Ball Four Revisited

June 14, 2020

BALL FOUR QUIZ

1) Whom did Bouton say got thrown out of a game deliberately on the last day of the 1960 season because he had a flight to catch?

 A) Frank Robinson  B) Frank Howard C) Frank Thomas D) Frank Lary

 

2) Who told Bouton, as a boy, to "Take a hike, son," when Bouton asked him for an autograph?

A) Alvin Dark   B) Wes Westrum     C) Whitey Lockman      D) Eddie Stanky

 

3) Which rookie catcher got a broken finger volunteering to catch Bouton’s warm-up knuckleball? 

A) Larry Haney    B) Gerry McNertney  C) Merritt Ranew  D) Bob Watson E) Greg Goossen

 

4) Which superstar did Bouton characterize as "loafing" on a groundball?

A) Willie Mays  B) Carl Yastrzemski C)  Brooks Robinson  D) Harmon Killebrew

 

5) Which teammate of Bouton’s claimed never to wear underwear?

A)     George Brunet     B) Mickey Mantle     C) Ralph Terry  D) Jimmy Wynn

 

6) Between innings of shutting out the Giants, which White Album song did Larry Dierker sing? 

A)  I Will       B) Helter Skelter      C) Long Long Long      D) Rocky Raccoon  

 

7) Who hit his first big-league HR off Bouton?

A)  Tony Oliva  B) Bill Freehan   C) Curt Blefary   D) Reggie Jackson

 

8) When the Yankees and the Pilots got into a brawl, which ex-teammate did Bouton have a fake-fistfight with?

A) Fritz Peterson B) Joe Pepitone  C) Al Downing  D) Tom Tresh 

 

9) Whom did Bouton say resembled a white rat? 

A)     Whitey Ford    B) Claude Osteen   C) Claude Raymond    D) Whitey Herzog

 

10) Which former World Series star did Bouton see driving a bus at the 1964 World’s Fair?  

A) Bob Turley  B) Dusty Rhodes  C) Gil McDougald   D) Don Newcombe

 

 

 

I miss making up multiple-choice quizzes. (So far, it’s the only part of teaching I miss.)  To make grading easy, I always made the answer key easy to memorize (the key here is DAD BAD CABB), allowing me to race through the quizzes in the time it takes to read those three words and write a letter grade. (I mostly used them to take attendance, as required by NY state, and to keep the students prepared to discuss the book on the syllabus that day—nothing was as grueling, for them and for me, as those horrible hours I’d have to spend asking questions about a book nobody had even bought yet, much less read.) Fortunately, on BJOL, I can depend on having a bunch of dedicated readers who’ve devoured BALL FOUR, some readers several times over the five decades it’s been in print.

I own four copies myself, all updated with new forewords, afterwords, prefaces, epilogues, introductions, apparatuses, photos—Bouton was more gifted at marketing than he was at pitching, or at least as enthusiastic about each of his two chosen professions. When I reviewed Mitchell Nathanson’s spanking-new biography a few weeks ago, though, I mostly ignored the book for which Bouton is better known than he’s known for his pitching or his marketing talents, mainly because Nathanson’s point was how little Bouton’s life story (as opposed to how much of his fame) had to do with BALL FOUR.

It was a fair point. If he were really the social leper that critics made him out to be, then BALL FOUR would merely be one skin lesion on Bouton’s entire disfigured body. He led a varied, troubled, contentious life, and BALL FOUR was only a sliver of it. Nonetheless, I’d like to pay it a little attention here, if only because I think his book is remembered more for the effect it had rather than its actual content.

Its content was the day-to-day life of a ballplayer, as it was happening. This content was shocking, for its time, but from our perspective, the shock value has completely disappeared. The controversy, for example, of athletes popping pills to help them perform better is now taken for granted, but back then it was a revelation, and not a popular one. "How dare Bouton reveal that players pop amphetamines like they were Tic-tacs? And is it even true? Is Bouton making up sensational stuff just to boost book sales?" are all bland questions now, undeserving of our effort to answer.

