Ball Four: The Final Pitch is the original book plus all the updates, unlike the 20th Anniversary Edition paperback.
When Ball Four was published in 1970, it created a firestorm. Bouton was called a Judas, a Benedict Arnold and a “social leper” for having violated the “sanctity of the clubhouse.” Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn tried to force Bouton to sign a statement saying the book wasn’t true. Ballplayers, most of whom hadn’t read it, denounced the book. It was even banned by a few libraries.
Almost everyone else, however, loved Ball Four. Fans liked discovering that athletes were real people--often wildly funny people. Many readers said it gave them strength to get through a difficult period in their lives. Serious critics called it an important document.
David Halberstam, who won a Pulitzer for his reporting on Vietnam, wrote a piece in Harper’s that said of Bouton: “He has written… a book deep in the American vein, so deep in fact that it is by no means a sports book.”
In 1999 Ball Four was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the “Books of the Century.” And Time magazine chose it as one of the "100 Greatest Non-Fiction" books.
Besides changing the image of athletes, the book played a role in the economic revolution in pro sports. In 1975, Ball Four was accepted as legal evidence against the owners at the arbitration hearing, which lead to free agency in baseball and, by extension, to other sports.
Today Ball Four has taken on another role--as a time capsule of life in the 60s. "It is not just a diary of Bouton's 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros," says sportswriter Jim Caple. "It's a vibrant, funny, telling history of an era that seems even further away than four decades. To call it simply a "tell all book" is like describing The Grapes of Wrath as a book about harvesting peaches in California."
©1970, 1981, 1990 Jim Bouton (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
"A book deep in the American vein, so deep in fact it is by no means a sports book." (David Halberstam)
"Ball Four is a people book, not just a baseball book." (The New York Times)
"Ball Four is out in a new e-book edition, available on Kindle. It also is available as an audio book, read by Bouton himself, through audible.com. The only thing better than reading Ball Four again might be listening to Bouton read it to you." (R. A. Dickey, columnist and senior writer for ESPN.com.)
I've read "Ball Four" many times over the years from my first reading at age 15 until today at 49. I've enjoyed it each time. It's an inside look at a place most baseball fans don't get to see — the clubhouse. And as the game has evolved, it's now a place that no one will ever see again. I've passed the book along to my son and nephews, who all enjoyed it as well.
Jim Bouton. He offers insight into the life of a ballplayer, but also the life of someone trying to support and raise a young family. This is a story about life.
Yes, if it were written by him. Bouton cracks himself up with some of the stories he wrote and he cries when he remembers the death of his daughter. As he writes, fans of Ball Four have become family, and he lets us into his life and shares the good times and bad. He's not a professional, but that's the beauty of this reading. It's his life and no one else but him can tell it as he has here. Thanks, Jim.
My story is almost exactly like a previous reviewer. I probably read Ball Four for the first time when I was around 15 and listened to Jim Bouton's reading at age 48. And I've read it numerous times in between. Only Jim can do this story justice. Sure, there are editing issues (at one point, there's about 30 seconds of Jim obviously turning pages as well as a couple of abrupt edits). But when you hear him laugh at his funny stories and cry while discussing the death of his beloved daughter Laurie, you know it's genuine. Whenever he talked about Laurie, the car got a little dusty, I have to admit. He's right, if you've been a fan for years, you are family. The only thing I wish is that they added his follow-up book "I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally" to this. I've read that a couple of times over the years and it would fit well. But, otherwise, a great reading of a great book by a great man!
Ball Four is one of those books that I always thought I knew what it said and what it was about, and never had the least interest in picking it up and reading it. Although I would describe myself as a above average baseball fan, and my general interest in all topics baseball as high, for some reason, it had just never struck me that this was a book I should read. Maybe it was the fact that I knew Jim Bouton had been a Yankee. Maybe it was the fact that I knew the book had been controversial and somewhere along the way I had heard critical opinions of it. Maybe it was that noone ever grabbed me and said, "Byron, you should read this book!" (Or if they did, I didn't hear them.)
