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.