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Ball Four: My Life and Hard Times Throwing the Knuckleball in the Big Leagues (1970)

Tekijä: Jim Bouton

Muut tekijät: Leonard Schecter (Toimittaja)

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
1,4543912,839 (4.07)60
Biography & Autobiography. Sports & Recreations. Nonfiction. HTML:The 50th Anniversary edition of "the book that changed baseball" (NPR), chosen by Time magazine as one of the "100 Greatest Non-Fiction" books.

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. 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."

Today Ball Four has taken on another role??as a time capsule of life in the sixties. "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."
Includes a new foreword by Jim Bouton's wife, Paula Kurman
"An irreverent, best-selling book that angered baseball's hierarchy and changed the way journalists and fans viewed the sports world." ??The Washington
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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 39) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
I’ve recently gotten back into baseball for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me yet. It may have something to do with MLB’s recent rule changes making for a more exciting game, or the fact that my hometown Orioles are good again for the first time in what feels like forever. Baseball is the sport most prone to induce obsession. By that I don’t mean fanaticism - plenty of sports have fanatics, and I would venture to say others have more fanatics than baseball does. But there is something about the historical depth of baseball that attracts a certain type of person.

In a way, every game of baseball is a conversation with its history. It’s America’s oldest professional sport, and sometimes it really shows its age. On lists of the greatest players ever, there will be no shortage of those born in the 19th century. Everyday of the season, games are played in 100 year old stadiums. On TV, stat lines are constantly being compared to what came before. Trends are identified and analyzed with mathematical precision. Every few years a new type of stat is come up with, and it is used to reassess the entire history of the game. Innovations are rare, and are often views as heretical by a sizable portion of the players and fan base. Go to any ball game and you find some old timers keeping track of each at bat with a pencil and paper, despite the fact that every measure has long been digitalized down to the decimal point. If you just want to see some guys smash into each other or forum real fast, all of this is meaningless baggage. But if you are interested in data and history, reading about the game and its players can be as much of a pastime as the game itself.

I happen to fall into the latter camp. I was reading about one particularly interesting aspect of baseball history when I came across this book: the knuckleball. The knuckleball has an almost mystical aura, so much so that the men who have learned to use it are almost members of a secret society. In a league where the 100 mph fastball thrown with pinpoint precision is the platonic ideal, the knuckleball is an anomaly. It’s slow, inaccurate, and unpredictable, so much so that catchers have to practice catching it. The knuckleball’s cache lies in the fact that in a game where pattern recognition is everything, a certain degrees of randomness is an advantage. A knuckleball can move anywhere and any which way, and the average hitter simply doesn’t know how to respond.

This book, Ball Four, besides being seen as classic, is also an invaluable document of knuckleball pitching. In it Bouton documents his struggle with the Knuckle Goblin, a name I just made up for the force which rules whether a knuckleball will or won’t accomplish its goal. Bouton himself is constantly bewildered by what his chosen pitch decides to do. In a game so meticulously quantified and strategized, it’s things like the knuckleball that keep games from turning into a math equation.

Much praise has been lauded on this book as being the first of its kind, the first to break down the manicured artifice of the Major League player, the first to show what goes into the sausage so to speak. Though many are not keen to admit it, our sports are still a product for consumption, and the way that Bouton shows himself, his fellow players, and the league, isn’t flattering. You gotta admire the cahones on the guy: unlike lots of other tell alls, there is no anonymity granted here - he names names and shows receipts. It’s no surprise that he became persona non grata in the MLB after the book’s publication.

