Jim Bouton's Baseball Book: 40 Years Old and Still a Top Seller

Ball Four is feted in L.A.

Oh, if only the last-place Mariners could bring as much cheer to Seattle as the Seattle Pilots did to a crowd this past weekend at the Burbank Central Library in the northern burbs of L.A. That's where, according to the Los Angeles Times, baseball fan Jerry Miller, wearing a #56 Seattle Pilots jersey he found on eBay, stepped into a time warp and encountered the player who used to wear that jersey—pitcher-turned-author and actor Jim Bouton. Bouton was on a library panel celebrating the 40th anniversary of his book, Ball Four, which today is Amazon's top-selling baseball tome, and is ranked among the top 2,000 of all Amazon sellers. Former baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn called the book "detrimental to baseball," helping drive fans to bookstores for four decades. A pitcher with the one-season (1969) Pilots (also for the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, and Atlanta Braves), Bouton became a millionaire/author as the book was significantly revised and updated over the years. But its original appeal remains: thumbing its nose at baseball's hierarchy and opening the clubhouse door to an unsporting life, where we see the revered boys of summer naked, snapping towels, and trading tales of beaver shots they'd seen from the field. These days, when he visits a clubhouse, "there will be one or two old coaches sitting in the corner," Bouton told the Times. "I can see them glaring at me. But the younger players come over to me: 'Hey, I read your book in high school. I said, "That's what I want to be. I want to be a major-league baseball player." You made me stick with it.'" And it was inspired typing too. "Without that book, I'd probably be a surgeon like my dad," said David Kipen, who in grade school was smitten by Bouton's prose and went on to become director of literature for the National Endowment for the Arts. "He hijacked my life." Now 71, Bouton said he hopes to share the book, and the Pilots (who departed for Milwaukee after one season), with Broadway. At his home in Massachusetts, he's working on an adaptation: Ball Four: The Musical. Said Bouton: "The stage. I think that's where it belongs."

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