Bouton’s Book Has Stood the Test of Time
By today's standards, it might be no big deal.
But when it was released, Jim Bouton's best seller "Ball Four" shook the sports and baseball world.
You know the old saying "what you see here, what you hear here, let it stay here when you leave here?
For the first time, the inside of a baseball locker room was fair game. So was the behavior of players during road trips. And, readers got to get an idea of what life was like with an expansion team.
Bouton passed away last week at the age of 80.
The Seattle Pilots lasted just one year, 1969, before moving to Milwaukee and becoming the Brewers. Bouton's book was part diary, part reminiscing and partly about his family. He was honest about all three. Some said too much so.
Bouton chronicled those days with the Pilots and his trade later that year to the Houston Astros, who were almost as bad back then as the Pilots were. I bet I've read "Ball Four" twenty times. The last time I read it, I laughed just as much as I did the first time I read it.
Former baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn tried to get Bouton to sign an affidavit saying it was a work of fiction. Bouton would have none of it. He was ostracized by the game for his honest, sometimes shocking (for the time) and frequently hilarious stories.
But it was the honest portrayal of life in baseball that had people talking.
We have lived through baseball's steroid era, but the use of amphetamines was commonplace back then. Imagine that...drug use in baseball goes back nearly a half century.
But it was Bouton's stories about the New York Yankees that drew the most ire. Today we know that the late Mickey Mantle burned the candle at both ends. He was a drinker. He was a carouser. Sportswriters knew it and turned the other way. Bouton did not. And, it would be more than 25 years before he would be invited back to Yankee Stadium for an Old-Timers Game.
Bouton's book, and the sequel "I'm Glad you Didn't Take it Personally" still resonate today.
I need to go back and read them again. It's been too long.
And, then, in the immortal words of Seattle manager Joe Schultz, I'll go pound some Budweiser.