For works whose main attribute is being groundbreaking, it’s difficult to stand the test of time. What might have felt like revelations in Bouton’s time have long since permeated into the popular consciousness of how we view athletes in our culture. We no longer expect professional athletes to be upstanding role models, in fact we might anticipate the exact opposite. (I say that with no nostalgia- the point of Bouton’s book is that we never should have looked at our athletes that way ) Since the ground that was broken has long since be ground to dust, this book is robbed of a little bit of its power. There is also the question of Bouton’s prose - he was obviously a very good writer for being a baseball player, but that’s not a high standard. HIs prose is rather like his role in his team: respectable, hardworking, but not spectacular. This is a diary and feels like one. ( )
1 ääni hdeanfreemanjr | Jan 29, 2024 |
This 50th anniversary edition with several postscripts and an introduction by Bouton's second (and last) wife, will make you laugh and cry. You'll laugh at the baseball side, such as Bouton's teammate Mike Hegan saying it was hard to explain to his wife why she needed a shot of penicillin for his "kidney infection". You'll cry reading Bouton's emotional account of the death of his daughter in a car accident. At least you'll cry if you have any kids of your own. Throughout the book, you'll notice a few instances of Bouton perhaps overstating his accomplishments a wee bit, such as adding 1 to his number of victories in Savannah, but overall he comes across as smart, perceptive, and likable. The original Ball Four was as controversial for Bouton's out-of-step liberal political views as it was for revealing the less-than-heroic truths about players such as Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. It's clear that Bouton loved baseball, however, continuing to play it at some level as long as he was able. (I don't must mean the major and minor leagues, but playing for amateur teams as he aged.) Also, after reading about the cheapskate owners he encountered, you may not feel so bad about today's players' astronomical salaries. Or at least you can reason, as Bouton did, that it's less bad for the players to get all the money than for the owners to get it. In any case, this is highly recommended. If you're a baseball fan, be prepared to spend several hours looking up everyone who is mentioned on the baseball-reference website. It will give you a further appreciation for just how perilous and ephemeral a career in baseball could be. ( )
  datrappert | Jul 13, 2023 |
Jim Bouton’s classic and entertaining tell-all book made from his diary written during his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers) and the Houston Astros. There was a huge uproar when it was published - how dare he mention Mickey Mantle’s drinking!? - and Bouton was persona non grata especially with his old team the Yankees for many years, and for some he still is - just read the other reviews here. The book is, of course, about baseball, but it is also about Bouton’s coming to grips with his own inadequacies and, maybe, learning about the nature of workplace sociology. Because, to me, this book only happens to be set on a baseball team; the facts are familiar to anyone who works anywhere, and that is why it remains popular. In a sense Bouton plays an innocent who is shocked to discover that his boss is interested in his own job, not Bouton’s. He is angry that the team won’t pay him as much as he thinks he is worth. He is mad that middle management is incompetent and that they get their jobs because they don’t give the big boss a hard time. Well, that’s how it is and how it will be. The book’s success also owes something to the fact that it appeared around the time of the coming of free-agency in baseball - and serves as a reminder that the only power at the bottom is through organization. ( )
1 ääni markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
Eminent baseball analyst and Hall of Fame pitcher, David Cone, recently remarked during a broadcast that Jim Bouton's Ball Four was a great book and worthy of a re-read. He was right. This must be about the fourth time I've read it and each time it improves. This kindle edition includes an excellent preface and three follow-up booklets written ten, twenty, and thirty years after Ball Four. I had not read them before and they were well worth the price of this kindle edition.
Bouton's autobiographical account of his year with the Seattle Pilots, "the only (MLB) team to ever go bankrupt in the modern history of the game," had been regarded as controversial for many years: now, as Cone pointed out it is "quaint." The book is offers fascinating insights into baseball, is funny at times and sometimes heart wrenching. It is also instructive as to how to play a game and how to live a life. ( )
  RonWelton | Jun 29, 2021 |
It's hard to imagine how shocking this must have been back in the day since nothing like it had been written. I'm sure a lot of the players and other baseball personnel mentioned in the book weren't too pleased. What was shocking to me was how little the players were paid compared to the crazy salaries that are out there now. ( )
  kgramer | Mar 17, 2021 |
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Jim Boutonensisijainen tekijäkaikki painoksetlaskettu
Schecter, LeonardToimittajamuu tekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
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I signed my contract today to play for the Seattle Pilots at a salary of $22,000 and it was a letdown because I didn't have to bargain.
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (3)

Biography & Autobiography. Sports & Recreations. Nonfiction. HTML:The 50th Anniversary edition of "the book that changed baseball" (NPR), chosen by Time magazine as one of the "100 Greatest Non-Fiction" books.

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. 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."

Today Ball Four has taken on another role??as a time capsule of life in the sixties. "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."
Includes a new foreword by Jim Bouton's wife, Paula Kurman
"An irreverent, best-selling book that angered baseball's hierarchy and changed the way journalists and fans viewed the sports world." ??The Washington

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