A lot of other controversies have died down, so when I read it again this week, I paid very little attention to the greenie-popping, the beaver-shooting, the alcoholism, the Baseball Shirley stuff. The entirety of baseball culture has changed, probably for the better. Bouton returns to the locker-room one day (July 15th) to find that his equipment has been vandalized, almost certainly by a teammate. His jockstraps have all been stretched out, his spikes have had nails driven into them, and he takes it as a good-natured prank, which it is, in jock culture, but it’s also an act of raw hostility, which is how it would be taken today. (The vandal, a huge pitcher named Gene Brabender, deceives Bouton by saying that he witnessed the vandalism but won’t reveal the vandal’s name, which, Bouton learns months afterwards, is "Gene Brabender.") Bouton is disliked by most of his teammates on the Seattle Pilots, which is the most intriguing quality of Ball Four to me, how it feels to be a part of an organization that has contempt for you. Bouton’s "social leper" phase, in other words, is actually well underway before Ball Four was published—he was a company man who understood that his company had a very limited use for him, and almost no sentimental attachment to him at all.

This was the book’s great truth—not that Jim Bouton could treat his teammates, past, present and future, with such little care for them, but that they, and the teams themselves, had so little care for Bouton’s well-being, and he didn’t mind sharing that truth with his readers. This is a primer about an isolated, alienated worker, more than anything else, revealing his working conditions.

The revelations about salary negotiations in the final period of a total power-imbalance between teams and players was shocking at the time because players were enjoined from saying what their salaries even were.  The popular illusion was that MLB players played the game mostly for enjoyment, and the players often fostered that illusion. (One quote from the young Willie Mays sticks with me: "Heck, man, it’s jes’ a game—I love it.") Today, as we argue about the fine print of each player’s contract, and as their every dollar, bonus, perk, and clause is a matter of public record, the idea that Bouton would reveal (in Ball Four’s opening sentence) the amount of his annual salary seems like nothing to us, but it was treated as a betrayal at the time.

A betrayal of what, exactly? Well, Bouton was perceived—by revealing his own salary!!—as pressuring other players to confess to their own salaries, which were criminally low even for the time, and are comically low by contemporary standards. Simply, the owners were enjoying the perception that players were generously paid (which they were, but only in comparison with most wage-slaves) instead of being shamefully underpaid and grossly exploited.  Bouton’s openness in discussing figures helped to bring about the badly needed change in perception.  

MLB players, in other words, were hewing to a Thin Blue Line of their own, an omerta to keep within the walls of the clubhouse some ugly truths about the game, and about American culture more generally. As tasteless as it was considered to disclose your own salary, most of Bouton’s teammates bought into those standards of taste that were, of course, contrary to their own interests. Bouton questioned the whole concept of "good taste" and was ostracized for it, but most of what he questioned seems, to us today, to have been highly questionable.

I was interested to read last week an article about Gregg Jefferies https://usagag.com/gregg-jefferies-complicated-mets-failure-looks-different-now/, who was despised by his New York Mets teammates of the 1990s and virtually driven from the team by a group of veterans who, in this recent article, admit that Jeffries did nothing to warrant the abuse he took. The veterans (Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez, Daryl Strawberry, among others) resented the young Jeffries for replacing one of them, Wally Backman, and took their resentment out on Jeffries rather  han on the Mets’ upper management who were, of course, the ones who decided to give Backman’s playing time to Jefferies. Instead, the Mets’ vets focused on the young player’s predictably immature behavior and hazed him to the breaking point, which only resulted in more immature behavior, causing the Mets to lose a young star and ultimately to fall into total disarray.

This hazing of a potential superstar occurred about 30 years ago, and it seems a relic of a barbaric era, but it also occurred about 20 years after the events of Ball Four, when the veteran Bouton (a 30-year-old former All-Star, World’s Champion, etc.) was mistreated by his own teammates. The book describes a very distant primitive culture, and as such is an important historical document, one of the few honest accounts of a jockocracy that has already been replaced several times, and which will be replaced again, inevitably, in the years to come.  The Bouton of Ball Four took it in the spirit of the time as good-natured ribbing, sometimes as foul-natured ribbing, but never as categorically despicable behavior, which in the context of 2020, much of the hazing he (or Jefferies) received would have been.

