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Jim Bouton: The ballplayer
who changed the rules

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Posted By: Hazymac, 7/13/2019 12:43:25 PM

ST. PETERSBURG – Jim Bouton, pitcher, author, all-time baseball rebel, died Wednesday. He was 80. My bookshelves contain his masterpiece, between the Baseball Encyclopedia and The Boys of Summer, Roger Kahn’s moving elegy to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Ball Four. Bouton’s tell-all baseball memoir, published in 1970, remains the most important sports book ever written. It was one reason why I wanted to become a writer. It was so alive, full of insight and insanity — and fun. God, it was fun. I remember speaking to Bouton in 1998, when he had been invited back to Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium. “The Bulldog,” who won 21 games for the Yankees


Well worn paperback copies of Bouton's Ball Four and I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally were on my bookshelf during the early 1970s. Absolutely fascinating "inside baseball" (to coin a phrase). It's nice to know that Bouton and the Mick (my old hero) ended up on good terms. R.I.P., Jim.

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Reply 1 - Posted by: Lawsy0 7/13/2019 12:59:29 PM (No. 122452)
Good bye, Gentleman Jim.
6 people like this.

Reply 2 - Posted by: Hazymac 7/13/2019 1:19:44 PM (No. 122471)
You might remember Bouton's energetic fastball during his best several years with a classic Yankees squad. He threw the pitch so hard his ballcap used to come off his head on the follow through. He wore jersey #56 because he never wanted to lose touch with the high numbered players whose status on the team was never for certain. (What are the Yankees' retired numbers? 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16*. Not many low numbers are left for future Yankees. *Jeter, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, T. Munson, Ford) Some of the anecdotes were priceless. Ballplayers had themselves some good times. And some bad times. It was against unspoken team rules to laugh when the team was behind, but once a catcher caught a sinker on the cup--Ding dong!*--then crawled on all fours into the dugout, where he threw up. The manager was laughing so hard he had to take off his jacket and wipe his eyes. *Bouton described it as "ringing the bell, which rhymes with hell, which is what it hurts like." Once when the team bus was going over the Canadian border and a Canuck border agent came aboard the bus and asked Bouton what they were carrying onboard. The question struck him as ridiculous--he was a professional ballplayer--so he answered, "Guns and marijuana." Off the bus! Jim thought it was funny. Of course, they didn't have any guns or marijuana. Back in the day my favorite Major League commentators were Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese, who frequently covered the Yankees. It was a good time to be a kid.
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Reply 3 - Posted by: WV.Hillbilly 7/13/2019 1:34:45 PM (No. 122494)
One of my favorites is the harmonica incident, where Phil Linz was playing his harmonica on the bus after a tough loss. Yogi Berra told him to stop playing. Linz was seated in the back of the bus and couldn't hear Yogi, so he asked what he said. Mickey Mantle told Linz, "He said to play it louder. " Yogi was not amused. And then there's the whole interaction between Doug Rader and Jay Alou. Especially the birthday cake. Priceless. Very eye opening to me as an impressionable young baseball fan in the 70s.
5 people like this.

Reply 4 - Posted by: Italiano 7/13/2019 3:32:11 PM (No. 122573)
The funniest sports book I ever read not written by Dan Jenkins (the best and most consistent LOL writer who ever lived (RIP)). You could tell why Bouton was generally not that popular with teammates. A know-it-all liberal who didn't mind letting you know that he was smarter and more well-read than you. Not smart in a 60's-era locker room. RIP, Jim.
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Reply 5 - Posted by: DaddyO 7/13/2019 5:27:57 PM (No. 122664)
I don't want to say Mickey was drunk, but he spent about a half an hour trying to make a telephone call from a grandfather's clock. So he comes into the ballpark the following morning, and he's hungover. And the manager says, you know, sleep it off. Most managers were players themselves. They understand you come to the ballpark once in a while with a hangover. So Mick is sleeping in the trainer's room. We're playing the Minnesota Twins. We get - stick somebody else in the outfield. And so the game's going on, and it gets tie score after nine innings. And in about the 12th inning, the manager says, I hate to do it, but I need a pinch hitter in the 13th. Go in and wake up the Mick. So we go in the trainer's room, you know, wake up Mickey Mantle, dress him in his uniform, steer him through the tunnel up into the dugout. Thirteenth inning comes around - he put a bat in Mickey's hands and point him in the direction of home plate. The Mick staggers up to the plate. Fortunately, he's a switch hitter - doesn't matter what side he gets on - steps into the batter's box. To show you what a great athlete this guy was - and Mickey was the best ballplayer I ever saw - he takes one practice swing and hits the first pitch into the center field bleachers, a tremendous blast 450 feet away. We win the game. The crowd is going nuts, and the players are going crazy in the dugout. We're laughing and pointing and screaming and slapping each other on the back. And suddenly, it occurs to us he still has to round those bases. There's a rule in baseball that you must touch the bases in order. Fortunately, he heads off in the right direction. The minute he hits first base, the entire dugout goes, make a left - goes around, touches second, touches third, comes across, misses home plate - we have to send him back for that - comes over to the dugout. And, of course, the fans are giving him a standing ovation. And as he's waving to the crowd, he looks at us in the dugout, and he says, those people don't know how tough that really was. I went over to his locker afterwards, and I said, how did you do that? You couldn't even see up there. He said, it was very simple. I hit the middle ball. Jim Bouton
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Reply 6 - Posted by: Grounded 7/13/2019 6:44:45 PM (No. 122719)
The Yanks also retired Billy Martin's number one and Joe Torre's number six. There are no single digit uniform numbers left available. Bouton recounted that he wore a cap that was a couple of sizes too large so that it would fly off in order to distract the hitter. All that said, Ball Four was a hilarious book. I read it in college and it was a helluva lot more interesting than Paradise Lost. I recall Bouton becoming a pariah for violating the sanctity of the clubhouse after the book was published.
1 person likes this.

Reply 7 - Posted by: Rumblehog 7/13/2019 11:53:21 PM (No. 122864)
Gosh, I read "Ball Four" when it first came out. Certainly changed my opinion of professional baseball.
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