Ball Four

Ball Four

Twentieth-anniversary edition of a baseball classic, with a new epilogue by Jim Bouton.When first published in 1970, Ball Four stunned the sports world. The commissioner, executives, and players were shocked. Sportswriters called author Jim Bouton a traitor and "social leper." Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn tried to force him to declare the book untrue. Fans, however, lo...

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Title:Ball Four
Author:Jim Bouton
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Edition Language:English

Ball Four Reviews

  • Diane Ayres

    I read it because it was most often cited as the favorite book of so many guys I knew who came of age in the '70s. Much to my surprise, I loved it. Jim Bouton is a Wit. It's a an amusing, as well instructive, narrative on the mid-20th Century psyche of the American male, which continues to influence our culture (and politics) to this day. Frankly, it gave me more useful insight into "guys" than anything I've ever read. And it makes the perfect bar mitzvah gift: totally delights the boys and terr

    I read it because it was most often cited as the favorite book of so many guys I knew who came of age in the '70s. Much to my surprise, I loved it. Jim Bouton is a Wit. It's a an amusing, as well instructive, narrative on the mid-20th Century psyche of the American male, which continues to influence our culture (and politics) to this day. Frankly, it gave me more useful insight into "guys" than anything I've ever read. And it makes the perfect bar mitzvah gift: totally delights the boys and terrifies the parents (in a good way) making them face the reality that, yes, indeed, "today he is a man." Similarly, I would also recommend it as sort of primer for girls and handbook for women.

  • Will Byrnes

    This is one of the seminal shoot beaver and tell books. It opened up the field for sportswriters to come and got Bouton into a fair bit of trouble. It is a must-read for its look at the Yankees of Mantle and Maris days, showing them as the very human people they were. A classic of it's genre.

    - image from NPR

    entry for Bouton

    Bouton sold the materials he used in making the book. This lovely NY Times piece includes a revelation on where the book’s title originated. -

    This is one of the seminal shoot beaver and tell books. It opened up the field for sportswriters to come and got Bouton into a fair bit of trouble. It is a must-read for its look at the Yankees of Mantle and Maris days, showing them as the very human people they were. A classic of it's genre.

    - image from NPR

    entry for Bouton

    Bouton sold the materials he used in making the book. This lovely NY Times piece includes a revelation on where the book’s title originated. -

    - by Tyler Kepner

    July 1, 2017 - NY Times - another piece on Bouton by Kepner -

    A warm profile of Bouton from Stan Grossfeld at the Boston Globe

  • John

    Ball Four might be the greatest baseball book ever written! Correction, Ball Four might be the greatest sports book ever written. What Bouton accomplished with Ball Four was to tear the cover off of professional sports by exposing the tangled core underneath the canned responses to interviews, the hagiography of sports heroes, and the mundane existence of living out of a suitcase for six months. The haloed Yankees hated this book as it painted their hero Mickey Mantle as less than a shining lig

    Ball Four might be the greatest baseball book ever written! Correction, Ball Four might be the greatest sports book ever written. What Bouton accomplished with Ball Four was to tear the cover off of professional sports by exposing the tangled core underneath the canned responses to interviews, the hagiography of sports heroes, and the mundane existence of living out of a suitcase for six months. The haloed Yankees hated this book as it painted their hero Mickey Mantle as less than a shining light, the fans didn't care for that either. Players thought it broke the sacred bonds of The Team.

    But Bouton was always an iconoclast; he cared and fought for what he thought was fair pay long before the free agent era, he talked to reporters in thoughtful conversations, and he took notes. After Bouton blew out his arm for the Yankees he reinvents himself as a knuckleball pitcher and gets called up to a new franchise, the Seattle Pilots. Filled with castoffs and fringe players the Pilots are the perfect team for Bouton to chronologically capture daily life in major league baseball.

