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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Weiner: It’s Jim Bouton’s 75th Birthday and Sports Journalism Owes Him A Debt of Gratitude

Give him some high praise and we’ll go and pound some Bud…uhh, Bowie Kuhn.

Writers never changed their stripes. Bouton and his editor Leonard Shecter were called “social lepers” by New York Daily News columnist Dick Young, a man who was conflicted by his career. Young was taking money from Major League Baseball teams in writing program pieces and promotional material but was also a journalist. Young often sided with the owners and by 1977 was so embedded with baseball ownership that his son-in-law Thornton Geary was working for M. Donald Grant, a minority New York Mets owner, who ran the Mets and wrote some gossip which forced the Mets to trade Tom Seaver. Geary was the Mets “vice president of communications” and cut the Mets first cable TV deal. Young more than likely opened the door for his son-in-law and became a puppet for Grant instead of a journalist.

Today’s writers are in the owners’ corner clearly. They applauded the McGwire-Sosa home run race in pursuit of breaking Roger Maris’s mark of 61 home runs—it was a “key” to baseball’s renaissance in 1998—but turned on the players and assumed virtually every player was guilty of banned substance abuse unless proven otherwise.

In 1970, Bouton was called into Commissioner Bowie Kuhn’s office to explain himself. Kuhn, a man who got into major legal trouble later in life, wanted Bouton to sign a statement that Ball Four was a work of fiction. That, of course, could have caused a major problem with the publisher but that wasn’t Kuhn and the owners or the players’ biggest concern. Bouton had violated a sacred trust. What happens in a clubhouse never leaves a clubhouse.

...Sports never really was the Elysian Fields that sportswriters created. Bouton ripped the image apart and tore it to shreds in 1970. The baseball writers of that day never could forgive him but Bouton did change the parameters of sports reporting. The sports industry had changed and the scribes needed to learn about strikes, lockouts, arbitration and how elected officials and government became partners in the finance of sports.

The Major League Baseball Players Association went on strike in 1972. Bouton’s book was used as evidence in the Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith arbitration hearing before Peter Seitz that ended the reserve clause in 1976 with McNally and Messersmith becoming free agents.

Bouton will have a lasting legacy in literary circles. Ball Four the only sports-themed book on the New York Public Library’s 1996 list of Books of the (20th) Century. Ball was also on Time Magazine’s 100 greatest non-fiction books of all time. Ball Four opened the door a journalistic door to look at sports as a business and that sports was more than just a game. Most people who follow sports don’t want to know that side but that side overshadows the game. Jim Bouton’s writing skills changed Baseball and sports.

Repoz Posted: March 08, 2014 at 04:04 PM | 68 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Jim Wisinski Posted: March 08, 2014 at 04:38 PM (#4668332)
That is an article screaming for a good editor.
   2. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: March 08, 2014 at 04:43 PM (#4668333)
...or Jim Bouton's writing skills.
   3. Dudefella Posted: March 08, 2014 at 05:18 PM (#4668341)
Aside from Ball Four, I also loved Foul Ball...though it helps that I spent summers in Lee growing up and saw the Pittsfield Mets play probably a hundred times.
   4. Morty Causa Posted: March 08, 2014 at 05:21 PM (#4668343)
Ball Four deserves all the praise it gets and more. It totally transcends its specialty category. "Social lepers"? I always have wondered why Young thought that term fit.
   5. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: March 08, 2014 at 05:51 PM (#4668356)
I can't recall Young's context/pretext for the "social lepers" commentary, but Bouton was to some extent ostracized for writing Ball Four, so the term would fit in that sense.
   6. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 08, 2014 at 06:03 PM (#4668363)
I can't recall Young's context/pretext for the "social lepers" commentary

it was in his (Young's) review of Ball four for the Daily News. It also led to the title of Bouton's next book: when Bouton ran into Young after that review, Bouton said "Hi Dick, I didn't know you were talking to social lepers these days" and Young said "Well, I'm glad you didn't take it personally"
   7. G.W.O. Posted: March 08, 2014 at 06:09 PM (#4668367)
I think Youngs comments about "social lepers" referred to Schecter and Bouton's status before Ball Four, not after.
His point is not that they were ostracised for writing Ball Four, rather, they wrote Ball Four because they were bitter over their outsider status.
   8. Morty Causa Posted: March 08, 2014 at 06:09 PM (#4668369)
I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally, in its way, is also a fine book.
   9. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 08, 2014 at 06:15 PM (#4668376)
I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally, in its way, is also a fine book.

