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Jim Bouton
Born: March 8, 1939 (1939-03-08) (age 70)
Newark, New Jersey
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
April 22, 1962 for the New York Yankees
Last MLB appearance
September 29, 1978 for the Atlanta Braves
Career statistics
Win-Loss record     62-63
Earned run average     3.57
Strikeouts     720
Career highlights and awards

James Alan Bouton (born March 8, 1939 in Newark, New Jersey, United States) is a former Major League Baseball player, and author of the controversial baseball book Ball Four, which was a combination diary of his 1969 season and memoir of his years with the New York Yankees, Seattle Pilots, and Houston Astros.


Amateur and college career

While attending high school in Chicago Heights, Illinois, Bouton was nicknamed "Warm-Up Bouton" because he never got to play in a game, serving much of his time as a benchwarmer. Jerry Colangelo, future owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns, was the ace of that Bloom High School staff. In summer leagues, Bouton did not throw particularly hard, but got batters out by mixing conventional stuff with the knuckleball that he had experimented with since childhood. Bouton played baseball while he attended Western Michigan University before he played professionally. He was a member of Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity at WMU.

Professional career

Bouton started his major league career in 1962 with the Yankees, where his tenacity earned him the nickname "Bulldog." He also came to be known for his cap flying off his head at the completion of his delivery to the plate, as well as for his uniform number 56, a number usually assigned in spring training to players designated for the minor leagues (Bouton later explained that he had been assigned the number in 1962 when he was promoted to the Yankees, and wanted to keep it as a reminder of how close he had come to not making the ball club. He wore number 56 throughout most of his major league career). Bouton appeared in 36 games during the 1962 season, including 16 starts, and had a win-loss record of 7-7. While he did not play in the Yankees' 1962 World Series victory over the San Francisco Giants, he had been slated to start game 7. When the game was postponed a day because of rain, though, star Ralph Terry pitched instead. In Bouton's subsequent two seasons, he won 21 and 18 games and appeared in the 1963 All Star Game. He was 2-1 with a 1.48 ERA in World Series play.

Bouton's frequent use by the Yankees during these years (in 1964 he led the league with 37 starts) probably contributed to his subsequent arm troubles. In 1965, an arm injury slowed his fastball and ended his status as a pitching phenomenon. Relegated mostly to bullpen duty, Bouton began to throw the knuckleball again, in an effort to lengthen his career. By 1968, Bouton was a reliever for the minor league Seattle Angels.

In October 1968, he joined a committee of American sportsmen who traveled to the 1968 Summer Olympics, in Mexico City, to protest the involvement of apartheid South Africa. Around the same time, sportswriter Leonard Shecter—who had befriended Bouton during his time with the Yankees—approached him with the idea of writing and publishing a season-long diary. Bouton, who had taken some notes during the 1968 season after having a similar idea, readily agreed.

This was by no means the first baseball diary. Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jim Brosnan had written two such books, about his 1959 and 1961 seasons, called The Long Season and Pennant Race respectively. Those books were much more open than the typical G-rated and ghost-written athletes' "diaries", a literary technique dating at least as far back as Christy Mathewson. Brosnan had also encountered some resistance. Joe Garagiola made a point in his own autobiography, Baseball Is a Funny Game, to criticize Brosnan for writing them. But Bouton's effort would become much more widely known, debated and discussed.


Ball Four

Bouton chronicled his 1969 season with a frank, no-holds-barred insider's look at a professional sports team which he eventually named Ball Four. The backdrop for the book was the Seattle Pilots' one and only operating season. Unlike previous sports tomes, Ball Four named names and made no attempt to protect the innocent or the guilty. Bouton did this by writing about the way a professional baseball team actually interacts; not only the heroic game-winning home runs, but also the petty jealousies (of which Bouton had a special knowledge), the obscene jokes, the drunken tomcatting of the players, and the routine drug use, including by Bouton himself.

Upon its publication, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn called Ball Four "detrimental to baseball," and tried to force Bouton to sign a statement saying that the book was completely fictional. Bouton, however, refused to deny any of Ball Four's revelations. Many of Bouton's teammates never forgave him for publicly airing what he had learned in private about their flaws and foibles. The book made Bouton unpopular with many players, coaches, and officials on other teams as well, as they felt he had betrayed the long-standing rule: "What you see here, what you say here, what you do here, let it stay here."

Although his comments on Mickey Mantle's lifestyle and excesses make up only a few pages of the text, it was those very revelations that spawned most of the book's notoriety, and provoked Bouton's essential blacklisting from baseball. Oddly, what was forgotten in the furor is that Bouton mostly wrote of Mantle in almost reverential tones. One of the book's seminal moments is when Bouton describes his first win as a Yankee: when he entered the clubhouse, he found Mantle laying a "red carpet" of towels leading directly to his locker in Bouton's honor.


