A sign of the (L.A.) Times: An appreciation of Jim Bouton, smokin’ ’em inside decade after decade
By Tom Hoffarth
The passing of Jim Bouton last week at age 80 was pause to reflect on his career not so much as a major-league pitcher, but for what he delivered to journalism in the form of “Ball Four: My Life and Hard Times Throwing the Knuckleball in the Big Leagues.”
We are thankful we have a place to express our own reflections and cherished personal encounters in this week’s Los Angeles Times media piece.
We’ve done pieces on Bouton in the past, and enjoyed every moment, from paragraph to end quote.
A 2003 piece on his book, “Foul Ball,” gave us a chance to even challenge our own bosses at the time. We are thankful he posted it on his own official website.
In 2010, we caught up with Bouton in Burbank, for another treat, also with old friend Greg Goossen, Bouton’s former Seattle Pilots teammate who became a memorable character in “Ball Four.”
In 2017, we wrote about how the notes and recordings Bouton did for “Ball Four” were up for public auction. The collection never met the required minimum, and never sold. Which is fine, since it found its way to the Library of Congress, although money from that sale could have helped with Bouton’s medical expenses.
We even kind of remember, for all the lines that “Ball Four” provided, a rather appropo line given to Bouton when he decided to give Hollywood a try and was given the role off Terry Lennox in the 1973 Robert Altman film “The Long Goodbye,” which starring Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe in the definitive portrayal of shallow L.A. evil based on the Raymond Chandler novel.
At one point, Bouton’s character as asked by Marlowe if he could recall the three DiMaggio brothers.
“Vince, Dom and, uh … Joe?” Lennox says.
With Bouton knowing full well that he had just smoked Joe DiMaggio inside with that act of reverence to the Yankee Clipper.
Upon Bouton’s passing, author Jane Leavy tweeted out:
Mark Armour, author and new president of Society of American Baseball Researchers (SABR), who engineered a biographic piece on Bouton for the group, added this:
Armour’s SABR.org bio on Bouton is linked here.
A complete Retrosheet.org list of Bouton’s game by game career is at this link.
Reflections on Bouton’s life and times are also available by John Feinstein for the Washington Post, Tyler Kempner for the New York Times and Jay Jaffe for FanGraphs.com.
Sunday AM came a sweet remembrance collection as well from Wendy Parker at SportsBiblio.
If you feel like re-reading “Ball Four” for a fourth or fifth or 20th time this summer, it would be fitting. Do it while pounding a Budweiser, for shitfuck’s sake.