“Ball Four’s” Characters Revisted: The Seattle Days

Ball Four still resonates 45 years after it was originally published.

Ball Four still resonates 45 years after it was originally published.

As much as Ball Four made a star and a household name out of its author, it did much more when it made its way onto bookshelves in the spring of 1970. Today, 45 years after its publication and surprising rise to national bestseller lists, the book continues to serve as a snapshot of baseball and American culture in the 1960s. Thanks to the writing of Jim Bouton and his underrated editor, the late Leonard Shecter, we have multi-dimensional images of iconic figures like Richie Allen, Mickey Mantle, Joe Pepitone, Joe Torre and others. Although they were already stars, Bouton gave us glimpses into their personalities that had not really been revealed.

Ball Four also gave us in-depth portraits of lesser known people. As a member of the Seattle Pilots and the Houston Astros in 1969, Bouton placed a microscope on the clubhouse dynamics and off-the-field personalities of a wide range of players and managers. The cast of characters with the Pilots alone included former and future All-Stars (like Tommy Davis and Tommy Harper), unheralded journeymen (Don Mincher and Jim Pagliaroni), amusing and oddball characters (George Brunet and Joe Schultz), and even studious intellectuals (Steve Hovley and Mike Marshall).

In many cases, these were characters who would have become quickly forgotten, but Bouton’s words and Shecter’s editing have made them permanent markers of a time when players still wore flannel uniforms and most players lived and died by the vagaries of a one-year contract. Many were obscure players at the time, but some eventually became All-Stars. Others led fascinating lives after their playing careers came to an end. Some have passed away, a few under particularly tragic and solemn circumstances.

The Pilots existed for just one season — 1969 — before moving to Milwaukee as the Brewers. In the first of a two-part series, let’s look at the whereabouts of some of the Pilots Bouton characterized in Ball Four.

Don Mincher (first baseman): The book shows that Bouton’s initial impression of Mincher was not a good one. When Bouton first heard Mincher’s Southern accent, he expected someone who was less than intelligent and perhaps even racist. But later, after Bouton was traded, a quick exchange confirmed that his first impression was misguided. “Don Mincher came over and told me to hang in there—and you know, I really was wrong about him. He’s a good fellow.”

The well-liked Mincher was the only member of the Pilots to appear in the All-Star Game but soon became expendable as part of a youth movement. After the season, the Pilots dealt him to the Oakland A’s for a package of four players. Mincher put up a good season in 1970, but was traded to Washington early in 1971, as part of the deal for fellow slugger Mike Epstein.

Mincher played a partial season with the Senators and then made the move with the franchise to Texas, only to be traded back to Oakland midway through 1972. The trade gave Mincher the chance to earn his only world championship ring. He retired after the World Series.

Remaining downhome and amiable, Mincher became successful after his playing days, assuming the role of general manager and then majority owner of the minor league Huntsville Stars, before becoming president of the Southern League.

In 2011, illness forced him to retire. The following year, he passed away at the age of 73.

Tommy Harper (second baseman/third baseman): Bouton quoted one of his Pilots teammates, who gave Harper a backhanded compliment tinged with racial overtones. “George Brunet was talking about the Negro in baseball, Tommy Harper in particular. ‘You know, for a colored player, he’s not a bad hustler. Hell, he wants to play ball.’ ”

That Harper did. Arguably the most talented player on the Pilots, Harper made the move with the rest of the team to Milwaukee, with the franchise shift made official a week before the start of the 1970 season. With the newly formed Brewers, he became a member of the 30/30 club.

After a downturn in 1971, the Brewers sent Harper to the Boston Red Sox in the 10-player super-swap that brought George Scott to Milwaukee. The Red Sox made Harper a fulltime outfielder and watched him hustle his way to 107 stolen bases over the next three seasons.

After finishing his career with California, Oakland and Baltimore, Harper rejoined the Red Sox as a coach in the 1980s. He challenged the Red Sox’ longstanding policy of inviting their white players to become members of an exclusive country club, while excluding the team’s African-American players. After he complained publicly about the practice, he was fired. Always a strong advocate for civil rights, Harper filed a discrimination lawsuit, which he eventually won.

