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Ball Four

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  13,182 Ratings  ·  528 Reviews
Twentieth-anniversary edition of a baseball classic, with a new epilogue by Jim Bouton.

When first published in 1970, Ball Four stunned the sports world. The commissioner, executives, and players were shocked. Sportswriters called author Jim Bouton a traitor and "social leper." Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn tried to force him to declare the book untrue. Fans, however, lo
Paperback, 504 pages
Published July 1st 1990 by Wiley (first published January 1st 1970)
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Moneyball by Michael LewisBall Four by Jim BoutonThe Boys of Summer by Roger KahnShoeless Joe by W.P. KinsellaThe Natural by Bernard Malamud
Best Baseball Books
2nd out of 473 books — 519 voters
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Top reads for sports fans
7th out of 604 books — 601 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Feb 29, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball
“A ballplayer spends 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.”

 photo Jim20Bouton_zpsj686qsd2.jpg
Why you looking at me that way, BOWton?

This is probably the most controversial book and the most honest book ever written about baseball. It is interesting how the words honest and controversial seem to travel together like a Harley Davidson with a sidecar. Jim Bouton won two World Series games in 1964 with the New York Yankees, but in 1965 he developed a
Aug 04, 2011 John rated it it was amazing
Ball Four might be the greatest baseball book ever written! Correction, Ball Four might be the greatest sports book ever written. What Bouton accomplished with Ball Four was to tear the cover off of professional sports by exposing the tangled core underneath the canned responses to interviews, the hagiography of sports heroes, and the mundane existence of living out of a suitcase for six months. The haloed Yankees hated this book as it painted their hero Mickey Mantle as less than a shining lig ...more
Will Byrnes
Oct 26, 2008 Will Byrnes rated it it was amazing
This is one of the seminal shoot beaver and tell books. It opened up the field for sportswriters to come and got Bouton into a fair bit of trouble. It is a must-read for its look at the Yankees of Mantle and Maris days, showing them as the very human people they were. A classic of it's genre.
Diane Ayres
Apr 05, 2008 Diane Ayres rated it it was amazing
I read it because it was most often cited as the favorite book of so many guys I knew who came of age in the '70s. Much to my surprise, I loved it. Jim Bouton is a Wit. It's a an amusing, as well instructive, narrative on the mid-20th Century psyche of the American male, which continues to influence our culture (and politics) to this day. Frankly, it gave me more useful insight into "guys" than anything I've ever read. And it makes the perfect bar mitzvah gift: totally delights the boys and terr ...more
Feb 18, 2011 Phil rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review thing asks: "What did you think?" My answer: "Jim Bouton is full of shit."

I try to refrain from using profanity in things like book reviews, but in this case, it is the only way to categorize it.

Apparently, when this book was first released, it cause a big stir in the baseball community and in the fandom of America. Mostly, I can see why: it is boring, and Bouton takes all 400+ pages to whine about money, coaches, his knuckleball, wanting to start/pitch, and he relishes every opportu
Derek Dowell
May 25, 2012 Derek Dowell rated it really liked it
Prior to 1970, the rule in baseball was you better not talk publicly about what the sport and its participants were really like in the clubhouse, on the field, and traveling from city to city. But then along came Jim Bouton. Once a flame-throwing, twenty-game winner and starting pitcher for the New York Yankees, Bouton lost his fastball and found himself working middle relief for the expansion Seattle Pilots, desperately trying to develop a knuckleball and taking notes about pro ball player shen ...more
Apr 26, 2009 MacK rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, baseball
Sad to say, baseball nut that I am, this book stayed below my radar for years on end, when it finally became a known quantity in my life as a fan I viewed it as something rather like Great Expectations definitely on the reading list, just waiting for you to tackle it and be stunned.

However, rarely does the book live up to the hype. I fully expected a gripping story full of mystery and wonder, wit and grace, evocative prose reliving the highs and lows of a season on the road. And in the course of
Tim Bernhardt
Jul 19, 2007 Tim Bernhardt rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who loves baseball
Whenever you want to complain about how much baseball players are making, read this book about the times during the reserve clause when owners owned the rights to players in perpetuity. Jim Bouton was a young fireballer who was used as piece of meat by the Yankees then discarded a few seasons later when he blew out his arm. "Ball Four" follows his story a few years after that, when he is desperately trying to keep his major league career going by developing a knuckleball, a pitch his old-school ...more
Brad Lyerla
May 22, 2016 Brad Lyerla rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Jim Bouton had been a talented young right-handed pitcher for the Yankees in the early 60s. He enjoyed two sterling seasons as a starter in New York’s rotation in ’63 and ’64. He is probably best known for winning two games for New York in the ’64 World Series against the Cardinals.

