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by Jim Bouton

Download Ball Four eBook
Jim Bouton
Words Language & Grammar
Sports Publishing LLC; 1st edition (September 1, 2000)
350 pages
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And, a year later, World Books brought out Ball Four, by a struggling journeyman pitcher named Jim Bouton

And, a year later, World Books brought out Ball Four, by a struggling journeyman pitcher named Jim Bouton.

Jim Bouton - image from NPR. Baseball Almanac entry for Bouton. Bouton sold the materials he used in making the book. This lovely NY Times piece includes a revelation on where the book’s title originated. This is one of the seminal shoot beaver and tell books.

The book has a plot - Jim Bouton struggling to master the knuckle ball, and not doing a particularly brilliant job of i. In the end, "Ball Four" wound up becoming pretty tame compared to the books that followed.

The book has a plot - Jim Bouton struggling to master the knuckle ball, and not doing a particularly brilliant job of it. He gets sent to the minors for a while, botches up a start, and winds up being sent to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline. At first he seems to be a struggling victim, but when I read the book a second time, I felt less sympathy for him - Bouton was given chances, and did only an average job when called upon. He overrated his own abilities. It remained a defining moment in the literature of the sport.

It was not my purpose to do this, but on reflection, it’s probably not a bad idea. I think we are all better off looking across at someone, rather than up.

Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver (German: Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer) is a children's novel written by Michael Ende. The main characters are Emma the steam locomotive, her driver Luke (Lukas) and the young accomplice Jim Button (Jim Knopf) who together go on an adventure. The story begins and ends on the small fictional island of Morrowland (Lummerland).

When Ball Four was first published in 1970, it ignited a firestorm of controversy that raged far beyond the boundaries of baseball. From players and team executives to journalists and broadcasters, everyone had a mostly negative opinion about Jim Bouton's nearly 500- page expose. The former Yankee pitching star was labeled a Judas, a Benedict Arnold and a social leper. Then Commissioner Bowie Kuhn attempted to force Bouton to sign a statement that the stories he told weren't true. The San Diego Padres burned a copy of Ball Four in protest of its release. However, the majority of the fans who bought tickets to watch their diamond heroes loved Ball Four. Even the people who didn't ordinarily follow baseball devoured the hilariously funny and revealing book. In fact, during its 30-year life, Ball Four has sold more than five million copies worldwide. For the millennium edition of this historic book, Bouton has written a highly entertaining epilogue, reflecting upon his life at the age of 60, the traumatic death of his daughter, and the heart-warming invitation from the Yankees to play in his first Old-Timers' Day game since his exile from the club. Says the author about his ground-breaking book, "By establishing new boundaries, Ball Four changed sports reporting at least to the extent that, after the book, it was no longer possible to sell the milk and cookies image again ... besides, you can get sick on milk and cookies".

Ball Four is a high-and-inside fastball which will forever be a journalistic classic.

  • Xar
I discovered a copy of "Ball Four" in my high school library over 25 years ago, and found it to be laugh-out-loud funny. Jim Bouton, in the twilight of his baseball career, and suffering from a sore arm (this was in the days before sports medicine came along and prolonged careers), reinvented himself as a knuckleball pitcher and hooked on with the lowly expansion Seattle Mariners. His observations on locker room life and on the easy availability of hot young women to professional athletes, was an inspiration to me at age 14. Ever since then, I've picked up a copy of the book every few years (and I have at least three copies by now) and always find something new to enjoy or quote or admire.

Other reviewers on this site refer to "Ball Four" as "dated". I could not disagree more. Even though the book was largely written in 1969, it still has a lot to tell us about modern-day society, labor-management relationships, the role of sports in society, and politics. Bouton, as a 30-year-old ballplayer, was unusually observant, and, as he writes from 1969 -- the same year that "Mad Men" is up on TV now, as I write this review -- spokevery perceptively about the kinds of societal change that most of us enjoy watching Don Draper struggle with. Also, as an avowed left-winger, Bouton provides a perspective different to the majority of other baseball figures.

Reading "Ball Four", you can choose to just enjoy the more raunchy or R-rated material while ignoring the more social or political material. Or you can read up on the very early years of baseball's labor wars, and get your history lesson on the likes of Bowie Kuhn and Marvin Miller. Or, if you enjoyed the movie "Office Space", there's tons of material here about the short-sightedness of the management, which involved at least 7 increasingly muffled layers of supervision between the owners and the players of a single team. Bouton was a keen student of baseball history, and spends a fair bit of time talking about old players, and the guys he followed when he was a kid; he has the misfortune in 1969 to be coached by Sal Maglie, one of Bouton's childhood heroes but a truly inept pitching coach (as they say, never meet your heroes!)). But, not only that, Bouton figured into the very dawn of today's statistical-oriented baseball analytics --he realized that relief pitchers should be judged by inherited runners scored and baserunners-per-inning ratios, rather than purely by wins and losses. He was immensely valuable as a relief pitcher in 1969 -- his Strat-O-Matic card proves that -- but the Pilots ignored him and under-utilized him, because they weren't paying attention to the right information.

So, read "Ball Four" -- and its several updates, issued in 1980, 1990, and 2000. There's something amazing on nearly every page of the book and its supplements -- funny, titillating, insightful, of historical interest, or just plain mind-boggling. There are very few other baseball books that hit their targets so directly, or that are so eminently quotable. The book will be 50 years old soon, but it will never, ever, go out of date.
  • Landarn
I first read this book back in the mid 70's when I wanted to learn a little bit about baseball because I wanted to be able to talk with co-workers about the game. I was not a baseball or sports fan at the time. To tell the truth, I'm still not. But I just got a retirement job as an usher at a minor league ballpark and decided that I needed to refresh some info. So, when this book popped up as a Kindle special daily deal, I got it again. It was even better after almost 40 years. What I loved about the book was that it made baseball players human beings and that made me curious about the game. Reading it again made me appreciate what the players went through back then, the difficulty of their lives (in spite of all of the so-called glamour) and how tenuous the baseball career can be. This edition also included updates from many years after it was published and it thrilled me and yes, I cried along with him. It is one of the best books that I have ever read.
  • Jogrnd
I read this book in my high school years in the 70s and again now. I think my rating would be 4/5 stars both times. I enjoyed the humor, baseball stories, and the updates provided in today's version. As a baseball fan, I enjoyed an "insider's view" to coaching, player behavior and attitudes, what happens in non-game time with a team, and relationships between players. It was interesting to see how baseball has changed in some ways (the author "fought" hard for $1000 raise and many players earned less than $20,000) and stayed the same in many ways. In trying to describe why I didn't rate this book a 5, I think I didn't care for the fact he wrote without letting the people he was writing about know. His attitude seemed a little cynical at times in his view of management and players he didn't care for. I think if I were his teammate, I wouldn't have liked to discover his publishing a book about "what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room" type of things either as some baseball people then took offense to. Ball Four was controversial when it was released but seems "tame" now after reading Jose Canseco's revelations and others. All in all, a good read for a baseball person.