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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Ball Four Author Bouton Dies at Age 80

The author of the groundbreaking hardball tell-all “Ball Four” died Wednesday following a battle with a brain disease linked to dementia. The Newark, N.J., native died in the home he shared with his wife Paula Kurman after weeks of hospice care. He was 80.

SoSH U at work Posted: July 10, 2019 at 09:07 PM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: ball four, jim bouton, obituary

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   1. SoSH U at work Posted: July 10, 2019 at 09:14 PM (#5860863)
RIP to one of the most important figures in sportswriting history.

   2. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 10, 2019 at 09:19 PM (#5860865)
crushed
   3. Walt Davis Posted: July 10, 2019 at 09:27 PM (#5860866)
RIP
   4. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: July 10, 2019 at 09:30 PM (#5860867)
Dammit.

   5. PreservedFish Posted: July 10, 2019 at 09:33 PM (#5860868)
What a shame.

"Ball Four" is an absolute triumph.
   6. AndrewJ Posted: July 10, 2019 at 09:34 PM (#5860869)
We knew this day was imminent, but it's still very, very sad. Condolences to his family.
   7. The Rare Albino Shrieking Goat of Guatemala. Posted: July 10, 2019 at 09:40 PM (#5860870)
This makes me sad, also what #6 said.
   8. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 10, 2019 at 09:57 PM (#5860874)
The baseball finally let him go.
   9. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: July 10, 2019 at 10:00 PM (#5860875)
50 years ago today:
Fred Talbot gets fake telegram (from Bouton): contest winner of $27K to give Talbot $5K. He thinks it could be a joke, but believes it
   10. Jose is an Absurd Time Cube Posted: July 10, 2019 at 10:06 PM (#5860878)
That's too bad. Ball Four is just an amazing piece of work.
   11. asinwreck Posted: July 10, 2019 at 10:17 PM (#5860880)
"A decent young man in a game which does not recognize decency as valuable."
   12. akrasian Posted: July 10, 2019 at 10:38 PM (#5860882)
The Ball Four TV show

For those who don't remember it, Bouton briefly starred in a sitcom based on his book.
   13. hysdavid Posted: July 10, 2019 at 10:52 PM (#5860884)
Jim just made it to the Library Of Congress https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/new-jim-bouton-and-ball-four-now-at-the-library-of-congress-2bc14d33c719
“F**k you, Shakespeare”
RIP
   14. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 10, 2019 at 10:57 PM (#5860886)
“F**k you, Shakespeare”
I believe that's "F*cketh thee."
   15. The Rare Albino Shrieking Goat of Guatemala. Posted: July 10, 2019 at 11:47 PM (#5860891)
For those who don't remember it, Bouton briefly starred in a sitcom based on his book.


Bouton was also the bad guy in "The Long Goodbye", one of my favorite Altman films.

I can't say he's "good" in it, but he's at least cromulent.
.
   16. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili (TeddyF.Ballgame) Posted: July 11, 2019 at 12:10 AM (#5860893)
He had a good innings, and yet this is too soon.

It goes without saying that Ball Four is one of the most significant pieces of baseball writing there is, but I'll put in a plug for Foul Ball. It's a fantastic story of municipal corruption as much as it is a baseball book.

He published it in (I think) 2003. I'd heard there was a new Bouton book on the way, but didn't know anything about it until I stumbled across it in a New Jersey bookstore while on a cross-country road trip. It turned out to recount his efforts to acquire a minor league team and restore a historic stadium, Waconah Park, in Pittsfield MA, which happened to be my next destination. I read the book in the car, not knowing whether or not he'd been successful, and found the park closed when I got there. I was able to climb the outfield fence to peek in, though. Never would have known a thing about the place or its story without him.



   17. rr: target market for blowhard nonsense Posted: July 11, 2019 at 12:17 AM (#5860894)
Jim Brosnan died about three years ago. Time to re-read Ball Four and The Long Season.
   18. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: July 11, 2019 at 12:31 AM (#5860895)
My Bouton story:

Some 30-plus years ago in Phoenix, I attended one of those offseason old-timer games they used to do. Happened to be a rematch of the 1963 Yankees and Dodgers. Bouton was there, and while he was signing autographs, I asked, in all sincerity, if he had any advice for aspiring authors.

