Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ball Four By Jim Bouton

In May, I finished reading Ball Four by Jim Bouton. Probably one of the most famous baseball books of all times, I had never read it. I brought Ball Four and The Game after reading The Sports Book Hall of Fame article on the Grantland website last July. It was the second book in a row that I read as an ebook in the kindle app on my iPad.

Although I didn't know it when I started reading it, the book is a diary of Bouton's 1969 season with Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros. It is the only season that the Seattle Pilots existed; the team moved to Milwaukee for the 1970 season.  In an odd coincidence, Jack actually brought a Seattle Pilots cap shortly before I started reading the book.

Bouton played parts of 10 seasons in the major leagues with the Yankees, Pilots, Astros and Braves. He was on the 1961 and 1962 Yankees teams with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris that won the World Series. By 1969, he was no longer a young pitching phenomenon, but an older relief pitcher trying to survive with a knuckleball.

The diary is a very naked look at the life of a professional baseball player. It portrays the struggles, insecurity, doubts, triumphs, tedium and shenanigans in a frank fashion. Compared to Dryen's biography, The Game, Four Ball is written in a very simple style. It feels like almost anyone could have sat down and written the book.

The book also included three subsequent chapters: Ball Five, Ball Six and Ball Seven. These chapters chronicle Bouton's life after Ball Four was published. While I respect his trials and tribulations, I didn't enjoy these chapters as much as the original book.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and recommend it. The one thing that struck me was how much the players enjoyed playing baseball in spite of everything that was going on around them.

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