Ball Four

by Jim Bouton

Ball Four

Paperback, 472 pages, John Wiley & Sons Inc, List Price: $15.95 | purchase

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Ball Four
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Jim Bouton

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Book Summary

The diary of a major league baseball player during one season reveals the game's venal and foolish aspects

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NPR stories about Ball Four

New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton holds two balls that his teammates hope will lead them to victory in the 1964 World Series. AP hide caption

itoggle caption AP

Three Books...

These Three Gentleman Jocks Rock At Writing

Jim Bouton's Ball Four was among the first books authored by a gentleman jock to break the code of the locker room. The scandalous revelations of players and coaches using amphetamines, dope, and alcohol made Bouton a pariah among his peers. It is also a compelling account of a man facing the pain of promise unfulfilled (What Happens to a Dream Deserted could be the subtitle). Bouton is a man in transition: an all-star by age 24, injuries have slowed his fastball and

Jon Reiner

Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Ball Four

May 21

Today Mr. Small came out to the outfield where the pitchers were running and said, "Gentlemen, from now on we can all run with our hats off. It's really silly for us to run with our hats on, because the band gets all sweaty and ruins the hat."

"How come you weren't able to think of that a few weeks ago?" I asked him.

"Well, it wasn't as warm then and we weren't sweating at the same rate we are now."

Oh.

We've been running short of greenies. We don't get them from the trainer, because greenies are against club policy. So we get them from players on other teams who have friends who are doctors, or friends who know where to get greenies. One of our lads is going to have a bunch of greenies mailed to him by some of the guys on the Red Sox. And to think you can spend five years in jail for giving your friend a marijuana cigarette.

There's a zany quality to Joe Schultz that we all enjoy and that contributes, I believe, to keeping the club loose. Last night he got thrown out of a ballgame for the first time after disputing a home run that everybody knew was foul except the umpires. But that's not what he got thrown out for. He got thumbed out for offering the plate umpire his glasses, a very obvious gesture, which I enjoyed all the way out in the bullpen.

On the bench he's always saying all kinds of silly things. Like the other night when we scored six runs in the eleventh and the Red Sox scored five in the bottom half, he said, "Had them all the way." He gives a countdown on the outs when we're ahead. "Only eight outs to go—oops, only seven." And he's running up and down the dugout and jumping around like a little kid. At the same time he's letting Harper run on his own and letting the guys hit and run, and he doesn't get angry when they get thrown out stealing. It makes for a comfortable ballclub.

The knuckleball is groovy and still I can't get into a game. Tonight they could have put me in early with a 4–0 lead and Brabender pitching in a lot of trouble. They warmed me up, which means they're now thinking of me as a long man, which isn't a very good sign because there aren't many chances for a long man to get into a game when it matters. When they need short relief, both Segui and O'Donoghue get into the game.

Intellectually, I can understand Schultz's thinking. He has a lot of confidence in Segui, who was a top reliever last year, and O'Donoghue is his left-handed relief man and does pretty well against left-handers. Still, it gets me angry when the phone rings and it's not for me. After a while I cool off and think how I would have felt about the position I'm in now while I was with Vancouver, or in spring training, when I wasn't sure I was going to make the team. Also, the team is managing very well without me. We're playing heads-up ball. The guys on the bench are alive, and when the other team makes a mental error we take advantage of it right away. We're hitting the hell out of the ball, and we're even getting the breaks, which is part of it too. Besides, California is losing a lot of games, and what I see again in the crystal ball is third place.

What I also see in my crystal ball is that I'm the only guy in the big leagues who may finish behind his team. I was so embarrassed tonight I wanted to go off and join a monastery. We had the voting for player rep. Bell handled the meeting so well that it was impossible not to vote for him. Good for him. He'll enjoy driving the free car this summer, at least until he's traded.

The team doesn't take voting for player rep seriously. If it did Mike Marshall would have been elected. He's the most qualified guy on the club; bright, well read, knows a lot about the pension plan and is just the man for persistence and the paperwork. (Like he handled the shipping of our cars without a hitch and no fuss.) Except that he wasn't even nominated, because the vote for player rep is more of a popularity contest.

Which doesn't say much for me. Don Mincher, Tommy Harper and I were nominated for assistant. Tommy got six votes, Mincher got seventeen. I got one. I couldn't even break my Yankee record. I shudder to think what would happen if I wasn't trying to be one of the boys. I seem to be bearing up well under all of this. Inside, though, I'm a mess.

From Ball Four by Jim Bouton. Copyright 2012 RosettaBooks. Excerpted by permission of RosettaBooks.

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