    Funny, wry, and reflective daily recordings from a man with one last gasp of glory left in his arm, and it's not by throwing the baseball. What Bouton deftly does is invite you in on the difficulties and the absurdity, the grind and the goofy, the stoic and the bored. This is best read as following a baseball season, one day at a time. You can relive a team's infamous one year season daily as told by a true voice from the inside.

  • Jeffrey Keeten

    This is probably the most controversial book and the most honest book ever written about baseball. It is interesting how the words honest and controversial seem to travel together like a Harley Davidson with a sidecar. Jim Bouton won two World Series games in 1964 with the New York Yankees, but in 1965 he developed a

    This is probably the most controversial book and the most honest book ever written about baseball. It is interesting how the words honest and controversial seem to travel together like a Harley Davidson with a sidecar. Jim Bouton won two World Series games in 1964 with the New York Yankees, but in 1965 he developed arm troubles that turned the pitching phenom from a starter into a bullpen pitcher. When we catch up with Jim, he is with the Seattle Pilots expansion team, trying to learn how to throw a knuckleball in an attempt to resurrect and lengthen his career. Now if you haven’t heard of the Seattle Pilots, don’t feel bad because I’d never heard of them either. They only existed for one year, 1969, and then they were moved to Milwaukee to become the Brewers.

    Probably few would remember this organization except for the fact that Jim Bouton was with the team. He was taking notes and immortalizing most of the one year this team was in existence. This book hit baseball players/managers/owners like a psycho nun with a steel studded ruler was rapping their knuckles over and over again. I wonder how the baseball commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, felt about the book? Ahh yes, he called

    Now a normal writer can’t buy publicity like this, but Bouton was still trying to pitch in the major leagues, and the reaction certainly made things more difficult for him. The book went nuclear. Athletes, in general, who are not known for reading, were reading this book, and for the most part, they had negative reactions. Most weren’t quite as vocal about it as Pete Rose, who anytime Bouton was pitching screamed from the dugout steps:

    My question is who told Pete Rose about Shakespeare?

    The controversy was over Bouton revealing the everyday stupidity that sometimes colossally bored baseball players got up to. Not to mention the rampant alcohol and drug abuse,

    Greenies were speed, and pretty much everyone on the team was using them, at least in their minds, to ramp up their abilities on the diamond. Wrapped around all this was the serial infidelity that was just considered one of the perks of being a professional ball player. One of the coaches of the Pilots would always remind the guys before letting them off the plane to go meet up with their wives…

    .

    Now all of that was bad enough, but where Bouton stepped over the line for many baseball fans was revealing the less than stellar lifestyle of the legendary Mickey Mantle. Sportswriters have a long history of protecting athletes. Most recently, though it was common knowledge among reporters, nothing was reported on the infidelities of Tiger Woods. His image, as far as the public was concerned, was that of a brilliant athlete with the perfect wife, the perfect life. The press was well aware of Mantle’s excessive epic drinking and his infidelities, but never wrote a word about it.

    Bouton is a rookie on the Yankees, and one of the first stories he tells about Mantle is the whole team gathering around him on the rooftop of their hotel that, by the way it is angled, gives them a bird’s eye view into hotel rooms across the way. They could watch women undress. I’m not sure, since this was a group effort, that we can even really call this Peeping Tom or Toms. The guys called it

    and they put a good bit of effort into finding ways to see women exposed. One player drilled holes into the connecting door of his hotel room so he could spy on whoever was in the next room. In another case a player drilled a hole through the back of the dugout wall so he could peek up the skirt of an unsuspecting fan. They had mirrors that they would slide under hotel room doors. The list goes on and on.

    It reminded me of one time when I was about fourteen, and I was hanging out at the bottom of a set of stairs at the high school waiting for a friend when several girls started down the steps. I looked up to see if it was my friend coming, and my line of sight gave me a perfect uninhibited view of the girls’ underwear. I was gobsmacked. I was turned to stone. I forced my eyes away after what felt like fifteen minutes, but was only probably a fraction over a second. I was sure they knew! They were of course oblivious, but it didn’t keep me from turning thirteen shades of red as their mingled perfumes brushed by me.