Harper took another coaching job, this time with the Montreal Expos, but has since returned to the Red Sox as a player development consultant.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Ray Oyler (shortstop): On Aug. 7, Bouton wrote: “Ray Oyler contributed a key ninth-inning error to the loss and spent a long time after the game facing his locker, drinking beer and playing genuine sorrow.”

Unfortunately, Oyler did become a sad figure later in life. In spite of his popularity in Seattle, where his cult status resulted in creation of the “Soc It To Me” Fan Club, the Pilots traded him to the A’s after the season. But Oyler never appeared in a game for Oakland, which re-routed him to the Angels that spring. Oyler appeared in 29 games before his career ended.

Oyler settled in the Seattle area. He managed a bowling alley and also worked for the Boeing Company and Safeway supermarkets. Tragically, Oyler remained a heavy drinker; his problems with alcoholism likely contributed to a fatal heart attack in 1981. Oyler was only 42.

Greg Goossen (first baseman): After hearing that Goossen had been cut during spring training, Bouton expressed his lament. “I passed the Vancouver practice field and saw Goossen working out at first base. He’s hard to miss, with his blocky build, curly hair, working without a hat. I was already missing him and the nutty things he does and I thought here’s a field that’s only about 50 yards away and yet it’s really hundreds of miles away, the distance between the big leagues and Vancouver.”

Goossen would join the Pilots later in the season and move with the franchise to Milwaukee, but would find it hard to avoid that persistent minor league shuttle. He won some early season playing time with the Brewers, but when he failed to hit with the kind of power he had shown in Seattle, the Brewers demoted him and then sold him to the Washington Senators.

After the 1970 season, the Senators traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies as part of the deal for the exiled Curt Flood. But Goossen would never play for Philadelphia. Instead, he spent the 1971 season in the minor league systems of three different teams, never again returning to the major leagues.

Goossen’s life then took a fascinating turn. Still only 25, he went to work as a private investigator and then transitioned to boxing. He became a trainer at his family’s boxing gym, where he worked with such fighters as Michael Nunn, the 1980s middleweight champion.

One day in 1988, Goossen’s brother introduced him to famed actor Gene Hackman, who was doing research for a boxing film called Split Decisions. Hackman took such a liking to Goossen that he hired him as his stand-in, an arrangement that became standard on Hackman films. Goossen appeared in 15 Hackman movies, including The Package and Unforgiven.

In 2011, Goossen earned induction into his high school’s Hall of Fame, but sadly, never made it to the ceremony. His daughter drove to his house, where she discovered that he had died unexpectedly. Goossen was 65.

Tommy Davis (left fielder): Bouton clearly regarded Davis as one of the Pilots’ leaders. “Tommy Davis is loose and funny and a lot of guys look to him, not only Negroes. Everybody sort of gravitates to him and his tape [music] machine, and he’s asked his opinion about things.”

After splitting the season between Seattle and Houston, Davis began 1970 with the Astros before resuming his journeyman travels. In June, the Astros sold him to the A’s, where he hit .290 before being sold again, this time to the Cubs. Chicago released him that December, putting Davis’ career at the crossroads.

With his affinity for veterans, Charlie Finley signed Davis late in spring training. That turned into a wise move, as Davis hit .324 for the A’s. Unfortunately, Davis made the mistake of being Vida Blue’s roommate. When Blue held out in the spring of ’72, Finley took his anger out on Davis and released him.

Davis remained out of work until July, when the Cubs signed him. A month later, they traded Davis to the Orioles for catcher Elrod Hendricks. The 1972 season turned out to be such a lost cause for Davis that Topps did not produce a card for him in 1973.

Little did Topps know that Davis would enjoy a second career in Baltimore, where he served as the principal DH for three seasons. He hit well enough in 1973 and ’74 to earn some back-of-the ballot support for American League MVP. He later found work with California and Kansas City before retiring.

