Skip to comments.JIM BOUTON, RIP
Posted on 07/14/2019 10:06:08 AM PDT by Rummyfan
Jim Bouton, the author of Ball Four, died this week. Half a decade before he wrote that classic, Bouton was a star pitcher for the New York Yankees. But arm trouble derailed him and his decline coincided with the end of the Yankee dynasty.
Bouton reinvented himself as a knuckleball pitcher, caught on with the expansion Seattle Pilots, and chronicled his season with them (and with the Houston Astros after he was traded) in a behind the scenes look at the national pastime that captured both the foibles, the anxieties, and the grind of players existence.
To say that Ball Four made a splash would be to understate its impact and the reaction to it. The book delighted fans but outraged much of the sports establishment. Dick Young, a leading New York sportswriter, called Bouton a social leper.
The librarian at Dartmouths Baker Library selected Ball Four for display. Planning to take a half hour break from my studies, I grabbed the book. I did no more studying until I had devoured it. This, I concluded, is the best sports book Ive ever read.
Reading the book a few decades later, I still enjoyed it, but was less enchanted. Somehow, I hadnt been bothered by Boutons snobbery, elitism, and condescension the first time around.
I remembered that Jim Brosnan, a pitcher whose two books pioneered the genre Bouton perfected, objected to Ball Fours less than flattering treatment of Seattle manager Joe Schultz, who had coached Brosnan.
Ball Four wouldnt be Ball Four without Schultz telling his pitchers to smoke em inside or his players to pound the Budweiser. But I felt that Bouton crossed the line into cruelty in his depiction of fringe players like Fred Talbot and Merritt Ranew.
I also found it unseemly that Bouton ridiculed Dooley Womack, the player Seattle received in the trade with Houston, as unworthy compensation. At the time of the trade, Womack was a better pitcher than Bouton, and had been for several years.
The Jim Bouton of Ball Four is not at all a sympathetic character.
Looking at the matter now, a few more decades down the road, I give Bouton credit for not sugarcoating his personality. He didnt just offer a no-holds-barred look at baseball, he painted a thoroughly honest picture of Jim Bouton, the human being.
I still say Ball Four is the best sports book Ive ever read.
Do athletes still write these kind of inside, kiss-and-tell accounts? Im not aware of many such baseball books in recent years.
Maybe modern baseball players more educated, professional, and wealthy than their predecessors arent colorful enough to provide the characters for a Ball Four kind of book. Maybe the what happens here stays here mantra of the traditional baseball club house has regained its sway.
No matter. We dont need more Ball Fours. We have the original, and thats more than good enough.
Ball Four quote, Jim Bouton: “I was so drunk last night that this morning I puked up a pantyhose!”
Seeing as how Mickey Mantle was my by far favorite player, I’ll never forget how Bouton wrote that you knew you had it made with the Yankees when Mantle, Ford and Richardson invited you to the roof of the Watergate Hotel in DC to look through Mantle’s telescope into the windows of the hotel across the way...
“Looking at the matter now, a few more decades down the road, I give Bouton credit for not sugarcoating his personality. He didnt just offer a no-holds-barred look at baseball, he painted a thoroughly honest picture of Jim Bouton, the human being.”
Usually the most compelling and fascinating people are those that are brutally honest about themselves and others. They may bot always come out as likable but are by far the most interesting and enlightening.
I haven’t read the book, but it sounds like one I would enjoy.
Close. It was the Shoreham Hotel in DC.
I stayed in Trumps hotel on Columbus Circle, circa 2003. The room had a telescope in it. How many people rent hotel rooms to look at stars?
It was??? I thought it was Watergate...It’s been since early ‘70’s when I read it...
This is a sad day. “Smoke em inside” was a code response my group of friends used whenever somebody provided useless advice. (My high school baseball coach was very fond of “throw strikes they can’t hit”.) I also remember Bouton’s sequel - “I coached good, but boy did they play lousy”.
Not Bouton. That “Got sick on a flight and puked up a panty girdle” joke was told on the KC Royal’s notorious goofball pitcher, Moe Drabowsky, by one of his Royal’s teammates.
It, (’Beaver Shooting’), was written about on pages 40-42 in Ball Four. Jim mentioned that is how he felt he had really made it as a big leaguer when he was invited up to the roof with almost the entire Yankee team to peep at 2:30 AM! Hilarious story!
Yeah...That’s the one memory I have from the book...And like I said, it’s been years since I read it....It WAS hilarious...
A variation on "...blaming his boots for the faults of his feet."?
I read the sequel first, getting it from a classmate in HS.
Had to go and get "Ball Four" after that.
I still have my original copy of ‘Ball Four’ that I bought in the summer of 1970. I lived in Seattle for that Pilot’s inaugural 1969 season, (Their only one in Seattle), and I have read the book almost every year as the new MLB Season starts. (Yeah, I’m a huge MLB fan/nut/book collector). On April fools day 1970 it was announced by the local media that the team was moving to Milwaukee. Of course we all thought it was a fools day gag.....but it was true and the joke was on us! Later JBW.
“The Battered Bastards Of Baseball” if you haven’t seen this film about the Portland Mavericks you are missing out. Bouton actually starts his comeback there.
Have a good day, bobby...
Boutons response was something like, Whats a Mack Jones?
Side note, during the 1970s, my father worked for a charter service at Logan Airport and they had a contract at the time with the Boston Bruins, who would charter their planes for road trips. As a result, my father got to know some of the Bruins personally and on occasion, he and his co-workers would get invited to have drinks with them in a local bar. For instance, they'd land at Logan early afternoon from a road game the night before and would head straight to the bar, telling my Dad to head over after his shift. So he had some wild stories.
For example, on one occasion, one of the players (Wayne Cashman) got so inebriated that he was locked up in the drunk tank and he used his one phone call to place a huge take-out order from a local Chinese restaurant, inviting all the officers in the jailhouse to share the food with him. He was then let out in the morning with no charges and no one the wiser. In those days, no sports writer would dare risk his career (and they were all men in those days) by putting these kind of stories in the paper. So the athletes got away with a lot as the sports beat reporters were part of the club.
Derek Sanderson wrote a good book on those days of the "Big Bad Bruins" by the way. He said if not for all the partying, the Bruins would have won at least three more Stanley Cups in that era (they won in '70 and '72)j as they had a pretty awesome team with the likes of Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito.
It's amazing to think about how much more some of these earlier athletes could have accomplished (i.e. Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle) if not for all the excess. For example, look at Tom Brady who takes discipline, hard work and clean living to the extreme. As a result, he will likely go down as the greatest QB in NFL history. How much better would say, Joe Namath, have been if he had adopted a Tom Brady lifestyle and work ethic?
Joe Namath’s problem was that he had eggshells for knees. If Broadway Joe had adopted a clean lifestyle, he would have killed himself out of boredom by 1970.
It depends on who she is........
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