Jim Bouton, former Yankees pitcher, ‘Ball Four’ author, dies at 80
Jul 10, 2019 at 10:29 PM
GREAT BARRINGTON, MASS. — Jim Bouton, the former New York Yankees pitcher who shocked and angered the conservative baseball world with the tell-all book “Ball Four,” has died. He was 80.
Bouton's family said he died Wednesday at the home he shared with wife Paula Kurman. He fought a brain disease linked to dementia and was in hospice care. Bouton also had two strokes in 2012.
Published in 1970, “Ball Four” made for eye-opening and entertaining reading, but he paid a big price for the best-seller when former teammates, other players and executives across the big leagues ostracized him for exposing their secrets.
Bouton wrote in great detail about the carousing of Yankees legend Mickey Mantle, the widespread use of stimulants (known as “greenies”) in major league locker 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.”
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.
Bouton was blackballed from Yankees events for nearly 50 years until the team made amends last season by inviting him to the annual Old-Timers Day event, where he was given an emotional standing ovation.
Throwing so hard that his cap flew off his head, Bouton was 21-8 with six shutouts in 1963 — his second season in the majors — and went 18-13 with four more shutouts in 1964. The Yankees lost the World Series both years, with Bouton losing his lone start in 1963 in New York's loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and winning twice the following year in the Yankees' loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Bouton injured his right arm in 1965, going 4-15 that season, and saw limited action the next three seasons with New York. He worked on “Ball Four” in 1969, a season spent with the expansion Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros, his fastball replaced by a knuckleball as he tried to prolong his career.
Bouton also pitched for Houston in 1970, and made a comeback with the Atlanta Braves in 1978, going 1-3 at age 39. He finished his 10-year career with a 62-63 record and 3.57 ERA.
Bouton was a television sportscaster in New York City with WABC and WCBS, wrote other books and starred in a 1976 CBS sitcom based on “Ball Four” that lasted only five episodes. He and a former teammate developed Big League Chew, a bubble gum alternative to chewing tobacco.