A ballplayer spends a good piece of his life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time. Jim Bouton won two World Series games in 1964 with the New York Yankees, but in 1965 he developed arm troubles that turned the pitching phenom from a starter into a bullpen pitcher. When we catch up with Jim, he is with the Seattle Pilots expansion team, trying to learn how to throw a knuckleball in an attempt to resurrect and lengthen his career. Probably few would remember this organization except for the fact that Jim Bouton was with the team. This book hit baseball players/managers/owners like a psycho nun with a steel studded ruler was rapping their knuckles over and over again. Now a normal writer cant buy publicity like this, but Bouton was still trying to pitch in the major leagues, and the reaction certainly made things more difficult for him. The controversy was over Bouton revealing the everyday stupidity that sometimes colossally bored baseball players got up to. Now all of that was bad enough, but where Bouton stepped over the line for many baseball fans was revealing the less than stellar lifestyle of the legendary Mickey Mantle. Bouton is a rookie on the Yankees, and one of the first stories he tells about Mantle is the whole team gathering around him on the rooftop of their hotel that, by the way it is angled, gives them a birds eye view into hotel rooms across the way. Beyond the controversy, the book provides an incredible view of what it is like to be a ballplayer. Now certainly, Bouton created more stress for himself because it wasnt long before everyone in the clubhouse knew he was writing a book. He had the normal ball players paranoia times ten. I have to hope that this book also had some positive impacts on professional baseball.
- Materials From Jim Boutons Ball Four Days Going Once, Going Twice ...
Ball Four might be the greatest baseball book ever written! Filled with castoffs and fringe players the Pilots are the perfect team for Bouton to chronologically capture daily life in major league baseball.
Mostly, I can see why: it is boring, and Bouton takes all 400+ pages to whine about money, coaches, his knuckleball, wanting to start/pitch, and he relishes every opportunity to dish on how depraved every single big league ball player is. Maybe that was baseball in 1969, but this is 2011 and this book should be forgotten.
"Ball Four" is the April Baseball Book Club selection, author is Jim Bouton. Jim Bouton played professional baseball as a pitcher from 1962 to 1970. The end of the book discusses his times and travels after playing. Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" is one of the most widely read books on Baseball.
Once a flame-throwing, twenty-game winner and starting pitcher for the New York Yankees, Bouton lost his fastball and found himself working middle relief for the expansion Seattle Pilots, desperately trying to develop a knuckleball and taking notes about pro ball player shenanigans that would eventually be crafted into the book, Ball Four, which went on to be named one of the Greatest 100 Non-Fiction Books of All Time by Time Magazine. A similar book released today would draw barely a raised eyebrow, but jaded 21st century readers should remember that professional baseball players use to be looked upon by the general public as demigods who could do no wrong. With echoes of the Spanish Inquisition in the background, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn called Bouton into his office and tried to force him to recant the events portrayed in Ball Four, saying the publication of that nastiness was detrimental to baseball. Written with real humor and skill by Bouton and accomplice, New York sportwriter Leonard Shecter, Ball Four dared to assert that players spent a large part of their time ogling women in the stands (called beaver shooting) and popping amphetamines in the clubhouse like candy.
Sad to say, baseball nut that I am, this book stayed below my radar for years on end, when it finally became a known quantity in my life as a fan I viewed it as something rather like Great Expectations definitely on the reading list, just waiting for you to tackle it and be stunned.
Bouton describes the game from a different point of view than what can be gleaned from the box scores or observed from the grandstand.