Jim Bouton was born in Newark, NJ, in 1939. He grew up in Rochelle Park, a blue-collar town that was too small for Little League. The result was that kids learned to play baseball without uniforms, parents, coaches, or umpires.
In high school, his nickname was "warm up Bouton" because he never got into the games. Advised that becoming a major league pitcher was "unrealistic," Bouton wrote his Careers Week report on the life of a forest ranger. He got a C on his report and an A on the cover--a nice drawing of a squirrel in a tree.
Bouton was an All-Star pitcher and won 20 games for the Yankees in 1963. The next year he won 18 games and beat the Cardinals twice in the World Series. Eventually a sore arm got him sold to the Seattle Pilots--for a bag of batting practice balls. That’s when he began taking notes for his diary Ball Four, published in 1970.
In the 1970s he was a top-rated TV sportscaster in New York City, acted in a Robert Altman film called The Long Goodbye, and made a brief comeback with the Atlanta Braves.
In 2003 Bouton wrote and self-published Foul Ball, a diary of his battle to save a historic ballpark in Pittsfied, MA. Bouton says he only writes when he’s bursting to say something. "Ball Four was a book I wanted to write," he says. "Foul Ball was a book I had to write.
Today Bouton lives in a forest in western Massachusetts.
Ball Four: The Final Pitch is the original book plus all the updates, unlike the 20th Anniversary Edition paperback.
When Ball Four was published in 1970, it created a firestorm. Bouton was called a Judas, a Benedict Arnold and a "social leper" for having violated the "sanctity of the clubhouse." Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn tried to force Bouton to sign a statement saying the book wasn’t true. Ballplayers, most of whom hadn’t read it, denounced the book. It was even banned by a few libraries.
lmost everyone else, however, loved Ball Four. Fans liked discovering that athletes were real people--often wildly funny people. Many readers said it gave them strength to get through a difficult period in their lives. Serious critics called it an important document.
David Halberstam, who won a Pulitzer for his reporting on Vietnam, wrote a piece in Harper’s that said of Bouton: "He has written… a book deep in the American vein, so deep in fact that it is by no means a sports book."
In 1999 Ball Four was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the "Books of the Century." And Time magazine chose it as one of the "100 Greatest Non-Fiction" books.
Besides changing the image of athletes, the book played a role in the economic revolution in pro sports. In 1975, Ball Four was accepted as legal evidence against the owners at the arbitration hearing, which lead to free agency in baseball and, by extension, to other sports.
Today Ball Four has taken on another role--as a time capsule of life in the sixties. "It is not just a diary of Bouton's 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros," says sportswriter Jim Caple. "It's a vibrant, funny, telling history of an era that seems even further away than four decades. To call it simply a "tell all book" is like describing The Grapes of Wrath as a book about harvesting peaches in California."
This ebook version of Ball Four includes the first edition, the 1980, 1990 and 2000 updates, and 138 photos.
In his first diary since Ball Four, Jim Bouton recounts his amazing adventure trying to save a historic ballpark in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Host to organized baseball since 1892, Wahconah Park was soon to be abandoned by the owner of the Pittsfield Mets, who would move his team to a new stadium in another town--an all too familiar story.
Enter Bouton and his partner with the best deal ever offered to a community--a locally owned professional baseball team and a privately restored city-owned ballpark at no cost to the taxpayers.
The only people who didn’t like Bouton’s plan were the Mayor, the Mayor’s hand-picked Parks Commissioners, a majority of the City Council, the only daily newspaper, the city’s largest bank, it’s most powerful law firm, and a guy from General Electric. Everyone else--or approximately 98% of the citizens of Pittsfield--loved it.
The "good old boys" hated Bouton’s plan because it would put a stake in the heart of a proposed $18.5 million baseball stadium--a new stadium that the citizens of Pittsfield had voted against three different times!
In what one reviewer called "that same humane, sarcastic voice" Bouton unmasks a mayor who brags that "the fix is in," a newspaper that lies to its readers, and a government that operates out of a bar.
But maybe the most incredible story is what happened after Foul Ball was self-published--a story in itself. Invited back by a new mayor, Bouton and his partner raise $1.2 million, help discover a document dating Pittsfield’s baseball origins to 1791, and stage a vintage game that's broadcast live by ESPN-TV.
Who could have guessed what would happen next? And that this time it would involve the Massachusetts Attorney General?
"What Foul Ball shares with Ball Four," wrote John Feinstein, "is Bouton’s humor… and a remarkable tale that--if you didn’t trust the author--you would find difficult to believe."
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