"Try to get your book banned."
   19. vortex of dissipation Posted: July 11, 2019 at 12:53 AM (#5860898)
The Seattle Pilots were the first major league team I rooted for. I'm grateful to Bouton for making it so that their one-year existence won't be forgotten.
   20. Ben Broussard Ramjet Posted: July 11, 2019 at 04:08 AM (#5860904)
He published it in (I think) 2003. I'd heard there was a new Bouton book on the way, but didn't know anything about it until I stumbled across it in a New Jersey bookstore while on a cross-country road trip. It turned out to recount his efforts to acquire a minor league team and restore a historic stadium, Waconah Park, in Pittsfield MA, which happened to be my next destination. I read the book in the car, not knowing whether or not he'd been successful, and found the park closed when I got there. I was able to climb the outfield fence to peek in, though. Never would have known a thing about the place or its story without him.


My family spent a week out near West Stockbridge, very close to Pittsfield, and Bouton's book was on sale there. I picked it up and was thoroughly absorbed - it did feed into a naïve hope that I would one day be wealthy enough to have some kind of ownership in a minor-league team. That would be a lot of fun, or at least Bouton made it seem like it would be.
   21. AndrewJ Posted: July 11, 2019 at 05:42 AM (#5860905)
Years ago I wrote that Jim Bouton was the baseball equivalent of Vaclav Havel -- within a generation he'd gone from dissident to elder statesman. FOUL BALL is a poignant book. At the end of the day, a rebel like Bouton was truly, at heart, a traditionalist.
   22. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: July 11, 2019 at 08:33 AM (#5860911)
Really sad news. Ball Four is one of my favorite books, period. He lived an interesting life and will be well remembered. Can't ask for much more than that. About time I re-read Ball Four as it's been a while. It might rekindle my love for baseball which, honestly, is a bit low right now.
   23. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 11, 2019 at 11:06 AM (#5860948)
The only time I remember seeing Bouton pitch in person was in Montgomery in 1978, when he was with Savannah of the Southern League. The Giants added him to their 40 man roster in September, and then that was that for good. One unfortunate aspect of that September swan song was that it brought his career W-L record from one game over .500 to one game below it.

At the end of the day, a rebel like Bouton was truly, at heart, a traditionalist.

Bouton was an idealist, a traditionalist, and a clear eyed observer of the human condition, which all too often got his observations mistaken for cynicism or negativity.

And if he hadn't blown out his arm after his two good years, he would've been a nice complement to Mel Stottlemyre in the Yankees rotation of the post-dynasty decade.
   24. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: July 11, 2019 at 11:09 AM (#5860949)
The only time I remember seeing Bouton pitch in person was in Montgomery in 1978


Paterson Field still exists, BTW, right across the street from where Hank Williams is buried. It's 1.5 miles from my house; I pass it twice on my daily commute. The Rays' AA franchise plays in a stadium built about 15 years ago, but Paterson is still in use, I guess for high school athletics & the like.
   25. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 11, 2019 at 11:50 AM (#5860965)
Man, I wish we'd had a high school field like that. Our baseball diamond was laid over a track field, with a 180' RF fence fronting a traffic artery (drivers beware) and a warning track that consisted of cinder track running lanes.
   26. SandyRiver Posted: July 11, 2019 at 12:23 PM (#5860985)
Jim Brosnan died about three years ago. Time to re-read Ball Four and The Long Season.

I'm undoubtedly in the minority in that I prefer The Long Season. Both books included the nitty-gritty of day-by-day MLB play and the players' cynicism and dark humor, but Brosnan avoided the gratuitous (IMO) nastiness that pops up now and then in Ball Four. I really don't put much blame on Bouton, but lots on the co-author. I'd read The Jocks a year before Ball Four, and Shecter's intense contempt for sports was vividly portrayed in the earlier work. Anything on the subject written by Shecter was bound to be a hit piece, at least in part. I'm glad he let Bouton's gift for narrative and his humor show through.

Gratuitous? Maybe Brosnan's bete noir, Solly Hemus, ran his genitals across the post-game cold cut spread ala Mantle - Solly seemed like one who might so something like that. But Broz never dipped into that kind of stuff, which to me was irrelevant to the story of a season in MLB.
   27. oscar madisox Posted: July 11, 2019 at 12:49 PM (#5861000)
I first read Ball Four in 1978, and must have re-read it 30 times since. It's a classic in many ways, now as a history lesson about baseball when the reserve clause was still in effect and players fighting for every dollar they could make.

