When I took mine all apart I only used a very small set of needle nose pliers and a rubber padded socket drive handle as a wedge.
There're two wire retention pieces to these ball joints. An external and an internal. You may not even notice the internal - but I'm wondering if folks are getting the two confused here.
The external has a straight part the goes INTO the socket part of the ball/socket joint. It wraps around the shaft and clips into the groove that's at the margin of the socket - were it transistions into the straight. To remove, you rotate that away from the shaft and pull it out (pulling parallel to the threaded rod) of the socket and then the socket can be pulled off the ball.
The internal is a 'spring ring' inside the socket. Going about %85 of the way around the internal circumference of the socket. The ball pushes past this when it's all assembled or disassembled. Think of a 'snap', like on your jeans.
On mine, that internal ring is all that's holding the upper tranny linkage ball in place - but then apparently that's all that's been holding it since I got it.
On disassembly I did use the rubber padded handle of my socket set to push the sockets off the balls of the tranny linkage - after removing the external retainers. But that was only because I couldn't get a grip on it. The ones I could reach I simply pulled off bare handed.
Re-assembly was all bare-handed. Squeezed 'em on, inserted the retention clips and rotated them into the circular part around the shaft - holding it in position. I'd think you shouldn't have to exert any more force than a strong hand shake to press the sockets on to the balls. Presses, vice-grips, etc are an indicator that something isn't right.
When I get this one clip from Grif, I'll tear it all down again and get picys. In the mean time - here's a draw up:
and yea - if I've made a bad assumption - no probs. Wouldn't be my first