it has one of my favorite quotes (from Julian Javier) "If the commissioner cuts off my supply of greenies because of your damn book, I will personally snipe your ass"
   10. Morty Causa Posted: March 08, 2014 at 06:16 PM (#4668377)
Young's original comment just elicits from me a mental double take--sort of like one of those Seinfeldian moments where someone does something that is beyond their in-group ken and they get this quirky-smirky expression. In fact, I think in Ball Four Joe Schultz or someone says something is Humpty-Dumpty or Mickey Mouse or something like that, and everyone thinks it's hilarious and kind of does a "Say What?"
   11. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: March 08, 2014 at 06:35 PM (#4668386)
I've never laughed harder reading a book than when I read Ball Four for the first time. Which was actually a little troublesome because I was trying to read it on the sly in a college lecture.
   12. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 08, 2014 at 07:07 PM (#4668394)
Everyone on BTF loves Bouton until they get to the page in Ball Four** where he ridicules the effectiveness of greenies. Then it's "What the hell does Bouton know?"

**p. 190 of the 1990 paperback edition
   13. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: March 08, 2014 at 07:32 PM (#4668401)
Yes, given that Bouton's opinion of amphetamines led the IOC to remove them from the banned substances list, who are we to argue?

hGH must be a PED, because otherwise, why would so many athletes use it? But one player says that greenies didn't do him any good, and the fact that so many players used them for so long is therefore irrelevant.

Pot, kettle. Kettle, pot.
   14. Traderdave Posted: March 08, 2014 at 07:45 PM (#4668403)
No drug used by Andy's childhood heroes is performance enhancing.
   15. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 08, 2014 at 07:50 PM (#4668407)
Take it up with Bouton:

“How fabulous are greenies? Some of the guys have to take one just to get their hearts to start beating. I've taken greenies but I think Darrell Brandon is right when he says that the trouble with them is that they make you feel so great that you think you're really smoking the ball even when you're not. They give you a false sense of security. The result is that you get gay, throw it down the middle, and get clobbered.”


   16. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 08, 2014 at 08:08 PM (#4668415)
That last sentence has a somewhat different meaning today than in 1969, Andy
   17. PreservedFish Posted: March 08, 2014 at 08:17 PM (#4668416)
Ugh, greenies arguments, so tiresome.
   18. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 08, 2014 at 08:21 PM (#4668417)
Too bad Dick Young wasn't born 40 years later so he could post on BTF.
   19. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 08, 2014 at 08:25 PM (#4668418)
Yeah, but what did Jim Bouton and Darrell Brandon know? They only played major league baseball under the influence of greenies. That doesn't come close to the insights of a gaggle of internet lawyers and sophists.
   20. Lassus Posted: March 08, 2014 at 08:31 PM (#4668421)
Yeah, but what did Jim Bouton and Darrell Brandon know? They only played major league baseball under the influence of greenies. That doesn't come close to the insights of a gaggle of internet lawyers and sophists.

You'd think on this website a sample size of two would draw a little less declaration of absolutism.
   21. Manny Coon Posted: March 08, 2014 at 08:39 PM (#4668422)
Bouton's quote mostly sounds like they aren't great for pitchers, but greenies seem like something that would help hitters more with improvements in reaction time and sustaining themselves through the day to day grind, neither of which applies to pitchers as much.
   22. Obo Posted: March 08, 2014 at 09:55 PM (#4668454)
I always read Bouton's greenies quote as a sly endorsement in that "false sense of security" seemed a weak argument against using something that otherwise improves performance.
   23. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 08, 2014 at 10:17 PM (#4668457)
I always read Bouton's greenies quote as a sly endorsement in that "false sense of security" seemed a weak argument against using something that otherwise improves performance.