To be fair, Bouton often displays bad behavior in Ball Four, not only by his teammates (especially on the Pilots, less so on the Astros) but by himself. At one point, he bawls out the pitchers and catchers in the bullpen in a tirade that might be characterized as petulant and self-centered, though Bouton feels his remarks are both warranted and long overdue. A few days afterwards, however, he apologizes to his teammates for losing his cool, and they accept his apology. It would have been easy for Bouton to have downplayed the incident, perhaps even omitted it, or paraphrased his remarks to make them seem milder than they were, but he quotes himself at length behaving poorly, which was a theme not widely noted by critics of the book. He was easily as self-critical as he was critical of his fellow players.

Bouton knew that he acted like a prima donna from time to time, because that’s one of the main points of the book: athletes, especially very successful athletes, grow accustomed to being treated generally far more gently than most people get treated. He tells of one catcher who pulls his car into the "DOCTORS ONLY" parking spot at a hospital where he’s signing autographs for sick children, and notes that the catcher’s car is never in danger of getting towed, as yours or mine would be if we ever dared to park in such a spot; rather, the worst the catcher has to fear is someone asking him to please pay more attention in the future to signage. When you put 25 men who have been coddled and privileged and advantaged all their lives into a single locker room, conflict will inevitably bubble up now and then, whenever one of them notices another one getting a privilege he thinks belongs instead to him, which happens about three times every hour.

Bouton, like all athletes, thinks the world revolves around him, and throughout Ball Four he makes clear his mission is to get the optimal training, optimal workload, optimal consideration from those in charge (managers and coaches) wherever he can—he bristles at the rules and limitations enforced by those in charge, and the impression he leaves is that he dislikes and mistrusts all managers and coaches, so much so that he feels the need to dispel that impression:

"Joe Schultz. I’m afraid I’m giving the impression that I don’t like him or that he’s bad for the ballclub. Neither is true." (April 19)

The truth is that the club (in this case, Schultz’s Pilots) cannot run according to Bouton’s optimal principles, which Bouton knows, but still must push them in the direction that is closest to his own personal needs. Like most ballplayers, if he doesn’t get his best training, practice, workouts, in-game use, and he loses his MLB job as a result, he has only himself to blame, so he tries to get his needs met, often in obnoxious ways. But because he argues well, and is an especially stubborn cuss, he alienates his managers, his catchers, and his other teammates from time to time, and that’s another important theme of  Ball Four: alienation.

Baseball is a team game but, to be effective, every player must look for his own needs to be met, and the alienation that results creates the picture of Bouton that pitted him against his own managers and teammates. Bouton was used very badly by his first team, the Yankees, who got rid of him as soon as it was clear that he could no longer help the team. (He blew out a muscle in his pitching arm.) And he describes his Yankees managers, Ralph Houk, Yogi Berra and Johnny Keane, as inept, duplicitous, clueless, thoughtless, and foolish, while acknowledging that some of that is simply an inevitable part of the job of manager: baseball teams are just too large, and the manager is given too much responsibility to run every bit of it with maximum efficiency and sensitivity.

As little fondness as he shows towards Ralph Houk, for example, at one point he finds himself (on August 3, 1969, years after Houk has banished him to Seattle) alone on the field talking to him. Bouton reminds Houk that he’d like to play for him again, if he ever got the chance, and Houk tells him, "I’ll definitely keep that in mind."  This isn’t (just) sucking up to someone who has the power to rehire Bouton, but rather an acknowledgment that Houk, and all his managers, has a tough job to do and does it well at times. At another point, Bouton remembers a conversation with Houk on the bench, as he waited to face Don Drysdale in the 1963 World Series: when Bouton remarked, "Whether I win today or lose, this sure is a helluva lot of fun," and instead of bawling him out with "What do you mean ‘lose’? We’re gonna win," Houk assures him he knows exactly what he means. There are all sorts of such quiet moments where Bouton connects with the people who, after the book came out, never spoke to him, or about him, with anything other than hostility and disgust. All in all, he’s rather fond of the managers and coaches he’s in constant conflict with, and often paints a sympathetic picture of them

Nonetheless, readers and critics came away from the book with the impression that Bouton ridiculed his managers, which he did but only the context of previous sports books, which tended to describe each manager as more brilliant than each other manager. "Wouldn’t say shit if he had a mouthful" is Bouton’s characterization of most big leaguers’ typical comments about teammates and managers.

