I don’t know much about baseball, or watch it, but Mr. Bouton sounds !ike a wonderful person— with a wonderful brain, and so I wi!! be looking for ,“Ba11 FOUR.” Thanks for writing this MR. !ipstye ( sorry my ! isn’t working today! : ).
So Trump was a delusional narcissist even when he was 18.
" As you may already have guessed, Don Trump was a pro prospect. That home run, in fact, would prove just a foretaste of his talent for hyping himself. It never happened. He made it up. In fact, his team didn’t even play Cornwall that year. Trump, who actually was his school’s team captain, has long claimed that he was the best athlete there, a boast rarely challenged because coaches and classmates tended to [praise him] once it became in their best interests to do so."
I’ve read about trumps baseball story. Should have known it was a lie. Damn that man is just one big assEd lie after another. I’ve pre-ordered Mary Trump’s book. I’ve no doubt she/the publisher timed it’s publication to help ensure the fake president does not get another term. Thank god.
To real baseball fans Jim Bouton was a great young talent as a player and, like a big pot of simmering chili became, over time, a very flavorful and interesting person. Full of all sorts of nuance with a real kick of umami. His secret ingredients were his own unique style and natural instincts. He was a tactile guy with a real feel for things; pitching, writing and social critiques, too.
Like a lot of pitchers, his arm gave out too soon, but his mental acuity just went up, and up. Which I’m sure he would of traded for an E.R.A. that went swiftly in the opposite direction. That’s baseball for you.
His book Ball Four, was a true game changer, a real breathe of fresh air and, remains relevant 5 decades later. The impact of it was really like the old saw about the 1960s ( early '70s, too ), " if you remember it, you probably weren’t really there. " Which isn’t actually correct, because to appeciate and honor a Jim Bouton, you sort of have to remember some of it.
The unmooring of The American Dream ( Carlin’s definition ) really began with characters like Mr. Bouton. And, like the quirky nature of the " knuckleball ", no one really masters the world anymore. Who knows for sure where it’s going, really? The best don’t.
Donald Trump was, and is, a conniving worthless lunatic. And, everyone with some functioning brain cells, knows exactly what’s coming from him. It’s, in the end, the same old " junk " pitch every time.
Read and enjoy Jim Bouton, throw Trump out of the current game, preferably banning him for life.
Very nice summation of Bouton, baseball, and how they fit into the world. Ball Four is very much a part of Carlin’s “unmooring”; as Lipsyte notes, it seems tame today but in its day no one–certainly no one from within the game itself–had ever pulled back the curtain to expose these “heroes,” these “role models,” baseball had been extolling since its 19th-century inception despite the tawdriness and corruption inherent from its inception also, from Babe Ruth’s drinking and womanizing a la Mickey Mantle later (keeping in mind that Ruth’s carousing occurred during Prohibition) to rampant gambling that culminated in the 1919 “Black Sox” World Series scandal, let alone the pervasive institutional racism that lasted until 1947. Still, Ball Four garnered so much enmity from within baseball that Bouton had fellow ballplayers such as Pete Rose hollering, “F–k you, Shakespeare!” at him every time they saw each other; this from, as it turned out, the Arnold Rothstein of baseball players himself.
Still, Bouton’s observations and insights remain not only refreshing but also, across various aspects, revelatory as well. Thanks to Curt Flood, Marvin Miller, and others such as Bouton, ballplayer salaries have become elite, but anyone who needs to understand how, with respect to compensation, ballplayers used to be little more than chattel slaves to team ownership thanks to the Reserve Clause, a contract stipulation that essentially held a player to his team in perpetuity in a condition that even a 1948 Second Circuit Court decision excoriated as “shockingly repugnant to moral principles that . . . have been basic in America . . . [since] the Thirteenth Amendment” (which abolished slavery in 1865), and likened the Reserve Clause to involuntary servitude that “results in something resembling peonage of the baseball player,” needs to read Ball Four for Bouton’s running theme of players’ eternal struggle to get better pay. Again, today’s exorbitant salaries make it difficult to muster that kind of sympathy, particularly for a job that is essentially superfluous entertainment (and I have been a huge baseball fan since I was a boy), but Bouton’s ongoing feud with management and ownership in trying to shake loose a few dollars to, for instance, help his family move yet again remains one of humorous yet very serious and salient themes of Ball Four.
Yet for all its tell-all expose, Bouton made it clear from the outset that he loved baseball, he loved playing baseball–even, as you note, learning to throw the knuckleball to prolong his career (something even the superannuated Jamie Moyer contemplated at the end of his career)–and he loved the fame stemming from being a baseball player. In his introduction, he cites Al Ferrara of the Dodgers when Ferrara was asked why he wanted to be a baseball player: “He always wanted to see his picture on a bubblegum card. Well, me too. It’s an ego trip.”
