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Ball Four

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  17,041 ratings  ·  792 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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Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  17,041 ratings  ·  792 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
“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 develope
Will Byrnes
Oct 26, 2008 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.

Jim Bouton - image from NPR

Baseball Almanac entry for Bouton

Bouton sold the materials he used in making the book. This lovely NY Times piece includes a revelation on where the book’s title originated. - Mat
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Loved this...sent it to my grandsons, both pitchers, and my son-in-law.
Jul 29, 2011 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
Diane Ayres
Apr 05, 2008 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 16, 2011 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
Kathy Hay
Apr 18, 2014 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
Fred Shaw
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Ball Four" is the April Baseball Book Club selection, author is Jim Bouton.

Jim Bouton played professional baseball as a pitcher from 1962 to 1970. It's unheard of to have a pitcher play for that long, because of eventual and certain damage to a throwing arm. He played with and against some of the great players of the time: Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Stan Musial, Whitey Ford and lots more. The reason he lasted so long in the game was because of his one great pitch, the knucklebal
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
It’s impossible for me to properly rate this book, I think, because one of the lenses that impact a review is the context in which the book is released and its cultural significance. And because I am reading this book nearly fifty years after its publication, I don’t have the immediate impact of its release, although it is not hard for me to imagine. Bouton was a major league pitcher for several teams, most notably the Yankees. Ball Four is a running diary of his 1969 baseball season with the ex ...more
Derek Dowell
May 25, 2012 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
Brad Lyerla
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, sports
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
Apr 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball, non-fiction
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 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
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
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. ...more
James Murphy
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A reread. I remember loving the book 100 years ago when I 1st read it. More discerning now, I was a little disappointed to think the prose a little ordinary. My fault, I know. I shouldn't expect a man who can throw a knuckleball to also be able to write like John Updike. But I found it less interesting, too. Mine is the expended edition, called The Complete Ball Four filling in Bouton's life since baseball. I found I wasn't interested at all in Balls 5, 6, and 7.

I thought it not as sensational a
Jul 25, 2012 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 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
Sep 15, 2007 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.
Dec 18, 2008 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 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Ghosts of Belfast review, Part III
Part I
Part II
Part IV

The Troubles, continued
(view spoiler)
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, baseball
I have read dozens of baseball books before getting around to “Ball Four,” and I wish I had read Bouton’s book earlier. I really enjoyed the telling of the escapades of a major leaguer (and for a few days, a minor leaguer) over the course of a season. Bouton tells the story of his time with the Seattle Pilots and their farm club as well as his mid-season trade to the Houston Astros in 1969. I felt an affinity to Bouton and the Pilots – I started collecting baseball cards from that season and got ...more
Aug 17, 2008 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
Oct 29, 2015 rated it did not like it
Ball Four by Jim Bouton has been hailed as a groundbreaking exposè that opened the hidden side of baseball to the general public. The sports world is said to have been "shocked" and "outraged" by the goings on behind the scenes that were previously unknown to the outside world. Really?! Young men engage in locker room hijinks, drink to excess and chase skirts. Ho-hum. Even in 1970 when it was written it shouldn't have raised an eyebrow. I'd be shocked if they sat around the locker room singing K ...more
Richard Luck
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a baseball enthusiast rather than hardcore fan, I've long viewed the claims that Ball Four is among the greatest non-fiction books of the 21st century with some suspicion. Not for the first time, I couldn't be more delighted to be proved completely wrong. In addition to recommending Bouton's memoir, might I also speak up for the excellent audiobook which features the author's delightful tones. From laughing at his - admittedly superb - jokes to shedding tears over the hardest of losses, it's ...more
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
could not finish. too full of himslef
Apr 24, 2017 marked it as started-discarded  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball
Just couldn't get into this one... ...more
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read Ball Four in high school. Now, after Bouton’s recent passing, I decided to re-read it to see how it holds up. The short answer is: surprisingly well. When the book was first published it was scandalous and ruffled a lot of feathers. Bouton broke the code of “what happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room.” He spoke of players using speed (“greenies”), staying out late and getting drunk and playing the next day with a hangover, groupies and affairs on the road, etc. These ...more
Bryan--Pumpkin Connoisseur
Ball Four maintains a reputation even today as being a groundbreaking book: Sports Illustrated has it as number three on its list of the 100 best sports books ever. As far as 'groundbreaking', I think it deserves its rep, but the thing about groundbreaking is that it's never very long before it's surpassed by others who build on the shocking or outrageous nature of what's come before. So I think that anyone approaching Ball Four with the idea that they are going to have their socks knocked off a ...more
Jun 22, 2014 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
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Jim Bouton was an American professional baseball player.

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