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Ball Four: Twentieth Anniversary Edition Paperback – July 12, 1990
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As a player, former hurler Jim Bouton did nothing half-way; he threw so hard he'd lose his cap on almost every pitch. In the early '70s, he tossed off one of the funniest, most revealing, insider's takes on baseball life in Ball Four, his diary of the season he tried to pitch his way back from oblivion on the strength of a knuckler. The real curve, though, is Bouton's honesty. He carves humans out of heroes, and shines a light into the game's corners. A quarter century later, Bouton's unique baseball voice can still bring the heat.
""Ball Four is a people book, not just a baseball book."" --Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
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I am a 53-year-old guy who rarely watches any sporting event; let alone an entire game. In my younger days, many many moons ago, I loved playing baseball, basketball, soccer and whatnot, but watching the stuff never held my interest. With that said, I found Mr. Bouton's one-year memoir to be entertaining and highly informative. About a third of the athletes mentioned I knew; Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, and the 1960s Boston Red Sox players such as Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Cognigliaro and George Scott because being a kid living in Maine and NOT a Red Sox fan was flirting with a death wish. Most of the players the author worked alongside didn't even sound remotely familiar. Mr. Bouton exposed such undignified things as drug usage, "beaver-shooting," sexual infidelity, greedy baseball owners, many athlete's being constantly insecure about their worthiness, and clueless coaches as well as managers. I had to keep reminding myself that these man-children were young guys in their twenties and many of them were not the brightest bulbs in the brain department. The book certainly destroyed any romantic notions about these guys being essentially squeaky-clean, grown-up Boy Scouts.
Mr. Bouton's memoir is written in a brutally honest, sincere and plain-spoken manner which fits very well with the subject matter. Heck, this stuff isn't Shakespeare by a long shot and that's fine. Some of the words used are considered politically incorrect in today's world, so please keep in mind when it was written. The two epilogues in the 1990 edition are also highly informative. It tells about the sports world's reaction to his book as well as how Mr. Bouton's and his teammates' lives evolved over the next twenty years. My eyes did occasionally glaze over when reading about his knuckleball struggles and highlights from certain games, but overall the book was entertaining.
Just to see the names from the period that JB writes about was enough to keep my interest in reading this book. When he mentioned Sibi Sisti, Boston Braves, as a coach I knew I would enjoy the read.
I wrote Jim an email telling him how much I enjoyed the book, and he actually sent me an email back thanking me!
READ THIS BOOK!
You don't even have to like baseball to find this book appealing and worth revisiting, but if you're a fan of the game you shouldn't miss this experience.
Btw, "Ass-Eyes," thanks for getting me into big trouble after reading your book while hurling for my Junior HS baseball team. My own diary didn't go over so big at the same time I read yours. Especially when it became kidnapped by a teammate who suddenly became Fred Talbot reincarnate.
Well worth another read.
The book was revolutionary in that it was the first to break the "code" of " what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse". While most books today probably don't get a green light unless they "tell all", in my opinion, the author was very courageous in publishing it. I can only imagine how he would have been received by his peers once this book hit the shelves in the early 70's.