Overall, what emerges from the book is Bouton’s breadth of thought. He speculates on a wide variety of subjects that most players can’t even express in words: child-rearing, especially of the Korean boy he and his wife have adopted, or the absurd emphasis that baseball placed on conformity of clothing and hair-styling. Shortly after he got traded to Houston, he was joined there by his former Pilots teammate Tommy Davis, who confides in him how the Pilots staff spoke of him behind his back, describing him as a "weirdo" and mocking his peculiarities to other Pilots. (Davis also tells him about Brabender’s duplicity in destroying Bouton’s equipment and claiming to have witnessed it but not to having done it.) Steve Hovley, a Pilots outfielder who wore his hair a little shaggy and who would sometimes wear the same shirt for a few days running, is also dubbed a "weirdo" and routinely mocked, but less so when he’s hitting well, a point Bouton returns to, time and again: Ball Four exposes baseball as a system based on front-running. Players who get hits, or who strike batters out, get away with quirks that their less successful teammates get mocked or bawled out for constantly. Today, we call these bursts of successful hitting and pitching insignificantly large sample sizes, and we tend to look at the big picture more, but in the primitive days of 1969, players were only as good as their last game or two. Bouton was an early big-picture type of guy, and he rightly criticizes front-running and front-runners.

He anticipates some of the sabermetric verities we all take for granted now, like the foolishness of equating pitcher’s wins with their effectiveness, attributing it not only to those who run baseball but also to those who write about it:

It’s like what happened to Diego Segui. About a week ago, Segui won two games. He pitched about two innings and gave up two runs and then about four innings and gave up two more runs. He was pitching lousy but he was in there when our team was scoring runs so he got credit for two wins. And so the reporters started coming around. "Gee, Diego, you’re starting to win ballgames. Tell us what you’re doing different."

He wasn’t doing anything different, except maybe pitching worse.

 

This sort of passage was received poorly in 1969—I’m sure people read that, and thought of Bouton as petty, and jealous of Segui’s success, and a poor teammate, but again today, this passage would be unremarkable, except as an accurate commentary on some reporters’ interest in superficial and meaningless stats.

Ball Four’s most prescient line anticipates the use of steroids, and ballplayers’ attitudes towards that use. He speculates that if you offered any major leaguer some imaginary pill that would help him physically to compete in the short term but which would seriously impair his health for the remainder of his life, or even cut that life short, his only question would be "How many can you give me today?"

When this was just a figment of his imagination, Bouton was thought to be exaggerating the athletes’ mindset, but now we know that he was accurately summarizing the competitive drive of every major leaguer in the game. (Maybe there were, and are, some players who would hold off for moral or ethical or legal reasons, but these players would be in the minority, and more to Bouton’s point, they would soon find themselves at a competitive disadvantage on the playing field.)  Viewed in retrospect, Bouton’s perceptions seem not only mild and reasonable ones, but also wise and thought-out with unusual care. It bears re-reading, perhaps even on a more accelerated pace than my own perusal every decade or so.

 
 

COMMENTS (26 Comments, most recent shown first)

mikeclaw
Anyone who loves Ball Four needs to read its follow-up, "I'm Glad You Didn't Take it Personally." No, it's not as compelling as Ball Four, but it has a lot of good anecdotes about the reactions to Ball Four and a lot of the same sort of insights into human behavior.