Or it may be that he was just telling the truth as he saw it. What a radical thought.
   24. PreservedFish Posted: March 08, 2014 at 10:30 PM (#4668460)
To me the quote sounds a little bit like a guy explaining why he doesn't partake in booze or pot.
   25. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 08, 2014 at 11:12 PM (#4668465)
Bouton was saying the downside to taking greenies was that they make you think you're better than you are. You don't have to parse his words or think he was being sly; all you have to do is read what he said. It's pretty simple. He didn't say they don't work. He didn't say they make you Superman. He said greenies make you overconfident. That's all.
   26. Squash Posted: March 08, 2014 at 11:19 PM (#4668466)
“How fabulous are greenies? Some of the guys have to take one just to get their hearts to start beating. I've taken greenies but I think Darrell Brandon is right when he says that the trouble with them is that they make you feel so great that you think you're really smoking the ball even when you're not. They give you a false sense of security. The result is that you get gay, throw it down the middle, and get clobbered.”

I'm not sure that statement is the slam dunk some might think it is. To take another sample size of one, Dave Stewart started roiding before the 1991 season (the story at the time was that he added muscle in order to better take the rigors of the long season, but in retrospect given what was going on in the A's clubhouse at the time he fairly obviously began using steroids), came into spring training noticeably more bulky than ever before, started the season, and promptly spent the year getting shelled. Halfway through he decided to quit "lifting weights" because he said he had lost flexibility and gotten too stiff.

Obviously no one now would say steroids don't help players play baseball (ironically other than a few holdouts on this site), yet they clearly didn't help Stewart, who did in fact return to decent effectiveness the next year and then got old. And even so Stewart's statement is still mostly anecdotal, just like Bouton's - he might have just had an off year, especially given he had been ridden like a mule for the last five years (rank by Batters Faced over the previous 5 seasons: 5, 1, 1, 1, 4), he wasn't actually that great of a pitcher so he didn't have far to fall (he was a ~115 ERA+ guy coming off a 144 in a fluky LOB% year), or he might have just been getting old (which he was).
   27. Sunday silence Posted: March 08, 2014 at 11:56 PM (#4668473)
its hard to understand how people even back then didnt think weight training would work. Or that it wouldnt work for pitchers, you had two pitchers who were prominent with weights: Tom Seaver and Mike Marshall. And both of them had gotten really big. Seaver posed his arms in S.I.

So that was back in the mid 70s and you can still hear like Ron Dibble say that pitcher's dont lift weight. Whatever.

*****

Oh yeah the other thing that is not mentioned; and that must have really pissed off people was that Bouton comes across as the ultimate hypocrite because the entire book he talks about everyone else's transgressions and then portrays himself as a family man. He constantly mentions the kids and Bobbi, however he cheating on his wife like many of the others, but that doesnt go into the book. So one can imagine how the rest of MLB would feel. Their wives and girlfriends are looking at them and not trusting them and what are they supposed to do? COme out and say that Bouton was cheating on Bobbi? No one did that, as I recall. So they had to go about their business with that question hanging over them while Bouton retires and gets off scott free. Basically he knew he could only right that book in his final year in MLB. So he had nothing to lose at the end.

I loved the book, but it is understandable how those that were the targets in the book would feel otherwise.

I also feel he must have really hated Steve Barber who was a young phenom from the Baltimore area but had some bad arm problems by the time he landed with Seattle. The entire book the only interactions Bouton has with Barber is asking him how is arm feels. WHen Barber is like spending every day in the whirlpool and its obvious his career is in jeopardy. I just get the feeling that Bouton was just rubbing it in.

***

THe Joe Schultz quote was something like: "Let's give 'em the ole okey dokey." or some such quaint expression and everyone laughed about it. He (or really Len Schecter) sort of missed the boat on Schultz. Near the end of the season, with Bouton already gone from the team, Schultz broke down and cried in front of them. That incident is sort of added like a post script in the book, but that could have been a real touching, interesting moment had they chosen to elaborate on it and give Joe Schultz (who actually played on the same team as father in the minors) a little more humanity.

He had very little good to say about Frankie Crosetti or Sal Maglie Crosetti to me would have been very interesting to hear more about because of the teams he played for; he was a key middle infielder on those teams, he hit a famous HR off Dizzy Dean in the world series, and the various revolving doors that went on with the Yankee infielders in those days: Lyn Larry, Durocher, etc. I would have loved to hear more about Crosetti and the Yankee days of old, but Bouton just seemed to resent him.

