Monday, July 26, 2004

Ball Four

Just finished reading Jim Bouton's Ball Four. The book was written back in 1969 when Bouton pitched for the Seattle Pilots. The book is a journal where Bouton wrote entries every day of the season describing his teammates, coaches, as well as his feelings about his own performance.

When the book was released, it offered the public its first true glimpse inside a major league clubhouse. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn was quite upset. The book exposed the absurdity of life as a major leaguer, where coaches repeat meaningless things and players bide their time trying to look up skirts. Kuhn actually tried to get Bouton to sign a letter stating that he made everything in the book up. Bouton refused.

Bouton openly discussed players using "greenies," or uppers, before they played. He constantly complained about how idiodic coaches can be. When a pitcher walks a guy, the coaches bark "You gotta throw him strikes!" When he hits it out, "You're gettin' too much of the plate!"

The one aspect of Ball Four that I found interesting was reading about Bouton's own feelings about his ability and his team. It makes a major leaguer feel a little more human to read about him daydreaming about getting the last out to win the World Series - even at 30 years old. The passages where he wonders if he's lost it offer rare look at the more insecure side of a ballplayer.

Bouton was traded to the Astros midway through the 1969 season, so we also hear stories about guys like Larry Dierker.

This 20th anniversary edition of the book included an pretty boring epilogue where Bouton updates us on all of his former teammates and his latest endeavors (including inventing the now famous Big League Chew bubble gum). He also hints that he may have been black-balled after writing the book. I find that arument pretty weak considering he was able to make a comeback with the Braves and worked as a tv commentator in baseball.

Ball Four certainly isn't the baseball classic that some have made it out to be, but not a bad read for passing time on an airplane.

Now, I'm re-reading Rob Neyer's Feeding the Green Monster, another daily journal book describing Rob's summer in 2000 when he attended every Red Sox game at Fenway that season.

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