One curious aspect to Ball Four is that Bouton wrote about his experiences during the 1969 season, when he had been picked up in the expansion draft by the Seattle Pilots. The Pilots existed for only one year as an MLB team (there had been a minor-league team with that name) before they moved to Milwaukee to become the Brewers in 1970. The Pilots had been bought by Allan “Bud” Selig, who as the minority owner of the Brewers participated in the collusion scandals in the mid-1980s, when team owners knowingly acted jointly to suppress competitive bidding on player talent, before becoming first the acting commissioner, then the official commissioner, of baseball. During Selig’s long tenure, he presided over the performance-enhancing drug (e.g., steroids) scandals of the late 1990s and early 2000s that had been preceded by the 1994 baseball strike–and it was all those home runs hit by juiced-up batters that overcame fans’ disaffection for baseball in the wake of the strike. Selig effectively did nothing about steroids for years, when chicks dug the long ball making long green for baseball.
Not surprisingly, baseball owner and baseball executive Selig was fast-tracked by the veterans committee into the Baseball Hall of Fame after his 2015 retirement. By contrast, labor leader Marvin Miller had to wait many years before the veterans committee finally voted him in, posthumously (Miller died in 2012 at age 95), for induction this year. Also not surprisingly, Jim Bouton had a cogent insight on this heretofore egregious omission:
“Essentially, the decision for putting a union leader in the Hall of Fame was handed over to a bunch of executives and former executives. Marvin Miller kicked their butts and took power away from the baseball establishment—do you really think those people are going to vote him in? It’s a joke . . . I blame the players. It’s their Hall of Fame; it’s their balls and bats that make the Hall what it is. Where are the public outcries from Joe Morgan or Reggie Jackson, who was a player rep? Why don’t these guys see that some of their own get on these committees? That’s the least they owe Marvin Miller. Do they think they became millionaires because of the owners’ generosity?”
I am a huge baseball fan who has read Ball Four a number of times. I do think it is accessible to non-fans as an oral history of the time (Bouton wrote it during the 1969 season), and it is refreshing to read his comments on then-contemporary issues such as civil rights and the Vietnam war. Be advised that it is definitely an “inside baseball” baseball book–even I had to look up his mention of obscure players such as Ray Oyler and John Kennedy (the ballplayer, not JFK)–but he does describe them in broad conversational tones that provide sufficient context for general readers. Enjoy! It’s a great one.
Your summary was superb. Only another real fan would gladly bow to your coverage of the last 60 years; the game inside the game, a situation a pitcher like Bouton knew too well having stood on the mound in Yankee stadium. On a Friday night, a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday after church series finale. That’s fun to fans, a pressure cooker to young pitchers. Sweat running off the end of your nose and you got to face McAuliffe, Kaline and Cash, with runners on.
Bouton was a character who won ( 45+ in 3-4 yrs? ) despite knocking his hat off, winding up and delivering. Saw him on TV, on a few Saturdays with PeeWee & Dizzy, at the mics.
Good stuff. Which, we must remember, Bouton had a bunch of early The right stuff, imo.
Thank you, mrsannhitts. Indeed, Bouton was a “pheenom” (his spelling) who, as Lipsyte noted, pitched like a Hall of Famer in the 1964 World Series (winning two of the Yankees’ three victories with a 1.56 ERA) after two outstanding regular-season campaigns in 1963 and 1964. Now, it was a pitching-dominant era (just look at Sandy Koufax’s jaw-dropping dominance in the last half-decade of his career), but Bulldog had a fighting shot at being one of the stars of the decade had the Yankees not worked him with no regard for his arm. Then discarded him. And you’re right about his being in a special pressure cooker in Yankee Stadium.
Yes, Bouton went 21-7 (2.53 ERA) in 1963 and 18-13 (3.02) in 1964, looking like he had the right stuff. But as Tom Wolfe put it in his book, pilots lived in constant fear of losing that right stuff (“It could blow at any time!”). I’m thinking of Tim Lincecum of more recent times. Back-to-back Cy Youngs. Then that was it. He, too, had an unusual delivery–“The Freak,” they called him. But I doubt he or anyone else in recent memory will write a book like Ball Four.
Lincecum & Koufax share 3 or 4 records that will be hard to break. Their careers kind of mirror image and bookend, if I explained that correctly.
Bouton only lasted 3+ years, really…
The Freak & Koufax each have over 100+ wins, etc. Tim Lincecum could write a book and sell a million copies, but you’re correct, it wouldn’t be Ball Four.