"WHat about you, Sal? What would you throw?
"I"d just throw the ole screwball."
   28. Obo Posted: March 09, 2014 at 12:08 AM (#4668476)
Or it may be that he was just telling the truth as he saw it. What a radical thought.

I'm not saying he's lying. I'm saying if you read what he says it doesn't sound like much of a condemnation.
   29. Cheif Woo-ha! Posted: March 09, 2014 at 12:56 AM (#4668488)
i believe the phrase trying to be remembered here
is "that's the old Rufus Goofus"
   30. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 09, 2014 at 08:43 AM (#4668512)
#27,

Bouton's book is entertaining on many levels, but you also have to see it in the context of a slew of similar examples of athletes and celebrities "coming out" within that same time span. Obviously not "coming out" meaning "Hey, I'm gay", but "coming out" in the sense that they were portraying themselves as much more sensitive, intelligent and honest about their professions than most of the people around them. I seriously doubt if Bouton was unaware that no matter what his reaction might be from the baseball establishment and many of his teammates, he'd never need to lunch alone as long a there was a self-identified counterculture still alive and kicking. IOW in many ways, for all of its truthtelling and entertainment value, Ball Four was "just business".
   31. AndrewJ Posted: March 09, 2014 at 09:03 AM (#4668513)
Bouton's book is entertaining on many levels, but you also have to see it in the context of a slew of similar examples of athletes and celebrities "coming out" within that same time span. Obviously not "coming out" meaning "Hey, I'm gay", but "coming out" in the sense that they were portraying themselves as much more sensitive, intelligent and honest about their professions than most of the people around them.

E.g., Dave Meggysey's Out of Their League.
   32. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 09, 2014 at 09:43 AM (#4668516)
Chip Oliver's High For The Game would be another.
   33. Publius Publicola Posted: March 09, 2014 at 10:01 AM (#4668522)
There were so many memorable things in Bouton's book it's impossible to list them all. I was lucky in that it came out when I was in high school and at the height of my rebellious phase, and it fit perfectly into that Vietnam era zeitgeist.

The funniest thing though, was in I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Seriously and he described a story he heard about some pervert paying Dick Radatz to throw oranges at his ass.
   34. Publius Publicola Posted: March 09, 2014 at 10:04 AM (#4668523)
yet they clearly didn't help Stewart, who did in fact return to decent effectiveness the next year and then got old.


He didn't stretch enough, or stretch properly. And he obviously didn't know what he was doing.
   35. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: March 09, 2014 at 10:19 AM (#4668530)
Andy, I would like to very politely invite you to go #### yourself for ruining a perfectly good thread with PED bullshit.
   36. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: March 09, 2014 at 10:20 AM (#4668531)
Kuhn, a man who got into major legal trouble later in life


Hm? I wasn't aware of this; can someone elaborate?

And, anyway, what does that have to do with Bouton? (Or Frank Tanana?)
   37. AndrewJ Posted: March 09, 2014 at 10:46 AM (#4668540)
Kuhn co-founded a law firm in 1988; it filed for bankruptcy two years later.
   38. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 09, 2014 at 11:13 AM (#4668547)
yet they clearly didn't help Stewart, who did in fact return to decent effectiveness the next year and then got old.


He didn't stretch enough, or stretch properly. And he obviously didn't know what he was doing.

Stewart really didn't know what he was doing when he tried to pick up an undercover transvestite while thinking he was picking up an ordinary ho.

"What, you're not a woman???!!!.....What, you're a ####### cop???!!!"

----------------------------------------------------------------

Andy, I would like to very politely invite you to go #### yourself for ruining a perfectly good thread with PED ########.

Just give the horse I rode in on some amps to wake him up, and I'm outta here.
   39. Morty Causa Posted: March 09, 2014 at 11:21 AM (#4668552)
Pervert? Can I say that on the internet, Kent? On this website you can.
   40. Publius Publicola Posted: March 09, 2014 at 11:52 AM (#4668561)
Andy, I would like to very politely invite you to go #### yourself for ruining a perfectly good thread with PED ########.


So, instead of trying to get it back on track, you decided to #### it up even more?
   41. donlock Posted: March 09, 2014 at 12:06 PM (#4668572)
1)
That is an article screaming for a good editor.
2.
...or Jim Bouton's writing skills.

