I am a little late to the party when it comes to reading. However, the best thing about books is that the “classics” never get old.
Before a recent work trip, I jogged down to the library in our building looking for some reading material for the airplane ride and airport lounging. So I grabbed Ball Four by Jim Bouton, as I had never read the book but only heard about it. This was a reprinted edition, issued 20 years after the original publication date in 1970.
Reading the introduction gave me some insight as to the book’s ground-breaking, behind-the-scenes look and how it turned Bouton into a leper in the eyes of some players, coaches, management and even reporters.
I guess looking back, this would be a rather intriguing book that broke the mold on the “what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room” mantra. But me reading it in this tell-all day and age probably doesn’t impact me as much as it did readers at the time of its original release.
And I can especially imagine that coaches, front-office types and fellow players mentioned at length in the book were none-to-happy to have previously guarded information on salaries, injuries, coaching styles, etc., so freely tossed about.
Like I mentioned in previous columns, this is what I love to read about in sports books. Locker room stories, methodologies on the mound, thoughts on other players and the contract negotiations that take place. I’m having a blast reading about this.
New York Yankee fans might love or hate this book, as Bouton spends a lot of time discussing his time there (do you think he missed that team just a little bit?), although I realize the majority of his career and success took place there. Bouton might have shattered some illusions fans had of some of their favorite players. If any readers can attest to that, feel free.
I also wonder if readers can tell me if this book has excerpts available before it was available, like the teases they do now with nearly every biography. With this tell-all, I’d imagine that would have sent droves to the bookstore. But I suppose ESPN wasn’t around to add to the hype machine.
And here’s how naive I am. Bouton also helped invent Big League Chew, one of my favorites from childhood. That’s pretty darn cool, too.