a trip to Amarillo. He said he just had enough and that he wanted to spend time with his father. He told me he would play again next year," he wrote. "He was a friend, he was a ballplayer, he will be remembered."
The medical examiner's office figured out Odom's fame when they saw a tattoo on his right elbow over suture marks that read "Poena Par Sapientia" -- a rough Latin translation of "Pain equals wisdom" -- and did a Google search.
Details of his final days are elusive. His death was obscure. There is no record on where he was living, no explanation of how his body wound up at a hospital, no police report, no public record of where he is buried. Numerous telephone messages left for his family and friends were not returned.
The actual 10 bats that Odom got traded for, they're easy to discover. An Internet search shows a picture of them, stamped with "John Odom Trade Bat."
They were never used.
The Vipers planned to auction them for charity. When Ripley's Believe it or Not! heard about the trade, it offered $10,000 to the team's children's charity.
So the bats are now stored away at a warehouse in Orlando, Fla.
"We're still hoping to create an exhibit around them," said Tim O'Brien of Ripley's. "It would still attract a lot of interest."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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