    Beyond the controversy, the book provides an incredible view of what it is like to be a ballplayer. The paranoias, the insecurities, the unfairness, the pranks, and the joys when a knuckleball breaks off the plate the way it is supposed to. The constant worry about being traded or sent down to the minor leagues.

    Now certainly, Bouton created more stress for himself because it wasn’t long before everyone in the clubhouse knew he was writing a book. He had a sneaking suspicion that the head office might not be all that happy to know he was keeping track of their activities, and the ball clubs antics, and the decisions that were being made behind the scenes. He had the normal ball players paranoia times ten.

    I have to admit it was fun coming home from work each day and spending some time with the Seattle Pilots. They might have been all too human, but they were certainly real. I have to hope that this book also had some positive impacts on professional baseball. I hope that clubs took a look at the drug use and the after hours carousing. I have a feeling a few wives had a few questions for their baseball playing husbands. Maybe even some ball players seeing themselves in this light, exposed (that would only be fair), made some changes to how they conducted themselves. This wasn’t the era of exorbitant salaries, but they were certainly making more than the average American who came to see them play. Whether they wanted to be or not, they were/are role models not only for kids, but for fans of all ages.

    Now, I have to go back to work. Anyone got a greenie?

    If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit

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  • Mel

    Loved this...sent it to my grandsons, both pitchers, and my son-in-law.

  • Tim Bernhardt

    Whenever you want to complain about how much baseball players are making, read this book about the times during the reserve clause when owners owned the rights to players in perpetuity. Jim Bouton was a young fireballer who was used as piece of meat by the Yankees then discarded a few seasons later when he blew out his arm. "Ball Four" follows his story a few years after that, when he is desperately trying to keep his major league career going by developing a knuckleball, a pitch his old-school

    Whenever you want to complain about how much baseball players are making, read this book about the times during the reserve clause when owners owned the rights to players in perpetuity. Jim Bouton was a young fireballer who was used as piece of meat by the Yankees then discarded a few seasons later when he blew out his arm. "Ball Four" follows his story a few years after that, when he is desperately trying to keep his major league career going by developing a knuckleball, a pitch his old-school manager and coaches distrust. The year is 1969, the team is the failed experiment that is the Seattle Pilots, and the hero is not the guy who wins the big game, but the guy who is filling out the roster. Bouton describes the game from a different point of view than what can be gleaned from the box scores or observed from the grandstand. In the clubhouse, brains and ballplayers don't mix, management treat players more like inventory than people, and the worst thing you can do is question any of it. Suffice to say, it's the perfect analogy for corporate drudgery.

  • MacK

    Sad to say, baseball nut that I am, this book stayed below my radar for years on end, when it finally became a known quantity in my life as a fan I viewed it as something rather like

    definitely on the reading list, just waiting for you to tackle it and be stunned.

    However, rarely does the book live up to the hype. I fully expected a gripping story full of mystery and wonder, wit and grace, evocative prose reliving the highs and lows of a season on the road. And in the course of

    Sad to say, baseball nut that I am, this book stayed below my radar for years on end, when it finally became a known quantity in my life as a fan I viewed it as something rather like

    definitely on the reading list, just waiting for you to tackle it and be stunned.

    However, rarely does the book live up to the hype. I fully expected a gripping story full of mystery and wonder, wit and grace, evocative prose reliving the highs and lows of a season on the road. And in the course of the novel Bouton certainly does have his moments of exalted eloquence, the single sentence: "sometimes I forget to tingle" alone is worth the read.

