"detrimental to baseball," so quoth former Major League Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn about Jim Bouton's tell-all autobiography Ball Four.
Former Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton, who celebrates his 71st birthday today, was ostracized from baseball after writing the controversial book which was a combination diary of his 1969 season and memoir of his years with the New York Yankees, Seattle Pilots, and Houston Astros.
Despite its controversy at the time,it is considered to be one of the most important sports books ever written.The book was also the basis for the short-lived 1976 CBS TV show of the same name, which starred Bouton. The TV show was canceled after a few episodes.
Jim Bouton started his major league career in 1962 with the Yankees, where his tenacity earned him the nickname "Bulldog." He also came to be known for his cap flying off his head at the completion of his delivery to the plate, as well as for his uniform number 56, a number usually assigned in spring training to players designated for the minor leagues (Bouton later explained that he had been assigned the number in 1962 when he was promoted to the Yankees, and wanted to keep it as a reminder of how close he had come to not making the ball club.
Bouton retired midway through the 1970 season after the Astros sent him down to the minor leagues. He immediately became a local sports anchor for New York station WABC-TV. It was not long after, that a cult audience saw Ball Four as a candid and comic portrayal of the ups and downs of baseball life and Jim Bouton went on the college lecture circuit, delivering humorous talks on his experiences.
Happy Birthday Jim!