5:49 PM Jun 17th
 
JohnPontoon
Excellent article, Mr. Goldleaf, with a large number of well-earned observations. Particularly, I was struck with the accurate idea that the book was about a working man's alienation and mistreatment at his job. For me, the example that sticks, every time I reread the book, is the pettiness of his pitching coach (Sal Maglie?) not allowing Bouton to get his arm UN-fresh, as he needs it to be for knuckleball effectiveness. Anyhow, again, nicely done.
3:10 AM Jun 16th
 
LesLein
Great article. I got every question but O’Steen’s right.

In the summer of 1970 Sport Magazine ran an article where some players disputed some aspects of Ball Four. Yaz said the complaint about him not hustling was exaggerated. As I recall Dick Williams was under a lot of job pressure. He didn’t always handle that well. Bouton’s archenemy, Fred Talbot, denied an incident where he reportedly jumped ahead of Bouton to grab a taxi and called him a communist.

Bouton didn’t always mind practical jokes. He enjoyed the one where someone else sent a legal notice to Talbot that Talbot was the defendant in a paternity suit. Someone told Talbot it was fake before it went too far. Another time Talbot hit a grand slam in a “Home Run for the Money” contest. A fan won $10,000. Bouton sent a fake telegram in the fan’s name to “Mr. Freddy Talbert” promising a $1,000 reward. Bouton accidentally spilled the beans to Talbot, further harming their relationship.

One thing I disliked about the book is that a lot of people’s worth depended on how much they helped or harmed Bouton’s career. No one on Houston comes off too bad, possibly because their personnel were in a position to harm him. A lot of us are that way.
6:40 PM Jun 15th
 
benvenutocellini
Hi all - My first post here. Joined during Covid quarantine and now am wondering why I didn't do this years ago. Great stuff.

Anyway, shortly after I read the review of the Bouton bio here a few weeks ago, audible had Ball Four (with the many addendum) on sale, so I took the plunge. It is wonderful! It is unlike any other audio book I've listened to in that Bouton reads his book as if he is in the room with you. He laughs at his own jokes and weeps openly about his daughter. It becomes a strangely intimate and unforgettable experience.

Listening to him tell his tale now, after his demise, was truly moving. As you go through each added section it is easy to see him grow, change and evolve as he continues to struggle to understand himself. Of course, I the listener, knows what he does not: how his story will end, which only makes everything all the more profound.

I had an opinion of Bouton before I heard the book, and it was passed down to me from my father and grandfather: He's a bum. I grew up in Northern NJ and Bouton was often in the local paper for one thing or another. Had I only read the original text, without the added chapters and without hearing his voice, I might have shared their opinion. Having heard the whole book, and having laughed with him and wept with him, I feel differently now -- about him, about the times in which he played, about many things.

Spurred by the book I sought out the Netflix documentary Battered Bastards of Baseball. It's about the Portland Mavericks, for which Bouton played. A fun watch if anyone is interested.

6:19 PM Jun 15th
 
mskarpelos
Excellent article. I read Ball Four when I was in high school, a few years after it came out. It seems tame by contemporary standards, but at the time it was decidedly transgressive--the perfect book for a contrarian teenager like myself.

You mentioned Steve Hovely. As I recall, after the book was published, Hovely objected to being characterized as different from the other players. He always considered himself one of the guys and didn't feel any alienation as Bouton himself did. In a follow-up, Bouton sarcastically dismissed that notion, pointing out that Hovely studied at Stanford and read Dostoevsky in the clubhouse, so that alone made him different.

After retiring from baseball, Hovely returned to his native Ventura county and worked as a plumber in Ojai. As someone who hates being pigeonholed myself, I find it comforting knowing that someone could actually study at Stanford, play baseball, read Dostoevsky, and work as a plumber. Thank you Steve Hovely, for being yourself, and thank you Jim Bouton for telling us about him.

Thanks again for bringing back some fond memories.
11:11 AM Jun 15th
 
Gfletch
Funny to see such opposing views on The Long Goodbye. Thinking of Chandler reminded me that he really ripped Ross MacDonald who, after a few early not so great efforts, produced a series of really terrific novels. Superior to Chandler in my humble opinion, but both writers were capable of of vivid, psychedelic quality prose.