I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that while the information is Bouton's, he probably used a diary and sat for tape recorded sessions with Shecter. I think the finished product more likely includes structure and polishing by the professional. Were Bouton to claim it 100% his work, then I think he would get sole credit on the cover and Shecter would be an anonymous ghost or not involved at all.

I have always wondered which one of them came up with, "You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time."
   42. Publius Publicola Posted: March 09, 2014 at 12:10 PM (#4668573)
I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that while the information is Bouton's, he probably used a diary and sat for tape recorded sessions with Shecter.


Several times in the book, Bouton mentions other players being curious why he was writing notes all the time. At one point, a player, don't remember who, might have been Wayne Comer, grabbed the notebook out of his hands to see what he was writing down.
   43. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 09, 2014 at 12:48 PM (#4668593)
I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that while the information is Bouton's, he probably used a diary and sat for tape recorded sessions with Shecter. I think the finished product more likely includes structure and polishing by the professional

He talks about that in some detail in IGYDTIP, (Mike Marshall apparently helped quite a bit) along with relating how hard it was to find a publisher who didn't want to turn it into "Peter Rabbit Goes to the Ballgame" i.e. take out all the good stuff
   44. PreservedFish Posted: March 09, 2014 at 12:56 PM (#4668598)
Where there many other books at the time with a similar structure to Ball Four? I love the unusual pacing, that anecdotes can last for pages or for a single sentence. Today no ghost-written book will ever be structured so unconventionally.
   45. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 09, 2014 at 01:09 PM (#4668605)
For baseball books, the gold standards up to that point were Jim Brosnan's two books, The Long Season and Pennant Race. Since they both preceded Ball Four by about a decade, there wasn't the same degree of revelation about beaver shooting a skirt chasing, but the first one in particular aroused the fury of plenty of old school types, who were even more entrenched in the game in the late 50's than they were in 1969. And in Brosnan's case, he wrote both of his books himself, and went on to write on other subjects after he'd retired from the game.
   46. Publius Publicola Posted: March 09, 2014 at 01:13 PM (#4668608)
Where there many other books at the time with a similar structure to Ball Four?


Definitely not. It was groundbreaking and its success and breaking the taboo led to a flood of similars shortly after.
   47. PreservedFish Posted: March 09, 2014 at 01:16 PM (#4668612)
I was talking about the prose style more than the content. That is one of the delights of the book. It reminds me of The Road to Oxiana.
   48. Morty Causa Posted: March 09, 2014 at 01:19 PM (#4668614)
What grips you about Ball Four is Bouton's courage and audacity. It's what gives the book its tenor and tone. He takes chances, not just in revealing what he does about others, but in laying himself on the line. That makes it vital. He's not universally, absolutely a good guy, and he lets you see instances of that--the giving of a lecture in the bullpen. In some instances, he's kind of a prick. He's a solipsist, but he knows it, and he ultimately doesn't hide it. That's not just a literary breakthrough, that's a personal breakthrough that readers can appreciate, aside from all the good inside dishing. It's not something that can be faked or mimicked from other books. With the wealth of material, and the time constraints, he had to have an editor to help winnow the chaff, to give form, to find a connecting thread and to see that the book stays with that connection, stays with the plan, but the voice, the content, is all Bouton.
   49. Dudefella Posted: March 09, 2014 at 01:31 PM (#4668617)
WRT greenies: speaking as a former recreational amphetamine (ab)user, Bouton's statement is correct. They make you feel like Superman. They make you feel bulletproof; indomitable. In the context of baseball, I can certainly see that as leading players to make bad mistakes: e.g., the pitcher who grooves one thinking \"#### you, you can't hit it anyway." So it makes sense to me that he might not see an overall benefit to their use.

They are also absolutely a PED.

These two things are not mutually exclusive.
   50. Sunday silence Posted: March 10, 2014 at 12:43 PM (#4669033)

Bouton's book is entertaining on many levels, but you also have to see it in the context of a slew of similar examples of athletes and celebrities "coming out" within that same time span. Obviously not "coming out" meaning "Hey, I'm gay", but "coming out" in the sense that they were portraying themselves as much more sensitive, intelligent and honest about their professions than most of the people around them. I seriously doubt if Bouton was unaware that no matter what his reaction might be from the baseball establishment and many of his teammates, he'd never need to lunch alone as long a there was a self-identified counterculture still alive and kicking. IOW in many ways, for all of its truthtelling and entertainment value, Ball Four was "just business".