Although the Yanks lost the Series that year, Bouton performed well and received much acclaim for winning both of his games and the second one mostly on guts without his best stuff. But he flamed out badly the next s
Kathy Hay
Apr 18, 2014 Kathy Hay rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: eveyone
Recommended to Kathy by: NPR
I'm not a baseball fan, but early this year I heard a brief interview with Jim Bouton and there was something about him that caught my attention - perhaps his voice (you can hear his smile in his voice), perhaps it was his word choice or maybe it was his humor. Regardless, something got to me and I sought out this book. I had a choice between reading it and listening and, because it was read by the author, I opted to get the audiobook.

Ball Four is only superficially a book about baseball and you
Jul 25, 2012 Al rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rereading “Ball Four” for the first time since 1970, I was struck by how today’s readers would be baffled by the impact that the book originally had on the sports world. In an era when it’s not unusual for sports figures to tweet their comments about coaches, fans, and fellow players immediately following a game, I’m not sure that today’s fan realizes what a big deal “Ball Four” once was. Pitcher Jim Bouton’s candor about his teammates (past and present), coaches, managers and Major League Baseb ...more
Sep 08, 2008 Andy rated it it was amazing
Billed as one of the most (if not the most) important sports book ever, Ball Four reads as a diary of Jim Bouton's struggle to stay relevant in 1969 having reinvented himself as a knuckleball pitcher. It's important because at the time it blew the lid off the use of "Greenies" (amphetamines) womanizing, overdrinking, and other such habits rampant in the baseball world.

Now, on its own with all of these things common knowledge, the book still reads well. There's as much in there about illegal acti
Mar 08, 2009 Ed rated it really liked it
Jim Bouton wrote a funny, honest book about baseball. He chronicles his own struggles to re-establish his pitching career after a promising start with the New York Yankees. Worth re-reading.
Sep 28, 2007 Brian rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Baseball fans/smart asses
Fantastic. Jim Bouton is an American hero. Also he invented Big League Chew.
I can only hope there's someone who's as big a curmudgeon as Jim is in the big leagues now.
Aug 17, 2008 Patrick rated it it was amazing
My mom recently tried to read Bouton's baseball diary, but couldn't get past March 7. I picked it up and am rereading it yet again, enjoying it as much as ever. I've read it more than 20 times and it still means so much to me. If any book could be said to have changed my life, it would be this one.

Bouton was an iconoclast, a breed apart from most other ballplayers, and not just because he read books that didn't have pictures. He spoke up for himself, he stuck to his guns (even as he knew it was
Sep 12, 2012 Ted rated it it was amazing
Shelves: games, have
The Ghosts of Belfast review, Part III
Part I
Part II
Part IV

The Troubles, continued
(view spoiler)
Sep 22, 2015 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Never having read a baseball book before, I enjoyed of Ball Four for the novelty, in addition to its interesting anecdotes and the truth of the reality of baseball. It was also cool to see the contrast of baseball and book writing between then and now.
Apr 30, 2016 Simon rated it really liked it
I live in England. My knowledge of baseball is limited to books and memories of PE lessons where teachers taught us something of a cross between baseball and rounders called softball. It was fun. We preferred it to cricket but had no opportunity to watch a game on telly whereas the English "summer game" was on for seven hours a day for most of the summer. We'd heard of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Willie Mays but didn't know that one was fat, one lean and one black. America's and England's summer g ...more
Tony Masiello
Apr 05, 2016 Tony Masiello rated it liked it
Wow... I feel like I have been reading this book forever. In fact, I almost gave up on it, but after taking a break for a couple of weeks, I picked it back up and managed to get over the hump.

The writing style is very stream of conscience. It can be jarring at first. One story might start and develop over two or three paragraphs, and then suddenly, a new subject comes without warning or segue.

There are a lot of characters introduced and it is hard to keep track of who is who, especially in the
Feb 10, 2016 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was published in 1970 and made quite a stir. Though late 60s rock music encouraged everyone to "let it all hang out," we didn't yet live in a "warts and all" society. Are we better off today for knowing every flaw of celebrities? I doubt it, though I'm glad sports figures' lives are no longer whitewashed. I first read "Ball Four" in 1973 and enjoyed it immensely. I was in my teens and thought all sports were important. As with a lot of things, I've since largely let go of spectator spo ...more
Nov 16, 2015 J rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must have read Ball Four 4 or 5 times in the 80s and 90s, maybe more. The book does endorse and glorify sexual harassment (aka beaver shooting) and other prurient and piggish behavior. It's uncomfortable - and of course, the discomfort comes in part from having failed to notice the inappropriateness before.