I enjoy critical examinations, but I've lived long enough to realize that the only really effective critiques for me...are by me.
10:55 AM Jun 15th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Loved Gould's performance, steve161, and Bouton did a surprisingly credible acting job in the film (fairly small part). Brilliant casting all around. Sterling Hayden and Nina Van Pallandt were great. Chandler's writing was so muddled that it's hard to say what a faithful version could have shown that would be any clearer, so I think Altman's liberties were fully justified.
9:13 AM Jun 15th
 
steve161
Elliott Gould was the worst Philip Marlowe in the history of cinema. If the film had had a different title and the characters different names, it might not have been too bad. But, in claiming to be derived from a work of Raymond Chandler's, it destroyed any excuse it might have had for existing.
9:00 AM Jun 15th
 
Steven Goldleaf
One of the greatest movies ever made, Mike. Simply a fantastic film, one of my very favorites. I used a variation on one of its lines, "It's Not Okay With Me: The 1970s’ War Against Nostalgia,” in my (final?) piece of academic writing in a book entitled American Literature in Transition, 1970-1980. (Cambridge UP, 2017)

7:17 AM Jun 15th
 
mauimike
I just watched 'The Long Goodbye', Robert Altman's satire of the private eye movie. It probably made Bogart turn over in his grave. Elliot Gould plays him as a bumbling idiot. Jim Bouton is Terry Lennox in the film. Altman has Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, kill Terry Lennox at the end. I wonder if this was Atlman's critique of 'Ball Four'.'

It's on Amazon Prime.
5:59 AM Jun 15th
 
MarisFan61
....with regard to an inapt 'nickname' that was said to him -- was it by Sgt. Schultz?
4:25 PM Jun 14th
 
Steven Goldleaf
And Fireball, I think you're mixing up Bob Watson with Lou Johnson, who had only half an ear.

Odd coincidence: Lou Johnson's deformed ear is mentioned in the text of Ball Four.
4:04 PM Jun 14th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Sorry, guys, my screwup. I've changed the answer key to reflect that the correct answer is indeed "Bob Watson." As to the rookie matter, I just figure that giving choices that are categorically wrong helps quiz-takers eliminate wrong choices. (Goossen wasn't a rookie, either, in 1969--he was almost at the end of his career, in fact.)
4:02 PM Jun 14th
 
BobGill
I had forgotten all about Watson. That sounds kind of familiar, now that you mention. But then that means the DAB answer code for the first three questions is wrong, doesn't it?
3:52 PM Jun 14th
 
Fireball Wenz
The answer on the broken finger was Bob Watson, who WAS a rookie - he was trying to covert to catcher, was happy to catch Bouton for the experience, and then got hurt doing it, which Bouton felt terrible about.

Anyway, he stopped catching soon after and had a real good career. Great half-ear with the Red Sox in 1979 (I think).
3:47 PM Jun 14th
 
MarisFan61
Hey, that answer was McNertney?

I thought it was Haney.....
Anyway I see he wasn't a rookie either.
3:35 PM Jun 14th
 
gendlerj
I just re-read The Final Pitch version after your review of the biography. It is still a fascinating book for a person who has been a Yankees fan for 60 years. I have read it 3-4 times, and I am always surprised to realize how current it seems.

The broken finger belonged to Bob Watson, and it took a while for that to be properly diagnosed, according to the book. The medical treatment, and mistreatment, is appallingly detailed in Ball Four. No wonder so many pitchers, and players, had short careers. That seems to have changed a little, but there is still pressure to suck it up and play.
2:11 PM Jun 14th
 
BobGill
Enjoyed the commentary, but just one note about the quiz at the beginning: Gerry McNertney was nowhere near a rookie in 1969. His rookie year was 1964.
1:54 PM Jun 14th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Thanks, all, for the kind words, and apologies to Manushfan, though there is one further Bouton article in the pipeline (an interview with Mitch Nathanson, the author of the biography I just reviewed here last month). We all have subjects that fascinate us (Heinie Manush? Really??) and bore others to tears--sorry we're so far apart on this one. I would actually nominate Bouton for a Hall of Fame spot--or rather, I would if there were a spot for people like Bouton who contributed to baseball but off the field of play: Curt Flood, whom he faced in the 1964 Series, would be another. Maybe Jim Abbott: guys whose stats don't elevate them to that level but whose lives and other contributions do. I don't think we incentivize bravery, intelligence, character enough--but maybe they're just their own reward.
12:35 PM Jun 14th
 
Gfletch
Nice stuff. I read the whole thing.

