Jim Bouton – Ball Four (1970)

“Jim Bouton, a pitcher of modest achievement but a celebrated iconoclast who left a lasting mark on baseball as the author of ‘Ball Four,’ a raunchy, shrewd, irreverent — and best-selling — player’s diary that tainted the game’s wholesome image, died on Wednesday at his home in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. … ‘Ball Four,’ published in 1970, reported on the selfishness, dopiness, childishness and meanspiritedness of young men often lionized for playing a boy’s game very well, and many readers saw it, approvingly or not, as a scandalous betrayal of the baseball clubhouse. But the book, which was Bouton’s account of the 1969 baseball season, seven years after his big-league debut with the Yankees, had a larger narrative — namely, his attempt at age 30 to salvage a once-promising career by developing the game’s most peculiar and least predictable pitch: the knuckleball. That pitch, which is optimally delivered with no spin, requires finesse, fingertip strength and a good deal of luck; without spin, the ball is subject to the air currents on the way to the plate, causing it to move erratically, making it difficult for the hitter — not to mention the catcher and the umpire — to track, and just as difficult for the pitcher to control. … Some reviewers recognized the poignant tension in Bouton’s tale; in The New Yorker, for instance, Roger Angell described ‘Ball Four’ as ‘a rare view of a highly complex public profession seen from the innermost inside, along with an even more rewarding inside view of an ironic and courageous mind.’ … In his telling, players routinely cheated on their wives on road trips, devised intricate plans to peek under women’s skirts or spy on them through hotel windows, spoke in casual vulgarities, drank to excess and swallowed amphetamines as if they were M&Ms. Mickey Mantle played hung over and was cruel to children seeking his autograph, he wrote. Carl Yastrzemski was a loafer. Whitey Ford illicitly scuffed or muddied the baseball, and his catcher, Elston Howard, helped him do it. Most coaches were knotheads who dispensed the obvious as wisdom when they weren’t contradicting themselves, and general managers were astonishingly penurious and dishonest in dealing with players over their contracts. Over all, Bouton portrayed the game — its players, coaches, executives and most of the reporters who covered them — as a world of amusing, foible-ridden, puerile conformity. Not surprising, the baseball establishment frowned on Bouton, his collaborating editor, Leonard Shecter, and the book. The commissioner at the time, Bowie Kuhn, called Bouton in for a reprimand; some players shunned him for spilling the beans to wives about what players did on road trips. …”
NY Times: Jim Bouton, Author of Tell-All Baseball Memoir ‘Ball Four,’ Dies at 80
SABR: Ball Four
W – Ball Four
Is Ball Four the Greatest Baseball Memoir Ever Written?
YouTube: Ball Four Jim Bouton Sportscenter Segment 1970s

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