    Yet, most of the book is mundane, filled with the quotidian events in a season as a ballplayer. It's 162 games, it's months and months of your life, it's tiring, exhausting, spirit-crushing work (particularly if you're anything less than the greatest player ever), and Bouton chronicles that part of the season masterfully. The locker room banter, the minor fracases and major feuds, the games they play, the haggling with owners and executives, the women--my god--the women. And while much of the book is full of inside jokes, there's enough to amuse anyone and several insightful observations about the growing sentiment of anti-intellectualism in the 1960s. (Best of all, he hates the Yankees, how can any baseball fan (other than Yankees fans) not love the book when he hates the Yankees so much.)

    While I prefer my baseball literature in a more compelling, dramatic vein, I do appreciate the subtle graces and easy pleasures of a season with a washed up knuckle-ball pitcher with absurd philosophies and good dose of charm.

  • Derek Dowell

    Prior to 1970, the rule in baseball was you better not talk publicly about what the sport and its participants were really like in the clubhouse, on the field, and traveling from city to city. But then along came Jim Bouton. Once a flame-throwing, twenty-game winner and starting pitcher for the New York Yankees, Bouton lost his fastball and found himself working middle relief for the expansion Seattle Pilots, desperately trying to develop a knuckleball and taking notes about pro ball player shen

    Prior to 1970, the rule in baseball was you better not talk publicly about what the sport and its participants were really like in the clubhouse, on the field, and traveling from city to city. But then along came Jim Bouton. Once a flame-throwing, twenty-game winner and starting pitcher for the New York Yankees, Bouton lost his fastball and found himself working middle relief for the expansion Seattle Pilots, desperately trying to develop a knuckleball and taking notes about pro ball player shenanigans that would eventually be crafted into the book, Ball Four, which went on to be named one of the Greatest 100 Non-Fiction Books of All Time by Time Magazine.

    When Ball Four hit the shelves in 1970, it caused an instant uproar. Players, managers, coaches, and club executives couldn’t believe that one of their own had gone public with such a behind-the-scene tale of promiscuity, carousing, illicit drugs, and general all around jackassery. A similar book released today would draw barely a raised eyebrow, but jaded 21st century readers should remember that professional baseball players use to be looked upon by the general public as demigods who could do no wrong. Back then Mickey Mantle wasn’t a loudmouthed alcoholic but rather an all American boy from Oklahoma who could knock the cover off the ball.

    The baseball establishment came down hard on Bouton essentially for having the intestinal fortitude to tell the truth about pro baseball. He was quickly branded a traitor and “social leper.” With echoes of the Spanish Inquisition in the background, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn called Bouton into his office and tried to force him to recant the events portrayed in Ball Four, saying the publication of that nastiness was “detrimental to baseball.” No dice, Mr. Kuhn. There are some people you just can’t strong arm.

    These days, would the last person who still believes ballplayers are a breed apart please turn out the lights as you leave? This is no condemnation. They are simply human beings like the rest of us, with all the flaws, foibles, and stupidity that entails.

    Ball Four is presented in diary form, with Bouton providing day-by-day details of games, travel, minor-league demotions, and trades along the way. Written with real humor and skill by Bouton and accomplice, New York sportwriter Leonard Shecter, Ball Four dared to assert that players spent a large part of their time ogling women in the stands (called beaver shooting) and popping amphetamines in the clubhouse like candy.

    But perhaps the real power of the book comes from Bouton’s anxiety over making the transition from a true star who threw so hard his hat fell off with every pitch to a little-used reliever trying to master the unpredictable (to both pitcher and hitter) knuckleball and hang on to a job. As a lifelong sports fan who somehow reached the age of 44 having never read Ball Four – all I can say is the wait was worth it. Make no mistake, though, this book is for anyone who appreciates a glimpse behind the curtain to places where riff raff like us aren’t often invited.

    The updated version of Ball Four includes new material by Bouton tracing his move into middle age and beyond, and chronicles his comeback attempt with the Atlanta Braves, the loss of his daughter to a car wreck, the break-up of his first marriage, and an eventual acceptance of the fact that his aging body could no longer allow him to even pitch in local summer leagues for fun.

