Rick's Reviews > Ball Four

Ball Four by Jim Bouton
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M_50x66
's review
Dec 29, 11

bookshelves: athletics, baseball, memoir
Read from December 13 to 26, 2011

I see why this book was so controversial when it came out in 1970. It was the first tell-all book by a professional athlete and really pulled back the curtain about who athletes are and how they act. What one quickly realizes is that professional athletes at the time were immature, sexist, racist, and often obnoxious cheats. Some were smart some were dumb. Many had drinking problems or were hooked on drugs. They cheated on their wives and complained about their pay. They were, in fact, just like many regular folks. And I think that's what shocked so many who read it. These weren't heros they were worshiping, they were overgrown frat boys. The commissioner of baseball was so appalled that he asked the author to claim the book a work of fiction. Instead, it remains a piece of history - an interesting and often hilarious record of a time where America (and baseball) was adjusting to hippies, sexual liberation, and racial integration. I've never seen a more true slice of life from that period than is captured here. Bouton's baseball career undoubtedly suffered as a result - he found himself out of baseball a year later at age 30 - but his legacy lives on through his diligence in recording the life and times of a big-leaguer.

As a side note, the year covered in the book was the first year of the expansion team the Seattle Pilots - a rather hapless lot. The year after the book, the team was moved to Milwaukee where they were renamed the Brewers. The Seattle stadium where they played became a parking lot. A number of years later, Seattle finally got a permanent team in the Mariners. If you're a baseball fan, it's a book worth reading just to read about that expansion era.
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