Bouton retired midway through the 1970 season after the Astros sent him down to the minor leagues. He immediately became a local sports anchor for New York station WABC-TV, as part of Eyewitness News; he later held the same job for WCBS-TV. Bouton also became an actor, playing the part of "Terry Lennox" in Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973), plus the lead role in the 1976 CBS television series Ball Four, which was loosely adapted from the book. The TV show was canceled after a few episodes. By this time a cult audience saw Ball Four as a candid and comic portrayal of the ups and downs of baseball life. Bouton went on the college lecture circuit, delivering humorous talks on his experiences.

Bouton and his first wife, Bobbie (they divorced in the '80s) had two children together, Michael and Laurie (who was killed in a car accident at age 31 in 1997). They adopted a Korean orphan, Kyong Jo, who was renamed David at the boy's own request. Bouton's ex-wife teamed up with Nancy Marshall, the former wife of pitcher Mike Marshall, to write a tell-all book called Home Games. Bouton is now married to Paula Kurman. [1].


The urge to play baseball would not leave him. He launched his comeback bid with the Class A Portland Mavericks in 1975, compiling a 5-1 record. He skipped the 1976 season to work on the TV series, but returned to the diamond in 1977 when Bill Veeck signed him to a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox. Bouton was winless for a White Sox farm club; a stint in the Mexican League and a return to Portland followed.

Bouton's quest to return to the majors might have ended there, but in 1978 Ted Turner signed him to a contract with the Atlanta Braves. After a successful season with the Savannah Braves (AA), he was called up to join Atlanta's rotation in September, and compiled a 1-3 record in five starts. His winding return to the majors was chronicled in a book by sportswriter Terry Pluto, The Greatest Summer. Bouton also detailed his comeback in a 10th anniversary re-release of his first book, titled Ball Four Plus Ball Five, as well as adding a Ball Six, updating the stories of the players in Ball Four, for the 20th anniversary edition. All were included (in 2000) as Ball Four: The Final Pitch, along with a new coda that detailed the death of his daughter and his reconciliation with the Yankees.

After his return to the majors, Bouton continued to pitch at the semi-pro level for a Bergen County, New Jersey team called the Teaneck Merchants. He also pitched for several other teams in the Metropolitan Baseball League in northern New Jersey.

Once his baseball career ended a second time, Bouton became one of the inventors of "Big League Chew," a shredded bubblegum designed to resemble chewing tobacco and sold in a tobacco-like pouch. He also co-authored Strike Zone (a baseball novel) and edited an anthology about managers, entitled I Managed Good, But Boy Did They Play Bad. His most recent book is Foul Ball (published 2003) a non-fiction account of his (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to save Wahconah Park, a historic minor league baseball stadium in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Vindication and reconciliation

Although Bouton had never been officially declared persona non grata by the Yankees or any other team as a result of Ball Four's revelations, he was excluded from most baseball-related functions, including Old-Timers' Games. It was rumored that Mickey Mantle himself had told the Yankees that he would never attend an Old-Timers' Game to which Bouton was invited (a charge Mantle subsequently denied, especially during a lengthy answering-machine message to Bouton after Mantle's son Billy had died of cancer in 1994 - Mantle was acknowledging a condolence card Bouton had sent). Things changed in June 1998, when Bouton's oldest son Michael wrote an eloquent Father's Day open letter to the Yankees which was published in the New York Times. In it, Michael described the agony of his father following the August 1997 death of Michael's sister Laurie at age 31. By juxtaposing the story of Yogi Berra's self-imposed exile with that of his father's de facto banishment, Michael created a scenario where not only were the Yankees placed under public pressure to invite his father back, but the article paved the road to reconciliation between Yankee owner George Steinbrenner and Berra.

In July 1998, Jim Bouton, sporting his familiar number 56, received a standing ovation when he took the mound at Yankee Stadium. He has since become a regular fixture at Yankee Old-Timer's Games.


  • Ball Four has been through numerous significantly revised editions, the most recent being Ball Four: The Final Pitch, Bulldog Publishing. (April 2001), ISBN 0-9709117-0-X.
  • I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally
  • I Managed Good, But Boy Did They Play Bad -- edited and annotated by Bouton, compiled by Neil Offen.
  • Foul Ball, Bulldog Publishing. (June 2003), ISBN 0-9709117-1-8.
  • Strike Zone, Signet Books. (March 1995), ISBN 0-451-18334-7 (with Eliot Asinof).


Bouton was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1972 for George McGovern, according to the film "One Bright Shining Moment".


  • "You see, 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."
  • "This winter (1977) I'm working out every day, throwing against a wall. I'm 11-0 against the wall."
  • "For a hundred years the owners screwed the players. For 25 years the players have screwed the owners - they've got 75 years to go."

All quotes may be found in Ball Four: The Final Pitch


External links


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