    Good stuff, Jimmy Bouton, good stuff.

  • Fred Shaw

    "Ball Four" is the April Baseball Book Club selection, author is Jim Bouton.

    Jim Bouton played professional baseball as a pitcher from 1962 to 1970. It's unheard of to have a pitcher play for that long, because of eventual and certain damage to a throwing arm. He played with and against some of the great players of the time: Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Stan Musial, Whitey Ford and lots more. The reason he lasted so long in the game was because of his one great pitch, the knucklebal

    "Ball Four" is the April Baseball Book Club selection, author is Jim Bouton.

    Jim Bouton played professional baseball as a pitcher from 1962 to 1970. It's unheard of to have a pitcher play for that long, because of eventual and certain damage to a throwing arm. He played with and against some of the great players of the time: Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Stan Musial, Whitey Ford and lots more. The reason he lasted so long in the game was because of his one great pitch, the knuckleball. The throwing motion for this pitch does not wreak havoc on your arm the way 100 mph fastballs, curves and sliders do. His book made him a legend among fans, but a pariah among some fellow players, coaches, team owners and last but not least, the commissioner of baseball, Bowie Kuhn.

    Every day he wrote in a journal about what happened during games, in the locker room, on buses to the next game, at hotels, etc. He told stories about players partying habits and their nocturnal excursions. He wrote about salary negotiations and trades. Not being on the receiving end, I didn't see the harm. I thought the stories were hilarious.

    Ball Four is written like a diary with some anecdotes and memories. The end of the book discusses his times and travels after playing. He was a sportscaster for example and entrepreneur. He met Ted Turner who gave a come back shot at playing again in th Atlanta Braves organization, and he did well pitching in his late thirties. He also discusses the aftermath of the book and how players would not speak to him. I enjoyed this part of the book best. He tells too of his personal life, divorce and the tragic loss of his beautiful 30 yr. old daughter, Laurie.

    Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" is one of the most widely read books on Baseball. Any sports fan would enjoy it.

  • Phil

    This review thing asks: "What did you think?" My answer: "Jim Bouton is full of shit."

    I try to refrain from using profanity in things like book reviews, but in this case, it is the only way to categorize it.

    Apparently, when this book was first released, it cause a big stir in the baseball community and in the fandom of America. Mostly, I can see why: it is boring, and Bouton takes all 400+ pages to whine about money, coaches, his knuckleball, wanting to start/pitch, and he relishes every opportu

    This review thing asks: "What did you think?" My answer: "Jim Bouton is full of shit."

    I try to refrain from using profanity in things like book reviews, but in this case, it is the only way to categorize it.

    Apparently, when this book was first released, it cause a big stir in the baseball community and in the fandom of America. Mostly, I can see why: it is boring, and Bouton takes all 400+ pages to whine about money, coaches, his knuckleball, wanting to start/pitch, and he relishes every opportunity to dish on how depraved every single big league ball player is.

    He also, with delight, flouted the stated motto that "what happens in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse" that governs baseball.

    And he continually acts surprised that fellow baseball players hated the book.

    Did I mention that this book is boring? The sections were divided up into days, all during the 1969 baseball season, and as each section was lifted from a diary, they were repetitive, and mostly filled with mind-numbing minutiae or strange anecdotes.

    On this site, and on the book itself, I've seen this "memoir" praised as "An American Classic" and "a book deep in the American vein" and "the funniest book". Uh huh. Perhaps in 1969 when the book had some shock value, maybe. Now? The book is as washed up as Jim Bouton has been his entire career.

    This book does nothing to advance the magic of baseball, or really tell about the ins and outs of baseball unless you want to believe that every player is a peeping tom that whines about money and when he gets to play next. Maybe that was baseball in 1969, but this is 2011 and this book should be forgotten.

    Save yourself the pain, read something else.

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