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on October 20, 2008
Like a lot of people, I read "Ball Four" when it first came out (a real eye-opener for an 11-year-old). While it was shocking to many folks at the time, it broke the mold for how a baseball book is written, and it says much that in nearly 40 years there hasn't been anything like it since.

But "Foul Ball" comes pretty close.

Instead of trying to save his career as a major league pitcher, this time Jim Bouton is trying to save a minor league ballpark. A lot of things have happened in Bouton's life since "Ball Four," and you get caught up on a lot of that. The main thrust is that his plan to save Wahconah Park and bring a new pro baseball team to Pittsfield, Massachusetts is met by terrific enthusiasm from everyone but the people who actually run Pittsfield: The government, the bankers, General Electric and the local newspaper.

Those folks want to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to build a new ballpark on a site where GE may have dumped lots and lots of toxic chemicals (and coincidentally is owned by the same newspaper lobbying for the new stadium). Anyone with a sense of fair play will be infuriated by what happens to Bouton, his partners and the good people in Pittsfield...and there ARE good people there. Just none in the right places, apparently. My wife and I had bought GE stock for our retirement, but after reading this I dumped all our shares. No way could I remain invested in GE with a clear conscience after reading what they have done to people in Pittsfield.

Still, through it all, you'll smile at Bouton's observations and sense of humor in what becomes a Quixotic journey that anyone who has stood in the way of the powers that be will more than understand. "Ball Four" is a lot easier read, but "Foul Ball" is a deeper one, more challenging to the reader, but well worth reading. I highly recommend it.

NOTE: There is an initial self-published printing of "Foul Ball" (a story in itself), but it does not contain Part II, which is integral to the full story and includes later developments such as the fascinating Pittsfield Hillies vintage baseball team Bouton put together...I even bought some Hillies memorabilia (with proceeds from selling the GE stock, no less) as a way of saying thanks to Bouton and business partner Chip Elitzer for fighting the good fight.
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on November 3, 2006
I teach college and have used this book many times in my political science classes. My students have really enjoyed it and learned a lot from it. It is written well and has great documentation.

The story is essentially about Bouton and his business partner (and friend) Chip Elitzer's efforts to inject openess into how political decisions are made. Unfortunately, they are met with most of the typical roadblocks to political change: needless obsfucation and endless delays justified by government procedures and rules.

What makes the story so compelling is their infectous sense of humor, core optimism and sheer drive. Just when you think all is lost (which occurs early and often), there is suddenly new hope to keep their efforts alive.

Bouton's description of the colorful characters involved makes you think you know them. He shares with his readers some of his thinking about his family, politics and life in general. These observations add to the book's authenticity.

The book is also about how political power operates in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Even though there are some large political and economic forces involved (General Electric and the commonwealth of Massachusetts), the critical actors involved are people you might recognize in many small to medium sized cities: local politicians, journalists and editors of small newspapers, small business owners, local lawyers and average citizens. This allows the reader to identify the complexity, invisibility and weight of how local political power can be exercised.

Conversely, The book also reveals a very simple bias of the author: He loves the game of baseball.

It is an inspiring book which I recommend to anyone who believes in the political transparency and how it ultimately can reform our political instituions.
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on December 10, 2014
Bouton's style is easy reading peppered with humor. His story is interesting and entertaining, to a point. The trouble is that he comes off as a somewhat self-serving crusader who wants the reader to know every detail of what he went through. That can become boring. Plus, one can't help but wonder what is the other side of the story.
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on May 5, 2013
First, this is NOT a sequel to Ball Four. What it is, is a very interesting story about Jim Bouton and friend and their efforts to wade through local politics in order to preserve and operate an old ballpark. It is well written and full of interesting characters, as interesting as the Seattle Pilots of long ago.

It may not focus on baseball, but it's still Jim Bouton writing with passion an wit and honesty.
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on December 16, 2008
There is nothing foul about saving a quaint old baseball park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The foulness comes from Pittsfield's politicians, business interests and newspaper editorials when confronted by Bouton's honesty and decency. The love of baseball in what is quite possibly the place where the game began in America prompts Bouton and a good friend to pitch an offer the residents of Pittsfield can't refuse. But a host of hidden agendas reveal themselves as Bouton and his business partner move their proposal through the decision-making process. Bouton's writing style makes the reader feel like a partner in this too-true tale that could happen in Anyplace, USA. The book is a real page-turner as Bouton's descriptions help us to know all the players and the diabolical games that are played off the field.
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on March 31, 2015
It's hard to distinguish between "reality" and the description of perceptions by Mr. Bouton. I have no doubt he tells the truth, but the "truth as he sees it, which may or may not be as it really was. Many thoughts, descriptions, and conclusions go without checking with the source of the cause of the assumptions. It is an interesting description, and if totally true and verifiable, is an awful depiction of small town politics and life. However, I hold my assumptions in the background, and wonder, "what if he had asked..." the "big, bad, mayor" of the town, or the City Parks Commissioners. Not to mention the vilification of the news media. Mr. Bouton brings his own personal baggage to the book, which he somehow fails to consider, that "maybe some of my perceptions are colored by my personal mistrust from my previous book," where he rats out baseball's big names. That book may have caused others to be wary of his intentions and motives, therefore, not willing to trust him or his goals.
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on September 11, 2014
An enjoyable, well-documented book on Jim Bouton's travails, as he tries to sell his idea to save an old baseball park to a political, old boy town government. He shows good humor in relating this story, although he clearly had to be quite perturbed at the shenanigans pulled by the local politicians. The story happened over 10 years ago, but shows how politicians in a small town can typically get their way, especially when challenged.
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on January 20, 2011
There's a line in the movie "The International" that `the difference between fiction and the truth is that fiction has to make sense.' Ironically, if the movie of "Foul Ball" they joke about in the book ever came to fruition it would probably be written off as going too far over the top.

"Foul Ball" isn't a baseball book per say you don't get (too many) funny stories from Bouton's playing days, but the topics of democracy, politicians, newspapers, and hidden agendas that are encountered perhaps make it even more clear why we all need baseball so much. As well as make the story more meaningful.

This updated "Part II" version adds a great deal to the story, which seems like it's all coming from some fictitious town until the pictures are shown. My only (very minor) complaint is that there aren't more of those pictures.

This extended version still leaves one wondering "What if?" but even if somebody made that part up, it probably wouldn't be as entertaining.
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on March 24, 2013
I decided to read this book after reading and enjoying the author's first book, "Ball Four". This book was more small town political then sports based. I'm sure if I lived, or had a connection, in the area the story takes place it would be more meaningful.
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on January 9, 2007
Bouton does not quite duplicate his early successes, but he is a lively, witty, and informative writer, and makes the best of the material he has to work with. I'd like to see him tackle sometning new, like the current drug scene in baseball.
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