After a brief tenure as a coach with the Seattle Mariners, Davis rejoined the Los Angeles Dodgers, his original team, in a community relations role. Known for his affable nature, he often fulfills speaking engagements and has become a regular at autograph shows. He has also worked for the Dodgers as a spring training instructor, where he is popular with the organization’s minor league players.

Mike Hegan (right fielder): Hegan’s humor made him one of the stars of Ball Four. As Bouton wrote on June 13, “It was decided that the most interesting offbeat milieu for sex was a tubful of warm oatmeal. So Mike Hegan promptly leaned out of the bus and hollered to a girl walking by, ‘Hey, do you like oatmeal?’ ”

Hegan moved with the franchise to Milwaukee, where he became the regular first baseman in 1970. He hit 11 home runs, drew 67 walks, and established a reputation as one of the game’s finest fielders. But Hegan lacked power, so the Brewers traded him to the A’s, where he drew the praise of manager Dick Williams, who compared him to Gold Glover Wes Parker.

In 1972, Hegan hit .329 in a backup role and made a phenomenal backhand grab to preserve Game Two of the World Series. Hegan slumped in 1973 and finished his career with the Yankees and Brewers. He moved seamlessly into the broadcast booth, where his sense of humor, deep voice, and personable nature made him a natural. He broadcast for the Brewers and Indians before health problems forced him to step aside in 2011.

On Christmas Day 2013, Hegan succumbed to heart disease. He was 71 years.

Steve Hovley (outfielder): Bouton summarized Hovley’s offbeat persona. “Had a long chat with Steve Hovley in the outfield. He’s being called ‘Tennis Ball Head’ because of his haircut, but his real nickname is Orbit, or Orbie, because he’s supposed to be way out. Hovley is anti-war and I asked him if he ever does any out-and-out protesting in the trenches. He said only in little things. For instance, when he takes his hat off for the anthem he doesn’t hold it over his heart.”

Ever the rebel, Hovley eventually grew out his hair, angering management, which came to regard him as a hippie. On the field, Hovley batted a respectable .280 to start 1970 before being traded to the A’s in June. When he failed to hit in Oakland, the A’s left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. He joined the Kansas City Royals, becoming a useful backup outfielder for two seasons.

After his baseball days, Hovley made the unusual transition from ballplayer to plumber. He no longer talks much about his baseball days and only occasionally grants interviews, but has maintained a friendship with Bouton, his former roommate.

Jim Pagliaroni (catcher): According to Bouton, Pagliaroni was a combination philosopher and comedian. After manager Joe Schultz was seen sitting in the lobby, waiting for players who had broken curfew, Pagliaroni offered his young teammates the following advice. “ ‘If you’re going to be late,’ he said, ‘be at least three hours late. Because if you’re only hour late they’ll still be around trying to catch you.’ ”

Forced to retire at season’s end because of back problems, Pagliaroni went to work as an operator of an A&W Root Beer franchise with his father-in-law. He then became a regional manager in the food service industry for nearly 30 years, but re-entered the baseball consciousness in the late 1990s, when he became a member of the board of directors of the Catfish Hunter Foundation, an organization dedicated to fighting ALS. A close friend of Hunter, the outgoing Pagliaroni became one of the foundation’s leaders in efforts to raise money.

Pagliaroni battled his own health problems, including cancer and heart disease. Despite those problems, Pagliaroni made a stirring impression as part of a Pilots panel at SABR’s national convention in 2006.

Four years later, Pagliaroni died at the age of 72.

Gene Brabender (starting pitcher): At 6-foot-5, Brabender drew the attention of Bouton. “He looks rather like Lurch of the Addams Family, so we thought we might call him that, or Monster, or Animal, which is what they used to call him in Baltimore. Then Larry Haney told us how Brabender used to take those thick metal spikes that are used to hold the bases down and bend them in his bare hands.”

With his remarkable strength and live arm, the hulking right-hander had the distinction of winning the most games (13) of any Pilots pitcher, but did not enjoy much success past 1969.

