Ball Four
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Ball Four

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  9,229 ratings  ·  423 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...more
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
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2nd out of 400 books — 423 voters
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Community Reviews

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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
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...more
Will Byrnes
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
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
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...more
Tim Bernhardt
Jul 19, 2007 Tim Bernhardt rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Derek Dowell
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
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 12, 2012 Ted rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: games, have
The Ghosts of Belfast review, Part III
Part I
Part II
Part IV

The Troubles, continued
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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...more
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
Kathy Hay
Apr 18, 2014 Kathy Hay rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
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 5 of 5 stars
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.
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...more
Hank Fisher
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...more
Being a baseball fan its hard to explain why I haven't read this up to now. All I can say is it worth the wait. Just a fantastic, well-written, and entertaining book. I can't say someone that has absolutely no interest in baseball would like this. But if you even have a passing interest then you will thoroughly enjoy this book.
Great book! I had not read it in more than 30 years. It holds up exceedingly well. Bouton's wit continues to shine and his observations and musings remain relevant. The cast of characters, particular Joe Schultz and the Seattle Pilots, are even funnier than I remembered prior to re-reading. This most recent edition includes additional chapters that update the book through the late 1990s. His take on developments in baseball in the 70s and 80s (labor strife, Pete Rose, etc.) are interesting as is...more
Justin Oh
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Sep 01, 2008 Matthew rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
May 15, 2007 Beverly rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Douglas Cosby
Unabridged audio version:
Bouton's book made him a pariah to baseball for decades after its release, and he details this in all of his several (three?) epilogues/revisions. While he did show how stupid and closed-minded many of the coaches and players were, it was not that surprising to me -- I have always known that baseball is the most conservative of the major sports and that many of its players and teams are mainly rednecks (I love baseball BTW). I think he was ostracized because until Bouton...more
Monte Lamb
There are some books that should be read every 10 years or so and if you are a baseball fan, this is maybe the most important. It is important to remember that when this book first came out, it totally upset the sports world. Its tell-all nature let fans know that the facade put out by organized baseball was simply that, a facade. Its freshness and candor showed baseball players to be the type of people that acted like jocks of all ages when they get together. It was time for something like this...more
Gregg Moeller
I first read this book in high school, when it still had the stigma of being a "dirty book" that soiled the good image of baseball...instead, it made the ballplayers human, with good and bad traits just like anyone else. Written in diary form by Jim Bouton, a one-time all-star pitcher with the New York Yankees,, it covers Bouton's 1969 season, as he attempts a comeback with the expansion Seattle Pilots (which makes the book rather poignant, as they only lasted one season before moving to Milwauk...more
Paula Dembeck
This is one of the first “tell all” books, written by a player about the game of baseball. Although its behind the scenes revelations seem mild now, it was ground breaking for its day. Published in 1970, it is based on the 1969 season of Jim Bouton, a pitcher trying to master the knuckleball, who relates events from the season through his diary where he comments on his teammates, criticizes coaches and takes several swings at Major League Baseball.

There are lots of stories about what really wen...more
I read Ball Four in high school and thought it was the greatest thing ever. 29 years later, spending my first spring and thus spring training in Arizona, I thought it time to re-read. It was great -- but I was surprised at how very dated Ball Four is. The financial aspects of big league and even minor league baseball have changed so much that the administrative aspects of the sport Bouton describes seem quint, sad, and not only of another century (which they are), but of another epoch, and anoth...more
I've always heard this was one of, if not the best, baseball memoirs, but I find Bouton somewhat unlikable and the book itself a bit boring.
Apr 21, 2014 rmn rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: sports
Wow, this is a weird snapshot in time where apparently it was ok for professional baseball players to be proud of being peeping toms, proud of being reliant on greenies and getting hammered after games, proud of being borderline (or full on) racists, and most of all proud of being stupid (and the author is only proud of being two of those four, sort of). This book feels like it was written in a completely different time/era/planet and yet it is only ~45 years old. Scary.

The author is Jim Bouton...more
Audra Marvin
Honestly, this particular edition of this book (The Final Pitch) is what made it great for me. I can certainly see why this book would've rocked the baseball world the way it did in 1970 when it was released. But now it's 2014, and lewd say in which professional baseball players behave is just commonly accepted, especially for a person like me, who has not known or witnessed any of the real scandals in baseball history. But this book not only includes the full text of the original Ball Four; it...more
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