But over the past four years, I have become a ravenous listener to audiobooks, and over the last two years, have discovered that I have missed a lot of reading in my life. Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill have all caught my attention with their classic works. Then, last month, I starting browsing the baseball related books, looking to shift gears, and Ball Four caught my eye. When I downloaded it, I noticed that the book was read by the author. I didn't notice until I started the book that it also include three updates at 10 year intervals after the initial book was published. More about those updates in a minute.
I found the book somewhat interesting initially. Bouton starts at the beginning of the 1969 season, when he was playing for the expansion Seattle Pilots, and he makes frequent reference to his glory years with the Yankees earlier in the 60's, but he also makes it clear early on that things went sour for him in New York, although he never really presents the New York history in story-telling form. His focus stays on the 1969 season, and he presents it in almost diary format, where he bounces back and forth from things that happened or were said each day to reminisces from earlier in his career, with a particularly humorous way and seldom flattering way of describing current and former teammates. At times, he is absorbed with his own sense of self-importance, trying to figure out why he doesn't get respect from management or teammates.
A few weeks into the season, I began to wonder if I really wanted to finish the whole book. This was going to get tiresome going through the whole season, and I knew the Seattle Pilots did not have a good season, so there wasn't going to be any good baseball story there, I thought. But, perhaps for lack of a ready alternative, I hung in there, kept listening, and began to find myself absolutely absorbed in the season, and recognizing how incredibly thorough of a look inside the life of baseball players in the 1960s I was receiving.
By the time we got to the end of the season, and the end of the initial book, I felt thoroughly entertained and appreciative of the service Bouton had provided to me to bring the major league of my youth to life in a new way. There were times, as Bouton read his own book, when he would chuckle at the stories he was telling, which was annoying a couple of times, but on the whole, added to the read. Even as he poked fun at his teammates and managers for their foolishness, you saw that the pot was calling the kettle black, and I can to appreciate that Bouton was both egotistical and self-deprecating, and I decided I really liked the guy. If I had been a player, I would probably have been a lot like him.
It was clear why the book had been controversial. It was probably the first tell-all book, and he mocked some of the greats of the game. He portrayed Joe Schultz, the manager of the Pilots, and Sal Maglie, the pitching coach, as men without a clue as to how to make strategic decisions to win games, and he revealed the incredible cheap-ness of the owners. Bouton was earning a salary of $22,000 in 1969, so this was back in the days before any Tom, Dick, or Harry could strap on a glove and earn a million dollars, and the stories he tells on the owners are priceless.
Stopping at the end of the original Ball Four would have left a good taste in my mouth, and I would have written a 4 star review, and all would have been well. But, Bouton added the three updates, from 1980, 1990, and 2000, and this book jumped from 4 stars to 5 stars plus in my estimation.
Now a disclaimer here, the last update is tough...it involves a crying Bouton telling the sad story of the death of a family member. I'm a sap.. I appreciated it. You may not. It is not long, and if that's not your cup of tea, speed through it and move on.
But the richness of the updates come in two other ways: 1) he gives incredible insight into life after baseball. Going to visit the former teammate who now has a plumbing business was just wonderful. 2) he discusses the evolution of the response to the book, which was not well received my many teammates or by the baseball establishment. It was notorious, far beyond what it deserved in my opinion, but that just speaks to the shallow-mindedness of so many of the people in baseball. But through the updates, one gets a 30 year retrospective of how one man tried to take a stand, and to my way of thinking, we are better for his efforts.
If you are an Old baseball fan and have not read this book, get the audio version with Bouton reading it, and indulge yourself. If you are a young baseball fan, and don't know who Jim Bouton is, and did not know there was ever a major league team called the Seattle Pilots, let me introduce you to some baseball history. I think you will find it hard to believe much of what you read, but in the end you will realize the magnitude of the cultural change of the past 40 years since the concept of "free agency" was introduced into professional sports.
I have listened to several hundred audio books and this was one of my all-time favorites. I loved listening to Jim read the story out loud. It was touching to hear him laugh at the funny memories and I cried along with him when he told the story of his daughter's death. Great book!
Joe Shultz: ¨Pound those cookies into you, boys.¨
No. It was good to listen to a bit at a time.
If you're a baseball fan, you'll love it.