I like this part: "...his spikes have had nails driven into them..." which, to a non-baseball fan would make just as much sense as "...his nails have had spikes driven into them..."

I liked Jim Bouton a lot, but not nearly so much as Manushfan apparently likes Heinie Manush. No offense, Manushfan.

It was clear at the time, before that time, and after it that Jim Bouton was a baseball outsider (or leper or outcast if you prefer) who nevertheless occupied an insider's position. Clear, but so obviously so that it engendered no further examination. I'm glad you brought it up.
12:26 PM Jun 14th
 
MarisFan61
Terrific look at the book.
I similarly have multiple versions of it, read them very multiple times, have thought about it a lot -- and you made me appreciate things about it that I never realized, I think not at any level.

BTW I didn't know the answer to the 1st question. :-)
And you quote some parts that I don't remember ever knowing.

The Segui thing was indeed more sophisticated that it probably seemed to most at the time -- and it feels funnier now than it did then.
11:43 AM Jun 14th
 
Manushfan
Again with Bouton...Uhhh, for me he's played out. I think this whole thing with him was very much a time and place thing--the 'inside baseball' stuff he describes in the clubhouse and the plane and whatnot had to be bracing in 70. I remember getting the Bronx Zoo by Sparky Lyle in '78 at 12, and hate-read it, there was some good stuff there but much of it was just gross out overgrown Fratboy stuff.

Bouton is a media pet and I get that, I just feel my eyes glaze over whenever he's name checked and I move on. I read Ball Four and remember watching his comeback start for the Braves in '78 and his broadcasting and etc. I just don't care.

But if you do--hey please, knock yourselves out.
11:08 AM Jun 14th
 
mpiafsky
Great work, as always. Loved the book and your review made me remember exactly why I appreciated it.
10:16 AM Jun 14th
 
evanecurb
Well done, Steven. I haven’t read Ball Four in forty years, but I remember it well (7/10 on your quiz). One thing I recall is that Bouton was an average to below average pitcher that season who believed he was under appreciated and was constantly getting screwed by management. There are guys like this on every team and in every workplace worldwide. Most workers have an inflated perception of their contributions.
8:30 AM Jun 14th
 
steve161
Steven, thanks for a very insightful review. It moves me to reread the last version of Ball Four, published in 2012 with the subtitle The Final Pitch. In particular, I didn't remember Bouton outing himself, intentionally or otherwise, as the center of the universe.

As I have before, however, I must point out that there is nothing in it about salary negotiations, including revealing the dollar amount, that was not in The Long Season first.

Perhaps the biggest difference between Brosnan and Bouton is that the latter was a star, if only briefly. The former was never more than a journeyman, which may explain his more easygoing attitude to his teammates and the game.
8:08 AM Jun 14th
 
Fireball Wenz
I met Bouton outside a store in Lenox AM, in the Berkshires - we were both enjoying the sun while our wives shopped. I had the chance to tell him I wrote my college application essay on Ball Four - the book that most influenced me. I think what makes it enduring is the struggle of a thinking person trying to make his way in a society in which thinking is not valued - trying to maintain that balance of staying true to yourself while also making the accommodations necessary to make and retain friends, succeed in your career, etc. It's Pitcher in the Rye with a more mature Holden, more likeable. The fact it was my baseball cards come to life sucked me in, but it's the identification with Bouton - I could relate completely with his bullpen tirade, I did the same thing in the last week of my junior year in high school - which had made me revisit it time and again.
8:02 AM Jun 14th
 
 
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