Ball Four by Jim Bouton

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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 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.”

This ebook version of Ball Four includes the first edition, the 1980, 1990 and 2000 updates, and 138 photos.


Jim Bouton was born in Newark, NJ, in 1939. He grew up in Rochelle Park, a blue-collar town that was too small for Little League. The result was that kids learned to play baseball without uniforms, parents, coaches, or umpires.

In high school, his nickname was “warm up Bouton” because he never got into the games. Advised that becoming a major league pitcher was “unrealistic,” Bouton wrote his Careers Week report on the life of a forest ranger. He got a C on his report and an A on the cover--a nice drawing of a squirrel in a tree.

Bouton was an All-Star pitcher and won 20 games for the Yankees in 1963. The next year he won 18 games and beat the Cardinals twice in the World Series. Eventually a sore arm got him sold to the Seattle Pilots--for a bag of batting practice balls. That’s when he began taking notes for his diary Ball Four, published in 1970.

In the 1970s he was a top-rated TV sportscaster in New York City, acted in a Robert Altman film called The Long Goodbye, and made a brief comeback with the Atlanta Braves.

In 2003 Bouton wrote and self-published Foul Ball, a diary of his battle to save a historic ballpark in Pittsfied, MA. Bouton says he only writes when he’s bursting to say something. “Ball Four was a book I wanted to write,” he says. “Foul Ball was a book I had to write.

Today Bouton lives in a forest in western Massachusetts.

About Jim Bouton

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Jim Bouton, former major league pitcher, is now a writer, businessman, motivational speaker and ace pitcher for a semipro baseball team near his home in Teaneck, New Jersey.
Published March 20, 2012 by RosettaBooks. 400 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Arts & Photography, Sports & Outdoors, Education & Reference, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Ball Four

Kirkus Reviews

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First published a decade ago, Bouton's day-by-day report on a long season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros became the best-selling baseball book of all time--and the progenitor of a candid, even blasphemous new breed of sports chronicles.

Apr 16 1981 | Read Full Review of Ball Four

Kirkus Reviews

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Thus from training in Arizona to an undistinguished start with the Seattle Pilots, sent back to Vancouver (""I died tonight""), back to Seattle and finally to the Astros--it wasn't a comeback year and it wasn't much to make it an ""ego trip"" which is why he hopes to go on playing.

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When Bouton wrote the book he was blackballed out of baseball, the Commissioner tried to strong-arm him into apologizing and saying the book was false and numerous players held grudges against him for years and still do to this day.

Mar 09 2010 | Read Full Review of Ball Four

Bleacher Report

Then the book shifts to the 1969 baseball season as Bouton struggles to make the Seattle Pilots pitching staff showing how far his career had regressed after winning 46 games for the Yankees in his first three seasons.

Dec 06 2009 | Read Full Review of Ball Four

The Paris Review

When asked afterward what he was thinking about during his do-or-die at-bat in the tenth inning, Berkman simply replied, “Nothing.” This answer reinforced a central point in David Foster Wallace’s essay “How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart”: It is not an accident that great athletes are often call...

Oct 25 2012 | Read Full Review of Ball Four

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