One thing the audio version does is highlight the subtle humor of a situation and help the reader pick up the imponderable situations that ballplayers were in before the repeal of the reserve clause through Bouton's oral interpretation of history.
This is a classic from the era before books were made into audio. In many ways it is a historical novel describing how the business of baseball worked in the 60s in almost a Madman way.
Bouton's rendition of some of the dumb things that Sal Maglie said and did is pretty dry and witless...much like the "Barber" no doubt.
Bouton's discussons of the economic realities of contracts in this indentured servant era throughout the book are instructive on how baseball was run as a business.
If you first read this 40 years ago, the listen will open your eyes (sic) to passages and subtleties you missed the first time because of the benefit that the historical perspective provides. A fun and eye opening investment of time. Bouton is not a professional actor, and you can tell in the narration, but what he can't deliver in imitated voices he overcomes with heartfelt emotion and, best of all, humor.
I have not seen the print version but I actually enjoyed the content that actually followed the original Ball Four text which was more about Jim's life after his baseball career. Jim was very honest and wasn't afraid to express his feelings about any subject whether it be about baseball or his own personal life. I can appreciate that this book was a ground breaker in it's time but I only really started to enjoy it after the original Ball Four story. As a baseball story I preferred Dirk Hayhurst's "The Bullpen Gospels" but Jim's book was very good at capturing life after baseball which is a story that a fan does not often get to hear.
The manager's trade mark quote "Okay boys lets go out and win so we can pound some Budweisers after the game" always made me laugh and Jim's heart wrenching narrative of his daughter's sudden death in a car accident was just pure raw emotion that brought me to tears.
Joe Shultz the manager.
Jim and Mickey Mantle's correspondence prior to the Mick's death and Jim's invitation to the Yankee's Hall of Fame Game.
I had to be patient. The original Ball Four was written before I was born so I didn't know any of the characters and I couldn't really relate to them. It seemed like a whole lot of complaining by Jim that he wasn't pitching enough in key situations and it got tiring, but the stories that follow Ball Four are very worth the wait. I really enjoyed the development of Jim as a person after baseball. He proved to be very extraordinary person and I could see his story inspiring many athletes when their playing days are over.
As a teenager in the 1970s, my favorite book was Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four: My Life and Hard Times Throwing the Knuckleball in the Big Leagues”. I had not read the book from cover-to-cover in over 30-years. As a 49-year old man, I am pleased to report that “Ball is still as humorous, insightful, and relevant today as when it was published in 1970. It is the best book ever written by a baseball player and the best account of a player’s day-to-day travails during the long baseball season.
After Jim Bouton had hurt his arm and lost his ability to throw his signature fastball, he turned to the knuckleball in desperation. Ball Four, written in diary form, is Jim Bouton’s account of his struggle to hold onto his career, literally and figuratively, by his fingertips. Jim Bouton had spent 1968 in the minors and was not even sure that he would play major league baseball in 1969. He was signed by the expansion Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers) and was used as a mop-up relief pitcher. Towards the end of the season, he was traded to the Houston Astros, who were in a five-way pennant race.
Ball Four was a best seller in 1970 and probably still is the best selling American sports book of all time. It was named as one of The New York Public Library’s Books of the Century. Roger Angell attributed to the success of the book to Jim Bouton’s ability as a “day-to-day observer, hard thinker, marvelous listener, comical critic, angry victim, and unabashed lover of the sport”.
Ball Four gained notoriety, because it exposed baseball players as girl chasing, drug taking, and beer drinking guys with stunted emotional maturity. The players entertained themselves with juvenile pranks, hilarious antics, and insults. The book depicts team owners and general managers as being selfish misers. The Seattle Pilots’ coaching staff are cliché spouting incompetents, hypocrites, and petty tyrants. “Pound the old Budweiser” was the favorite expression and all-purpose advice of the manager of the hapless Seattle Pilots.
Sports writers and the baseball establishment hated the book, because they thought it was their self-appointed job to protect the wholesome, milk and cookies image of baseball players. Fellow players thought that Jim Bouton had violated locker room sanctity, as embodied in the familiar clubhouse sign stating: “What you see here, what you hear here, let it stay here when you leave here”. Of course, many of the players who criticized the book would eventually write their own kiss-and-tell memoirs.
