ARE THEY NOW
January 23, 2002
"You see, 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."
That's how Jim Bouton ended his 1969 baseball tell-all, "Ball Four." The book was ground-breaking, a best seller, and considered one of the "Books of the 20th Century" by the New York Public Library. It put Bouton on the map for something other than his fastball, and has brought him back and kept him coming back three decades longer than he would have been here otherwise.
It also kept him away from Yankee Stadium until pardoned by George Steinbrenner in 1998. A pariah no more, Bouton joined the Oldtimer's Day festivities for the first time.
"There was a sense of vindication that I should have been back a lot sooner. It seemed like 28 years was an awful long time to be sitting in the principal's office for throwing spitballs."
Bouton won 62 games in a ten-year career, which included a 1978 comeback as a Brave knuckleballer. In 1963, Bouton went 21-7, with a 2.53 ERA, losing the tough 1-0 game three of the Dodgers' World Series sweep to Don Drysdale. He came right back to win 18 games in '64, defeating the Cards twice in the Series, only to see New York lose again.
Bouton was chosen by the Seattle Pilots in the 1969 expansion draft and won two games there before moving on. While '69 may be remembered as a miracle in most quarters, for Jim Bouton, it was the season to gather material for "Ball Four."
Bouton's success with the book led to additional writing opportunities, which continue today, and even a short acting career. In 1973, Bouton played Terry Lennox in Robert Altman's cult-classic version of Raymond Chandler's "The Long Goodbye," starring Elliott Gould. He also is the founder of Big League Chew.
The 63-year-old Springfield, Massachusetts resident now works primarily as a motivational speaker, but he still has some unfinished business. With the help of his friend Mike Fuller, Bouton is trying to convince the Seattle Mariners to host an Oldtimers Day for the old '69 Pilots.
"It's really the right thing to do. There wouldn't even be a Mariners team if it weren't for the old Pilots, because when the Pilots left [for Milwaukee] the city of Seattle sued Major League Baseball, and as part of the settlement, Seattle was promised a new team. So we were sort of there at the birth of the Mariners."
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