I have been texting a few people over the past hour about the death of Jim Bouton. I had read several years ago that he was suffering from a degenerative brain disease but his death, as death always does, came as a shock. His Ball Four was so much more than a “sports book” or tell-all, but really one of the great memoirs of its time. Published in 1970, Ball Four was part of the zeitgeist of the moment. As I told a friend earlier, I always loved the way Bouton stood tall against the likes of Mickey Mantle and Bowie Kuhn. At the end of the day there was nothing the Baseball Establishment could say or do. They knew it was true. And the truth has a value all its own.
I could go on talking about Bouton but instead will give him the last word. As the pitcher said in Ball Four’s closing line:
“You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”
(image/Baseball Digest, August 1963)