More on Four

Perhaps you’re wondering, but yes, I’m still reading Ball Four, probably a bit more than half way through it, and it is as enjoyable as I remember. I’ve been trying to identify what makes it so good; here’s a quick list.

1. Bouton is funny and observant and quirky and thoughtful. He asks questions and provides funny though not always accurate answers.Jim Bouton 1969 Topps

2. It’s easy to identify with Bouton as he struggles with management and with those who are stuck in an old traditional way of doing things. Probably this also had something to do with the book being so popular when published, in the early seventies. But really, I guess this is a pretty timeless theme. Bouton is something of a rebel, questioning the elders in authority. It makes them uncomfortable, frustrates everybody, and he gets smacked down a lot. (Also easy to identify with.)

3. The books really succeeds at making all the ball players real and human, rather than baseball stars. One thing that comes across is that all this takes place in an era where the typical ball player is not making very much. According to the 1997 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publication Compensation and Working Conditions, the average salary for a major league ball player in 1970 was $29,303. Throughout the book the ball players are worried about the same mundane concerns that would worry anyone, rent deposits, moving expenses, etc.

4. I like reading baseball history; Bouton talks about the Yankees of the Mickey Mantle era, and about Mickey himself. (Who was sometimes a nice guy but also often an ass, it seems.)

Jim Bouton - Yankees 1Anyway, it seems like it’s been taking me a long time to read this; perhaps I am reading too many things? The stack of books-to-read grows ever taller. Plus there are taxes yet to be done, and one of our sinks is in pieces on the floor of my “study.”

But tonight? Tonight I read Bouton.

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