Well yeah, I do remember those days but only vaguely.

I want to ask ANdy this (and he carried some sports magazines in his store so maybe he will know).

How did the writing in Sports Illustrated compare to Bouton's level of "coming out" at this point in time? I read some of the old SIs but I was quite young and dont have a total feel for it.

Was SI writing about the same level or did Bouton's book exceed that bar?
   51. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 10, 2014 at 12:47 PM (#4669036)
Definitely not. It was groundbreaking and its success and breaking the taboo led to a flood of similars shortly after.


Yep. I remember reading, as a kid in the early '70s, at least one football memoir that memory tells me had to have been heavily influenced by Bouton, Bernie Parrish's They Call It a Game.

(Or maybe I'm thinking of another book. I seem to recall the volume in question including a first-person account of Howard Glenn's death in the NY Titans locker room from injuries suffered during a game in the AFL's first season, but Parrish was a Brown until something like 1966.)
   52. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 10, 2014 at 01:52 PM (#4669065)
I want to ask ANdy this (and he carried some sports magazines in his store so maybe he will know).

Hey, I've still got many boxes of duplicate SPORT and TSN in my shed, mostly from the 40's through the 60's. No reasonable offers refused.

How did the writing in Sports Illustrated compare to Bouton's level of "coming out" at this point in time? I read some of the old SIs but I was quite young and dont have a total feel for it.

SI began in 1954 as the "literary" sports magazine, and in its early years it had contributors like William Faulkner and John Marquand. The overall writing varied, but IMO it was always quite high, and much less rah-rah than some of the others. Robert Creamer, Roger Kahn, and the golf writer Herbert Warren Wind were with them from the beginning.

As for how SI compared to Bouton, it's a bit apples and oranges. The quality of the writing was every bit as good, but it didn't reach Bouton's level of iconoclasm. It did publish several pioneering articles on subject like race and drugs, but never in Bouton's irreverent tone.

   53. oscarmadisox Posted: March 10, 2014 at 01:59 PM (#4669073)
#44

ironically enough Bill Freehan wrote Behind the Mask about the 1969 Tigers in diary form. It's not as revealing as Bouton, but Freehan does have some good stories and relates the Tiger's displeasure with Denny McLain's shenanigans pretty well.

Behind the Mask
   54. Sunday silence Posted: March 10, 2014 at 03:56 PM (#4669140)
I remember reading an SI story about a Raiders LB named Chip Hinton (I think). He had played for the Raiders of the Heidi bowl era and was basically a hippie. He lived on a commune and while the other players ate steak/eggs before the game he drank a jug of grape juice.

I dont recall the date of the story maybe 70 or 71. But you could feel the underlying tension of hippies vs conservative, vegans vs meat eaters etc. I guess what I am saying was that Bouton have presaged a trend; but he didnt start by himself. it would have happened anyhow.
   55. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 10, 2014 at 03:59 PM (#4669142)
Chip Oliver: High for the Game

(I see what he did there)
   56. Morty Causa Posted: March 10, 2014 at 07:12 PM (#4669242)
Jerry Kramer's Instant Reply preceded Ball Four by a couple of years. It was published to good reviews and considerable fanfare. It, too, is in diary form. It isn't Ball Four, and Kramer isn't Jim Bouton, but it's definitely a good read, especially if you're a fan, I'm sure (which I am not).
   57. asinwreck Posted: March 10, 2014 at 07:31 PM (#4669246)
Reading this reminded me that Dick Young is dead. So it has value.
   58. Squash Posted: March 10, 2014 at 11:50 PM (#4669328)
He didn't stretch enough, or stretch properly. And he obviously didn't know what he was doing.

I would actually totally agree - the point is, Bouton may not have known what he was doing either. There isn't a handbook for any of this stuff.
   59. Squash Posted: March 10, 2014 at 11:57 PM (#4669330)
For baseball books, the gold standards up to that point were Jim Brosnan's two books, The Long Season and Pennant Race. Since they both preceded Ball Four by about a decade, there wasn't the same degree of revelation about beaver shooting a skirt chasing, but the first one in particular aroused the fury of plenty of old school types, who were even more entrenched in the game in the late 50's than they were in 1969.