I've read all the obits so I don't need the link, but am I the only one having trouble with it. I get a file not found message.


   28. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: July 11, 2019 at 12:50 PM (#5861001)
RIP.

I found the post-scripts and updates in the subsequent re-releases of Ball Four to be quite endearing. Like the discussion of relatively mundane things he did in retirement, such as learning how to construct a stone wall on his property, or taking ballroom dance classes with his second wife. And of course the discussion of the death of his daughter, in a car accident when she was in her 30s, was heartbreaking but written with Bouton's signature candor.
   29. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: July 11, 2019 at 12:50 PM (#5861003)


I've read all the obits so I don't need the link, but am I the only one having trouble with it. I get a file not found message.


No, I'm getting the same error. But likewise had already read an obit elsewhere.
   30. The Duke Posted: July 11, 2019 at 01:05 PM (#5861004)
I lived in Pittsfield. Waconah was a great park in the sense of the history but the most dangerous place I’ve ever seen a ballgame. The seats are about 6 inches from the foul line and there is no netting. You could never take your eye off the ball if you wanted to live a long life. Now I’ll have to get the book. Had no idea he was involved
   31. SoSH U at work Posted: July 11, 2019 at 01:07 PM (#5861005)
No, I'm getting the same error. But likewise had already read an obit elsewhere.


It's fixed, but it's nothing special. It was just the first obit I saw.
   32. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: July 11, 2019 at 03:45 PM (#5861071)
I have an autographed copy of the reissue of Ball Four, called Ball Four Plus Five. Right next to the autograph is, written in black crayon, "50¢", because that's how much it cost me at the thrift store. I suspect that Bouton would have found that funny.
   33. jeffy Posted: July 11, 2019 at 03:51 PM (#5861073)
I attended Bouton's near no-hitter on 8/27/63 (broken up by Russ Nixon in the ninth inning and ending up as a two hit shutout). Jim had a really good sinking fastball until he hurt his arm.
RIP, Jim.
   34. rr: target market for blowhard nonsense Posted: July 11, 2019 at 04:40 PM (#5861093)
I'm undoubtedly in the minority in that I prefer The Long Season


I do as well, although I enjoyed both a great deal. I have mentioned this before, but one thing I like a lot about both is that they give you a sense of the times, and of some of the cultural differences between 1959 and 1969. Brosnan's book is a little window into baseball in The Mad Men era, and Ball Four does that for the year of Apollo 11 and Woodstock. Observations about music, their wives, race, MLB travel, and the fact that Brosnan only hints at the sexual side of the MLB player's life while Bouton of course dives right into that in a different way are examples.
   35. SandyRiver Posted: July 12, 2019 at 11:01 AM (#5861322)
Thanks for those additional thoughts about both books, with which I agree. Brosnan seemed way ahead of his time concerning race relations, as at that time "colorblind" was thought to be the desired goal. In today's climate that would be seen as, at best, naivete and at worst, passive-aggressive racism. Sad, IMO. But Bros could do it with humor, as when he asked his wife if he should tell his (VERY "Old South") father-in-law that they had invited Ernie Banks to their housewarming. (IIRC, her response was "Don't you dare!")
   36. Captain Supporter Posted: July 12, 2019 at 12:01 PM (#5861367)
I also much preferred The Long Season. To me, Bouton's book came across as something written by a disgruntled outsider, and is clearly biased against players and coaches he did not like (and who obviously didn't like him). Brosnan's book is much more balanced (although Solly Hemus might have disagreed if he was still alive - he passed on in 2017 at the age of 96).
   37. SandyRiver Posted: July 12, 2019 at 04:35 PM (#5861478)
Bouton's book came across as something written by a disgruntled outsider

That, to me, is the Shecter influence; he certainly qualifies as a disgruntled outsider. The bias against certain players comes mostly from Bouton, though perhaps intensified by his co-author.
   38. Mayor Blomberg Posted: July 12, 2019 at 04:59 PM (#5861488)
somewhere, I still have the little league glove, at lest the part that he signed, when he a Yankee and did one of those local PR visits.
   39. GGC Posted: August 14, 2019 at 10:10 PM (#5871526)
I just learned about Bouton's death yesterday. It must not have made much of a splash in the news. I work with some other baseball fans and I mentioned Bouton's death to one of them and it was news to him. This was no kid, either. He knew who Bouton was.

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