Remaining with the Brewers in 1970, Brabender was hit hard and suffered from a sore shoulder. In January of 1971, the Brewers traded him to the Angels, but he failed to make the team, ending his big league career.

As much as any of the Pilots, Brabender struggled badly after baseball. He started a mobile home business, but it failed. He then formed a small construction company, but mounting debts forced him to put up his World Series ring for collateral on a loan. He became a recluse and fell into deep depression.

Friends helped him regain the ring, but in December of 1996, the gentle giant suffered a brain aneurism and collapsed. Two days later, Brabender died at the age of 55.

Marty Pattin (starting pitcher): Bouton related how Pattin provided clubhouse entertainment with an imitation of a Disney character. “Marty Pattin does a pretty good Donald Duck,” Bouton wrote. “Before he pitched the opener he was going around the clubhouse saying in Donald Duck that you got to be loose, quack, you got to be loose.”

Pattin maintained his Donald Duck imitation, but became a much better pitcher after the franchise’s shift to Milwaukee. Pattin won 28 games over two seasons with the Brewers and earned an All-Star Game selection.

After the ‘71 season, the Brewers dealt Pattin to the Red Sox, where he displayed an unusual nervous habit. According to teammate Bill Lee, Pattin would throw up after the first inning of each appearance.

In October of ’73, the Red Sox dealt Pattin to the Royals for fellow right-hander Dick Drago. The Royals began to transition him from the rotation to the bullpen, and Pattin filled the dual roles beautifully through 1978 before experiencing a downturn the following season.

From 1982 to 1987, Pattin was head baseball coach at the University of Kansas. He’s retired now, but continues to live in Lawrence, where he has become a popular fixture telling stories at area bars and legion halls—and presumably offering up a Donald Duck imitation from time to time.

Fred Talbot (starting pitcher): On the receiving end of many of Bouton’s barbs and pranks, Talbot did not care for his teammate or his politics. After Bouton recommended a restaurant, he quoted Talbot as saying: “If Bouton recommends a restaurant, you can be pretty sure they got some good Communist dishes.”

After the release of Ball Four, Talbot was reportedly critical of Bouton’s writing style. Bouton believed it was likely Talbot who sent him an anonymous note that said the writing in Ball Four could “gag a maggot.”

As a pitcher, Talbot did not have much success after the Pilots. He spent most of 1970 in the minor leagues, appearing in just one game for Oakland before his career ended.

Talbot went to work in the construction business, ultimately retiring in 1996. In his later years, his health deteriorated badly. Suffering from cancer, he died in 2013 at the age of 71.

Steve Barber (starting pitcher): Bouton resented Barber for refusing to go to the minor leagues and rehab his arm. “There was Steve Barber getting his road uniform refitted. I guess he wants to look good while sitting in the diathermy machine. ‘You son of a bitch,’ I said to myself. ‘You’re the guy who won’t go down in order to help out the club. Instead you hang around here, can’t pitch, and now other guys are sent down because of you.’ ”

Barber never forgave Bouton for the portrayal. In spite of his arm problems, Barber latched on with the Cubs and Atlanta Braves, and then found a more permanent role pitching middle relief for the Angels.

After the ‘73 season, the Angels traded Barber to the Brewers, but he never pitched for Milwaukee. After a spring training release, he signed with the Giants, who released him, ending his 15-year career.

Barber moved to Las Vegas and became a school bus driver for children with disabilities. It was a noble job, one that allowed Barber to support his second wife and four children.

Sadly, Barber was hospitalized with pneumonia in 2007. He never recovered, dying at the age of 68.

George Brunet (starting pitcher): Bouton heralded the acquisition of the journeyman left-hander with these words: “The Pilots have bought George Brunet from the Angels for something just over the waiver price. He’ll fit right in on this ballclub. He’s crazy.”

Brunet gained a reputation as a “Dalton Boy,” a man who partied hard into all hours of the night (and didn’t wear underwear). He left the Pilots after the season, traded to Washington for right-hander Dave Baldwin. He made 20 starts for Ted Williams before being dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates and closed out his major league career with the Cardinals in 1972.