Jim Bouton attracted the most attention and criticism for his stories about Mickey Mantle. Jim Bouton revealed how Mickey Mantle once hit a homerun while drunk. It wasn’t Jim Bouton’s intent to destroy heroes, but to humanize them. Why couldn’t Mickey Mantle be a hero who has a bit too much to drink from time to time? Mickey Mantle would later capitalize on his reputation as a drinker by appearing in a series of Miller Lite commercials.
The real significance of Ball Four was that it was written on the cusp of the players successfully challenging the reserve clause and winning their right to become free agents. Jim Bouton addresses how players were grossly underpaid by the team owners. When the minimum salary was raised from $8,000 to $10,000, the owners acted as if they were granting rookies and marginal players a raise.
The players tolerated this one-sided economic relationship, because the status quo is all that they that had ever known. Jim Bouton’s New York Yankees teammates in the early 1960s laughed when he proposed that the players should request that the minimum salary be increased to $25,000. The fact that players were property of the owners, to be underpaid, sold, traded, and released on a whim, was ingrained by a 100-years of organized baseball tradition.
The book recounts his one-side salary negotiations with the Yankees. He embarrassed the Yankees by telling reporters how much he wanted, so everyone knew that he was being reasonable and the Yankees were being unfair. After winning 20 games in 1964, the Yankees agreed to pay him $30,000 in 1965 on the condition that he not disclose his salary.
Team owner’s tightfistedness had not improved by 1969. Ballplayers roomed together on road trips, the team flew commercial flights, and the coaches kept track of baseballs during practice. The Seattle Pilots refused to reimburse Jim Bouton for a $50 case of Gatorade that he had purchased for the players during spring training.
Jim Bouton’s disdain for the monopolist owners and their treatment of players should be viewed in the context of rampant anti-establishment culture of the Viet Nam War era. His attitude towards authority is mirrored in the counter-culture films of the era, such as M*A*S*H, Alice’s Restaurant, and Easy Rider.
This version of Ball Four contains updates written in 1980, 1990, and 2000. Jim Bouton’s emotive narration places the listener in the moment. He laughs when telling comical stories and repeating the manager’s absurd one-liners; and he cries when describing the tragic death of his daughter. He also sings the country western parody song that he co-wrote in the bullpen and the Houston Astros’ bawdy fight song.
You can't get the feeling that Jim Bouton puts into it with the printed edition. This is the best author read book I have ever listened to. It is like sitting around having a few beers with Jim Bouton and letting him tell you stories - about baseball, about his family and about his life. You will laugh out loud and cry along with Bouton, who does both as he reads his book. Nice to see someone who is not afraid to display real emotion. Only a Bowie Kuhn loving, myopic Yankee fan could still hate this book. The little editing miscues only add to the charm of the book. This is not a sterlie precise, English diction recording.... this is life at its rawest form.... real amd emotional. The people that complain about this would probably sit a ball game and sulk the whole time too.
Ken Stabler's "Snake"
This is a great story. I really enjoyed the author chuckling along to the old war stories - so maybe you need to be a baseball fan and be old to get into the fun of it all.
I also enjoyed the updates on previous editions even when the going got rough. I have read many sad stories but hearing the pain in Jims voice with the loss of his daughter will stay with me forever.
At the end of the book Jim says if you have come this far, and are still listening, you are almost family. I appreciated this thought and felt it was a privledge to be a part of something bigger.
That the author read this really lent so much more to the content. He made himself laugh AND cry. Hated to hear it end. Thanks Jim! You rock!
"Funny, persuasive and often moving"
I am no baseball expert, being a Brit and having little interest in the sport until recently (mistakenly viewing it as a brash simplified version of cricket). In the last couple of years I have been trying to absorb - through reading and podcasts and TV - all I can about the sport. This has, thus far, been the highlight. An excellently written (and read) book with arguments a plenty, numerous laugh out loud moments and, particularly in the updated sections some very moving passages that were clearly, and understandably, very difficult for the author to read.
Basically I can't recommend this enough. Thank you.
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