I hold undying love for The Southpaw and Bang The Drum Slowly as well (the latter is better than the former), which both dealt with a good deal of skirt chasing and drinking and such. Both books were fictional though of course, and so therefore could be excused, though the author is clearly familiar with what goes on in Major League clubhouses, or was close with someone who did.

There are also even scenes in both books where Henry takes what are clearly amphetamines (during the 17-inning game in The Southpaw) and before a game in Bang The Drum Slowly when he feels tired.

EDIT: The Southpaw is 1953 and Bang The Drum Slowly is 1956. They take place I believe in 1952 and 1955.
   60. Mark Armour Posted: March 11, 2014 at 01:55 AM (#4669343)
This is sort of self-promotion, but this link is better than just reciting all of the same points.
Article on Ball Four

A few points.
1. Shecter was a great writer, but also very cynical about the state of sportswriting. His book The Jocks, which came out in 1969, basically lays waste to professional sports. His writing for Look in this period was wonderful.

2. During the season, Bouton took notes and then spoke the notes into a tape recorder when he had free time. All the tapes were then sent to Shecter's secretary to transcribe. He still has all the tapes. The finished product was edited extensively by both men, with considerable help from Mike Marshall. I interviewed Bouton about the mechanics 10 years ago.

3. Bouton says that Shecter's key contribution was "humor". He helped take these very true stories and spin them to the style with which we became familiar. Like quoting someone and then having a new paragraph with the single word "Oh."

4. Shecter and Bouton had been actual friends for several years before the book -- not writer/subject friends, but actual friends. In The Jocks, Shecter rips virtually ever star Yankee of the previous 20 years. Except Bouton, who he writes about as a beacon of hope.

5. The major difference between Ball Four and Brosnan's great books (and between the authors) is that Brosnan was a true intellectual who went home and sipped martinis with his intellectual wife, while Bouton was caught between two worlds. He was smarter and more "worldly" than his teammates, but he really and truly wanted to be with them and be one of the boys. He could never quite do it. Bouton did not want to be different. Brosnan would read Dostoevsky on the plane and not give a ####.

6. The reason the book holds up, I think, is this vulnerability. Bouton wanted to pitch more, he wanted to pitch better, and he wanted to be popular. Who wouldn't?
   61. Sunday silence Posted: March 11, 2014 at 03:21 AM (#4669349)
WHy was Marshall so involved in the book? I realize as I type this that Marshall was very smart and probably had a great memory for a lot of the incidents. I didnt get the feeling that they were like best friends but maybe I am remembering it wrong?

Unlike Kramer's book and probably nearly every sports book that came before it, Ball Four really has nothing to do with trying to win the championship or anything like that. I mean it's 1969 we already know the Mets will win; and everybody knows the Pilots dont have a chance. There's almost nothing in the book about worrying about the pennant race. THey worry what will happen to them. Trying to avoid injuries, trying to get as much money as possible. Trying to get laid. But nothing about the AL west divisional race. SO it's like an anti sports book in a way. I think book M*A*S*H may have been something like that, not sure when that was published.

THere is a certain vulnerability to Bouton, mainly because he is on the downside and his team has no chance and he's pretty honest about that. Early on in the book he says "there's 162 games a year and they're all boring as hell." I remember getting to that part of the book and was sort of dumbstruck that a ballplayer would say that, but then as I read more that seemed totally understandable. So you sort of had to adjust your own expectations about where the book was going, and finally you just enjoy the ride and laugh at every line.
   62. Sunday silence Posted: March 11, 2014 at 03:52 AM (#4669350)
Mark that was a very nice article. I was wondering if you could add any more to Bouton's relationships with his teammates. Did he ever make up with Mickey Mantle for instance? or Joe MOrgan?
   63. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: March 11, 2014 at 04:31 AM (#4669354)
Mantle and Bouton did reconcile, after Mantle's son died and Bouton reached out. "M*A*S*H" the book was published in 1968.
   64. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 11, 2014 at 07:26 AM (#4669362)
Great article, Mark, and also a very good summary of the difference between Bouton and Brosnan. Interesting that Jimmy Cannon (IMO a highly overrated writer) praised Brosnan's book to the skies but trashed Ball Four. I guess Cannon might have been more comfortable in the world of Martinis than in the world of Jim Bouton's mind.
   65. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 11, 2014 at 09:37 AM (#4669404)
Speaking of the early AFL, as I was earlier, the description of Brosnan reminds me somewhat of what I've read about early Titans QB Lee Grosscup. I see he published a memoir of the '62 season, Fourth & One. Might have to look that up; first I've heard of it.
   66. Morty Causa Posted: March 11, 2014 at 12:38 PM (#4669547)
Unlike Kramer's book and probably nearly every sports book that came before it, Ball Four really has nothing to do with trying to win the championship or anything like that.

