The book Ball Four is a seminal book on the bookshelves of many baseball fans, particularly fans who are of a certain generation. During the early to mid-seventies I became a fan of the game. Key influences included the thousands of pickup games played with my brothers and other kids in the neighborhood, my father and mother who clocked many miles delivering us to and from organized baseball, television and radio which delivered the sights and sounds of the games taking place in the Major Leagues, and last but not least the many baseball books I gathered that would create images in my imagination.
The Baseball Life of Sandy Koufax, Strange But True Baseball Stories, and books with titles like How To Play Baseball were devoured at every opportunity. A time came when I needed to graduate to a more grownup level of baseball literature, and the book Ball Four took me there. The book is published by Wiley.
It is a well known, behind the scenes memoir from author Jim Bouton, who was reinventing himself as a knuckleball pitcher catching on with the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969. His pull no punches personality, plus considerable arm trouble, had worn out his welcome as a New York Yankee, after having pitched in The Bronx starting as a rookie in 1962.
The book caught fire with many baseball fans as it provided a first person account inside the camaraderie, challenges, exploits, strategies, and business of a major league baseball team. It did not go over so well with some of the main characters or so-called protectors of the game. Jim was ostracized for many years because of the perceived slights contained within the covers.
Especially with forty years worth of hindsight, the book is not a scandalous tell-all rag intent upon hurting player reputations or the game itself. It is what it was intended to be .. a real-life personal diary of one player’s experiences, playing the game at its highest level.
If you were following baseball during that era, and names like Gary Bell, Marty Pattin, Mike Marshall, Diego Segui, Tommy Davis, Tommy Harper and Mike Hegan mean anything to you, then this book will be a fun filled excursion through a challenging season. If you would be interested in the last update to the book, Ball Four: The Final Pitch you can find it only at Jim’s web site Jim Bouton.com. You can even have Jim personalize a copy for you. Tell him Baseballisms sent you!
For this Cover the Bases podcast, I felt it unnecessary to rehash all of the old questions that he has answered for the past forty years. No need to get into the “controversy” or how other players responded to him after publication. I wanted to find out more about what he thinks now looking back on it, as well as what the book might have been with today’s technology.
We extend our sincere thanks to Jim for spending time with us and sharing his personal insights into baseball and life. Also, a special thank you goes out to Shawn Collins of Affiliate Summit who has a special interest in the Seattle Pilots, and was able to connect me with Jim to arrange this podcast.
If you like hearing about the baseball books we profile on Cover the Bases, it might be time for you to pick up a Kindle from Amazon, so that you can take all the best Baseball Books with you no matter which stadiums you visit.
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