Joined: 03 Feb 2004
|Posted: Wed Jul 10, 2019 8:11 pm Post subject: Yankees pitcher and "Ball Four" author Jim Bouton dies at 80
|Yankees pitcher and “Ball Four” author Jim Bouton dies at 80
Ex-Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton was a 20-game winner, won two World Series games, spent 10 years in the big leagues — and made a bigger impact with a pen in his hand than a baseball.
The author of the groundbreaking hardball tell-all “Ball Four” died Wednesday following a battle with a brain disease linked to dementia. The Newark, N.J., native died in the home he shared with his wife Paula Kurman after weeks of hospice care. He was 80.
Bouton, wearing No. 56 for the Bombers in the 1960s, threw so hard in his early years that his cap routinely flew off his head as he released the ball. By the time he reached the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, the sore-armed Bouton reinvented himself as a knuckleballer.
That same year, Bouton spent a season collecting quotes, notes and anecdotes about life in the big leagues for his acclaimed book “Ball Four." Released amid a storm of controversy, the account of Bouton’s tumultuous year was the only sports book cited when the New York Public Library drew up its list of the best books of the 20th century.
In “Ball Four,” Bouton exposed in great detail the carousing of Yankees legend Mickey Mantle, the widespread use of stimulants (known as “greenies”) in major league locket rooms, and the spectacularly foul mouth of Seattle Pilots manager Joe Schultz.
“Amphetamines improved my performance about five percent,” Bouton once observed. “Unfortunately, in my case that wasn’t enough.”
Bouton, across his 10-year pro career, posted a medicore lifetime record of 62-63, with an ERA of 3.57.
But for two seasons, on the last of the great 1960s Yankees teams of Mantle, Maris and Berra, Bouton emerged as a top-flight pitcher.
In 1963, he went 21-7 with six shutouts and lost a 1-0 World Series decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Don Drysdale. A year later, Bouton’s record was 18-13 with a 3.02 ERA and won a pair of World Series starts against the St. Louis Cardinals.
And then he developed a sore arm in 1965 that derailed a promising career that started just three years earlier. Bouton’s career ended after the 1970 season with the Houston Astros, although he returned for a five-game cameo with the Atlanta Braves in 1978.
Post-baseball, Bouton became a local sportscaster with WABC-TV and then WCBS-TV on the evening news, enjoying ratings success at both stops.
Bouton also suffered a pair of strokes in 2012.