I think that's a good point, one that can't be over-emphasized. it gives the book an emotional pull and finally a poignancy that other books don't have, that it would have lacked had Bouton not kept that in the forefront. Ball Four is about hanging on, about desperately trying for the comeback against odds. Bouton was sharp, savvy, but, yeah, he wasn't an intellectual, certainly not one of the bookish sort. I don't know if I've ever read where he talks about, say, novels, that meant a great deal to him.

Jim Bouton is a hustler, a scrambler, always looking out for the main chance. This is obvious in the book, where he's always talking about what he's going to do after baseball, taking courses and thinking of opportunities, and of course his life after baseball bears this out. He was a guy on the make. Even when he was on the verge of falling off the baseball world, with not much of a backup plan for his life, he nevertheless had a sense of himself. I like that Ball Four begins with Jim reminiscing how he had to fight management (and Houk in particular) over every dollar he got. And how he misses the struggle now that he has no bargaining leverage left. But he makes it clear he admired and liked his bygone nemesis Houk. I think even now Bouton knows he lucked out, what with a surprise best-seller and all, but he prepared all the time for when that something good happened in his life. Maybe Life was going to beat him, but he wasn't going to beat himself. And for the most part, I think he's handled his fortune and fame well, even exemplarily well.

EDIT: I would like to add that Bouton always comes across as being free of angst, unlike most counterculture heroes. He's no middle-age Holden Caulfield. He's a guy you wouldn't mind have an argument with over a few beers.
   67. Mark Armour Posted: March 11, 2014 at 01:08 PM (#4669574)
Another big difference I should have mentioned between Brosnan and Bouton. Brosnan's career ended prematurely -- I do not believe he was blackballed, but no team really wanted to deal with having a writer around. He has been asked about this many times over the years, and his answer is always the same: it did not bother me, I considered myself a writer, and I wanted to write. Bouton, on the other hand, wanted to play baseball. He gave up a high-paying job as a NYC sportscaster to play minor league baseball, which turned into a 1-in-1000 comeback. He was playing competitive baseball in his 60s, and he still loved both the competition and the childish hijinks. I do not know for certain, but I have not heard of Brosnan even playing catch in the past 50 years.

On Marshall. He and Bouton were friends on the Pilots (though Marshall was not there long). In fact, they wanted to room together and when the traveling secretary refused to let them (likely at the behest of the GM or manager), they just agreed with their assigned roommates to simply switch when they got to the hotels. Years later, their two wives (also friends) wrote a book together about their life in the game and the downfall of their two marriages (with lots of infidelity talk).

Good insight Morty. I think Bouton honestly expressed the way a lot of players likely feel. Its all well and good to say that everyone should be want the team to win above all else, but when you are worried about your job and your future, most of us would be focused on pitching well to assure you stick around for a while, even if the team finishes fourth. If you are Tony Oliva, you can afford to be happy with an 0-for-3 in a winning cause. Bouton could not.
   68. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: March 11, 2014 at 01:59 PM (#4669614)
THere is a certain vulnerability to Bouton, mainly because he is on the downside and his team has no chance and he's pretty honest about that. Early on in the book he says "there's 162 games a year and they're all boring as hell." I remember getting to that part of the book and was sort of dumbstruck that a ballplayer would say that, but then as I read more that seemed totally understandable.

IIRC, Bouton was also pretty up-front that he was rooting for the team to win, but also rooting for whoever was starting that day to get shelled so that he might get a shot in the rotation.

I read Ball Four for the first time pretty recently. The various afterwards and updates are pretty interesting too, for those of you who haven't read them--discussing his comeback, his reconciliation with Mantle and his return to Yankee Stadium for Old Timers' day, his second marriage, the death of his daughter, his business schemes, his continuing to play until he physically couldn't anymore.

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