A Sad Day For Sports Fans – And Fans Of GREAT Memoirs!
Jim Bouton, whose groundbreaking book Ball Four was one of the first tell-all books in sports, has died at age 80. He passed today in Massachusetts from a brain disease linked to dementia.
“You spend a good piece of his life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.” – Jim Bouton
I grew up in Seattle, and in a city that for man-years had NO major league teams, there was the legendary pro baseball team, The Seattle Pilots – who only lasted one season – 1969 – before moving to Milwaukee to become the Brewers…a black eye on the sport…
Luckily for Seattle sports fans, former Yankee Pitcher Jim Bouton wrote a diary about his year with the expansion Seattle Pilots, as he was trying to make a comeback in baseball.
The result is the greatest sports book ever written – that also happened to be a “history” of the team, which moved to Milwaukee after a single season – on April Fools Day!
The Brilliant “Ball Four!”
This candid book about major league baseball tore the cover off the sport – this was a time when there were NO “tell-all” books about sports…but Bouton was honest, acerbic, candid and revealing.
Mickey Mantle’s Hangover Home Run!
Baseball fans were outraged when Bouton revealed that the great Mickey Mantle once hit a home run after a night of binge-drinking – his hangover was massive, and after he rounded the bases he went into the dugout and said, “they’ll never know how tough that was.”
Tragic News About Bouton Revealed:
Bouton was always honest about his life – and The New York Times had published a poignant and honest story about the Pitcher’s recent stroke – and the news that he has revealed that he is locked in a losing battle with brain disease:
The NY Times story was beautifully written – and very sad – here is an excerpt, beginning as the Reporter visited Bouton at his home:
“It is good for Bouton to have company, said his wife, Paula Kurman, who has a doctorate in interpersonal communications from Columbia. They have been married for 35 years and have lived here for more than 20, among the foxes and black bears, surrounded by pine trees. A cloud might roll by, straight through the screened-in porch, and there are no other homes in sight. Their children are grown and live elsewhere.
Bouton had a stroke five years ago this Aug. 15. They know the date because it was the 15th anniversary of the death of Bouton’s daughter, Laurie, in a car accident.”
“The body knows, you know?” Kurman said, softly. “The body knows.”
The wife’s candid comment sets up the latest bad news to hit Bouton:
“Bouton’s body was largely unaffected by the stroke. But his mind, the one whose pointed and poignant observations produced the classic memoir “Ball Four” in 1970, will never be the same. This weekend in New York, at the convention for the Society of American Baseball Research, Bouton went public about his brain disease: cerebral amyloid angiopathy, which is linked to dementia.”
Ultimately, Bouton lost his battle…but he left us with some great writing about a sport he loved.
As I said, “Ball Four” tore the cover off of baseball when it was published – and it’s hilariously self-deprecating as well – as when Bouton finds out the Pilots traded him to Houston for Pitcher Dooley Womack.
“Wait – THE DOOLEY WOMACK??!?!?!?”
Bouton also writes about trying to sneak a fast ball by one hitter and the result:
“He snuck it over the fence.”
Here is a look at this book, and the fallout that followed its release:
Bouton also did acting, like the great Robert Altman take on “The Long Goodbye” – check out this classic movie poster, which references Bouton and his baseball book:
Altman’s updated take on the Raymond Chandler novel is a quirky masterpiece, starring Elliott Gould. The movie was filmed in one of LA’s great locations: the famous Hollywood Hightower:
See more about the film – and this iconic location – here:
We lost a great Pitcher, Author and Actor – as well as an Activist and all around great guy.
RIP Jim Bouton…