By Fred Wallace
Hi, this is Fred Wallace with " Off the Wire ".
In the summer of 1972 my neighbour, Kenny Desjardins, loaned me a book, " Ball Four " by Jim Bouton.
I never gave it back.
Initially, because I was 11 at the time, the book was appealing because it was about Major League Baseball, which I liked, plus it was the first book I ever read that had curse words in the text ( I was ELEVEN !! )
You know, I probably read that book once a year, every year, until the pages in the paperback fell out and got scattered.
Years ago in a book store in Erie, Pennsylvania, I stumbled upon an updated version that included the original " Ball Four ", the follow up " I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally " plus a lengthy aftermath that chronicled Bouton's baseball adventures from 1969 onward.
Ironically, I loaned that new book...... and never got it back.
There are many words to describe Jim Bouton as a baseball pitcher and an author, but I'll lead with revealing & influential
Obviously, I never played Major League Baseball, so Bouton's documentation of life in the Big Leagues was surprising, eye opening, and while it was his viewpoint, through the writing you trusted his perspective and narrative fully.
On another level, I could identify with, we all probably could identify with, the pursuit to be our best, to do better, to succeed wildly, then fail in spectacular fashion, always believing that tomorrow might be, would be, a better day.
A 21 game winner in 1963 with the New York Yankees.
A 2 game winner in the fabled World Series of 1964 with the Yankees against the Cardinals.
An author who was critically acclaimed.
An author who also overwhelmingly ostracized and shunned by Major League Baseball, ironically the sport he loved.
At the end of " Ball Four ", Jim Bouton concluded, " You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time. "
I'm not sure anyone, anywhere wrote anything any better.
I'm Fred Wallace