Jim Bouton in 1970 had many progressive views and had uncommon insights into the insular baseball world of his day. Many of the revelations and attitudes in Ball Four that seem unexceptional
Jun 22, 2014 John-Paul rated it liked it
Like a lot of people, the first baseball book I enjoyed was Michael Lewis' "Moneyball." That book's depiction of the way that "baseball men," like all men who have given themselves to an institution and convinced themselves that said institution has given them everything of value in their lives, make almost all their of decisions based on fear, habit, nostalgia, and misplaced loyalty. They do what they do because (they think) that's the way it's always been done (even though that's not true and ...more
Ben Vogel
Jan 23, 2015 Ben Vogel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I wish I could give 6 stars.

From juvenile dugout antics to the chiseled down contemplations of a man in his twilight years, this book brings you on the journey of a lifetime -- Jim Bouton's lifetime.

Right handed pitcher, caring father, teammate of Maris, Mantle, and Ford, inventor of Big League Chew bubblegum, Seattle Pilot, clubhouse rowdy, self taught stone mason, reflective thinker, and a damn funny guy. I recommend this book be listened to, not read, because you will get to hear the joy, lau
Sean Tenney
Apr 25, 2014 Sean Tenney rated it it was amazing
Has a better baseball memoir surfaced?

What isn't debatable? That Ball Four is the standard, the pioneer, the benchmark for all baseball memoirs that follow. It is a standard for baseball memoirs down the road.

I suppose it can even be said when a sports memoir demonstrates outrageously hilarious, open commentary, "It went all Ball Four!"

The passages are fascinating, whether or not you follow baseball. Baseball is the back story for this memoir. You become familiar with tyrannical coaches, wee-mi
Justin Oh
Apr 05, 2013 Justin Oh rated it really liked it
Ball Four is a very interesting book. It talks about a player named Jim Bouton. He went in the MLB and played in the Seattle Pilots and the Houston Astros. People back then idled the professional baseball players. But this book talks about how baseball players are really human like the rest of the people. This book talks about how the players cheat on their wives, have to deal with racial things between their own teammates and hangovers and all the bad stuff. The author describes these everyday ...more
Apr 16, 2012 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Baseball fans
Shelves: memoirs, sports
A very interesting look at what it was like inside baseball's inside circle before the average fan was allowed in -- actually, a case could be made that the fans were let in more, in part, because of this book's success. Bouton has a talent for writing, and it shows in this year-in-the-life story of his post-injury knuckleball days for the expansion Seattle Pilots, who are now the Milwaukee Brewers.

The three updates, each coming in ten-year intervals following the publication of the book, were a
Sep 01, 2008 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: baseball fans
This is not the book for those of you yearning for the old days when ballplayers played for their love of the game. If you wish steroid scandals would just get brushed under the rug and The Mick was raking in Yankee stadium again, Ball Four might just break your heart a little. Jim Bouton opened a door that has never been forced shut again when he aired the Yankees' (and by extension, major league baseball's) dirty laundry. This is a genuinely funny and enlightening book written by an insider wi ...more
Hank Fisher
Jan 28, 2014 Hank Fisher rated it it was amazing
Ball Four is the life of a ballplayer. Jim Bouton will take you through the 1969 year with some pretty interesting, and absolutly hilarious times. It is loved by many, even not baseball fans because it's not just a baseball book. It's just about the life of a relief pitcher. It is truly the greatest diary of them all.

I'm not really a big fan of books that are like a diary, but this one is unbelievable. It is so relatable that sometimes I have to tell someone about it. It's funny and written ver
May 15, 2007 Beverly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christina, Brooke
The first real baseball tell-all, very intelligent, very funny, don't read it if you think baseball players are god. When the Sox won the World Series it was Jim Bouton who, in a newspaper editorial, reminded Sox fans that it wasn't the "curse of the bambino" that was the cause of their continued hard luck, it was, in fact, the "curse of the Pumpserino." Pumpsie Green (who worked at Berkeley High for a time) was the first black player on the last team to integrate. Anyway, that's TMI, I know, bu ...more
Jon Koebrick
May 28, 2016 Jon Koebrick rated it liked it
Ball Four is a book that had a profound impact on its sport. It offers lots of funny anecdotes, interesting behind the scenes details and the deeper personal perspective of a veteran in the twilight of his career. I think the original book without the extra views from ten, twenty and thirty years later would have made this book a four star. Unfortunately, the later additions changed the feel and tone of the book slightly.
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