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Jim Bouton, the author of Ball Four, died this week. Half a decade before he wrote that classic, Bouton was a star pitcher for the New York Yankees. But arm trouble derailed him and his decline coincided with the end of the Yankee dynasty.
Bouton reinvented himself as a knuckleball pitcher, caught on with the expansion Seattle Pilots, and chronicled his season with them (and with the Houston Astros after he was traded) in a behind the scenes look at the national pastime that captured both the foibles, the anxieties, and the grind of players’ existence.
Ball - Four - Splash - Impact - Reaction
To say that Ball Four made a splash would be to understate its impact and the reaction to it. The book delighted fans but outraged much of the sports establishment. Dick Young, a leading New York sportswriter, called Bouton a “social leper.”
The librarian at Dartmouth’s Baker Library selected Ball Four for display. Planning to take a half hour break from my studies, I grabbed the book. I did no more studying until I had devoured it. This, I concluded, is the best sports book I’ve ever read.
Book - Decades - Somehow - Bouton - Snobbery
Reading the book a few decades later, I still enjoyed it, but was less enchanted. Somehow, I hadn’t been bothered by Bouton’s snobbery, elitism, and condescension the first time around.
I remembered that Jim Brosnan, a pitcher whose two books pioneered the genre Bouton perfected, objected to Ball Four’s less than flattering treatment of Seattle manager...
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