“Ball Four!” Baseball’s Most Controversial – And Best – Book!

best baseball book ever written

As we head into Major League Baseball’s 2017 season, here is one of the great quotes about the game:

“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.”

Jim Bouton

Meet Jim Bouton!

Have you met former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton? He won 39 games in 1963 and 1964 for the Yanks…and was considered one of their “players of the future…”

Jim Bouton was also a gifted writer, and he wrote that quote I just shared about his love of baseball….

Best baseball book of all time Ball Four

Jim Bouton also wrote the greatest book ever published about life in the big leagues…the most explosive bestseller of its time – which tore the cover off of the game and revealed the secrets inside the bullpen…the classic baseball book:

“Ball Four!”

ball four book

“Ball Four” is baseball player Jim Bouton’s diary of his 1969 season with the expansion Seattle Pilots. “Ball Four” was written during that season by Bouton, a knuckleball pitcher trying to get his career back on track.

Jim Bouton Seattle Pilots

Bouton decided to keep a diary as he documented his effort to make a comeback following arm surgery. After a couple of years in the minor leagues, Bouton perfected a knuckleball pitch and was trying to make it again in the big leagues.


The Controversial Mickey Mantle Story!

As part of his diary, Bouton also wrote about his years on The New York Yankees, and shared a story about the time superstar Mickey Mantle went go to bat suffering from a massive hangover. Mantle hit a home run, rounded the bases then collapsed in the dugout saying:

“They have no idea how hard that was.”

Mickey Mantle and JIm bouton best baseball anecdote

Today, that’s a funny anecdote. When “Ball Four” was published, it was a scandalous story: how dare Bouton accuse Mickey Mantle of EVER playing hung over! It was just one of many hilariously honest stories that made the book so controversial.

Bouton also wrote about life on the road – a subject never talked about before…
here is another anecdote that offered an inside look at life on the road – especially the “groupies” who shacked up with players when they were away from home:

“Right before the plane landed the guys were telling stories about how much we’d been getting on the road. And as we were getting ready to leave the plane and dash into the loving arms of our waiting wives, Pagliaroni said, very loud, “Okay, all you guys, act horny.”

best baseball book ever ball four

The Seattle Pilots!

What’s amazing is that Bouton wrote about his comeback effort on a new expansion team…an expansion team in the city I grew up in: the Seattle Pilots! Here is the headline from the Seattle P-I when the team joined major league baseball:

Seattle Pilots newspaper

The Seattle Pilots logo

The Seattle Pilots????

What? You’ve never heard of the Seattle Pilots? Well, that could be because they lasted ONE SINGLE SEASON! That’s right, here is the picture of the one and only Seattle Pilots team in 1969:

The 1969 Seattle Pilots

The team moved to Milwaukee after a single season and became the Brewers – and they fled Seattle on April 1, 1970 – April Fool’s Day! So “Ball Four” also serves as the only legacy the team has…and the city’s reaction to baseball is part of the texture of the narrative…

ball four book

“Ball Four” is an insider’s look at life playing professional baseball – and it is also one of the funniest books ever written. Here is Bouton recounting his pitching effort in one game, as he faced a batter:

“I decided to sneak a fast ball by him. He snuck it over the fence…”

Bouton documented a crazy year in our country’s history – it was a time of Vietnam protests, racial unrest and the sexual revolution – and his book captured it all from the dugout!


The “Ball Four” Controversy!

You have to understand: at the time “Ball Four” was published, NOTHING like this was ever made public before! The “code of silence” in sports kept the escapades out of the public view. Major League Baseball was outraged when the book first came out in 1970. Many players and baseball executives considered Bouton a turncoat. But the years have shown that Ball Four was a groundbreaking book – and the best baseball book ever written…

Quotes from the book:

Here are a couple of hilarious passages from “Ball Four” – the first one tells the story of a new player joining the team:

“Jim Pagliaroni joined the club tonight and is going to be a welcome addition. He was describing a girl that one of the ballplayers had been out with and said, “It’s hard to say exactly what she looked like. She was kind of Joe Torre with tits.” This joke can only be explained with a picture of Joe Torre. But I’m not sure any exist. He dissolves camera lenses.”

That would be, of course, baseball manager Joe Torre…here’s Torre as a player….

joe torre baseball card

The subject of baseball groupies permeates the book as well. As he wrote:

“A young girl asked one of the guys in the bullpen if he was married. “Yeah,” he said, “but I’m not a fanatic about it.”

ball four book

And here are two more funny stories from the book:

Looking For Mike Marshall!

During the game a guy came down from the stands to the dugout and said to Mike Marshall, “Hey, is Mike Marshall in the dugout? I’m a good friend of his.”
“No, he’s not down here,” Mike Marshall said. “Maybe he’s in the bullpen.”
The fellow went off to look.

Pound Some Budweiser!

Joe Schultz, The Seattle Pilots manager is not like Sal (Maglie, Pilots’ pitching coach) with the pitchers. Gelnar was telling us about this great conversation he had with Joe on the mound. There were a couple of guys on and Tom Matchick was up. “Any particular way you want me to pitch him, Joe?” Gelnar asked.

“Nah, fuck him,” Joe Schultz said. “Give him some low smoke and we’ll go and pound some Budweiser.”

Jim Bouton Ball Four

“Pound Some Budweiser, Indeed!”

The book was full of instant classic lines, like when Bouton revealed that the team used to sneak up to the roof of their hotel while on the road and engage in what they called “beaver shooting”, peering into hotel windows to catch women undressing…

There are a few different editions of the book, where Bouton reveals reaction to the book and offers new updated information about his life after the book was published….even better is this terrific news story:

ESPN did a story on “Ball Four”! Check out this great story from Sportscenter!

ball four book

You can also order an autographed copy of the book by going to Bouton’s website at:


He’s written several other nonfiction books as well – he’s a great writer!

“Ball Four” is honest, profane, hilarious and brilliant. As Bouton said himself:

“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.”

Jim Bouton Ball Four

Here’s one last piece of trivia: Jim Bouton acted for awhile after retiring from baseball, and has a role in Robert Altman’s masterpiece “The Long Goodbye”.

Jim Bouton in The Long Goodbye

“The Long Goodbye” was Altman’s riff on classic Raymond Chandler, with Elliot Gould playing the role made famous by Humphrey Bogart…it’s worth checking out!

Robert Altman The Long Goodbye

Categories: Books / Media, Film Noir, Great Films, Movies, New York, Obscure Movies, Sports, Talent/Celebrities, Uncategorized

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7 replies


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  3. McCartney Over Seattle! Wings Fly High At The Kingdome! | Music Platter
  4. The NFL Legend Of “Broadway Joe” Namath! Super Bowl’s Biggest Shocker! Sexy NFL Movie Star! NFL Legend! | johnrieber
  5. Pitcher/Author/Actor Jim Bouton Shocker! “Ball Four” Writer Has Brain Disease! – johnrieber
  6. RIP Jim Bouton – Great Pitcher And “Ball Four” Author Wrote The Best Sports Book Ever… – johnrieber

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