The hard-living Brunet signed on with the minor league Hawaii Islanders, where his ever-expanding belly made him look like a softball pitcher. In 1973, he joined the Mexican League, where he remained a fixture until 1985, even weathering a heart attack along the way. For more than 30 consecutive years, Brunet pitched in either the minor leagues or the major leagues.

Upon retiring, Brunet continued to live in Mexico, where he suffered a second heart attack in 1991. This one was more serious. Brunet did not recover, passing away at the age of 56.

Bob Locker (relief pitcher): At the time Bouton was making notes for Ball Four, Locker did not think too fondly of Players’ Association chief Marvin Miller. As Bouton wrote, “Locker said he understood very well why the owners get so mad at Miller. He said it was because Miller never lets up. ‘If he has a point he jumps on them with both feet and never gets off,’ Locker said.”

Locker has since reversed course on Miller. After retirement, following some success as a reliever for the A’s and Cubs, Locker champions the cause of Miller for the Hall of Fame. He has created a web site where he collects testimonials to the longtime labor leader. “It is appalling that most players of the last 20 years have no idea why they have the salaries and benefits they do,” Locker told this writer a few years ago, “much less any idea of who Marvin Miller really is.”

Locker has also written several non-baseball books and done well in real estate.

Mike Marshall (relief pitcher): Marshall’s intelligence was clear from the beginning. As Bouton wrote, “With Hovley gone, Mike Marshall is probably the most articulate guy on the club, so I asked him if he had as much trouble communicating as I’ve had and he said, ‘Of course. The minute I approach a coach or a manager, I can see the terror in his eyes.’ ”

Marshall’s intellect and outspoken nature intimidated much of the baseball establishment. After setting a record by pitching 208 innings in relief and winning the Cy Young Award in 1974, and then putting together two standout seasons for the Minnesota Twins, the screwballing specialist drew his release. The reason was likely his militant involvement in the Players’ Association. After he pitched briefly for the New York Mets, no one else showed interest, leading to speculation that Marshall had been blackballed.

Having earned his Ph.D. in kinesiology at Michigan State in 1978, Dr. Marshall turned to college coaching, but has never worked a day for a major league organization. The author of two books on pitching, Marshall continues to preach his unconventional pitching methods, offering instruction to young hurlers who are willing to listen.

Diego Segui (relief pitcher): Bouton said little of substance about Segui, a pitcher known for his rituals and superstitions. After the season, the Pilots ill-advisedly traded Segui, their most effective relief pitcher, to the A’s. Pitching as a combination starter and reliever, Segui proceeded to win the ERA title in 1970.

After stints with the Cardinals and Red Sox, Segui joined another Seattle expansion franchise—the Mariners. The only man to play for both the Mariners and the Pilots, he became known as “The Ancient Mariner.” Segui’s major league career ended in 1977, but he signed on with the Mexican League, where he pitched for nearly a decade and tossed a no-hitter at the age of 45.

After working as a minor league pitching coach, Segui left baseball to become a professional bass fisherman, but his legacy carried on in the form of his son, David, a journeyman first baseman who played for several teams, including the Orioles and Expos.

The elder Segui now lives in retirement in Kansas City.

Manager Joe Schultz: On June 1, Bouton provided some insight into the manager’s colorful way with words. “In the clubhouse Joe delivered his usual speech: ‘Attaway to stomp ‘em. Stomp the piss out of ‘em. Stomp ‘em when they’re down… Pound that ol’ Budweiser into you and go get them tomorrow.’ ”

The Pilots fired Schultz at season’s end—a fate that many of the players, including Bouton, felt was undeserved given the relative lack of talent in Seattle.

In 1970, Schultz took a job with another expansion team, becoming a coach with the Royals. In 1971, Tigers manager Billy Martin added Schultz to his staff.

It was during spring training that year that Schultz and Bouton met for the first time since Ball Four. Schultz did not like the way that Bouton had portrayed him—as someone who constantly mouthed obscenities and raged in the clubhouse. He approached Bouton, who was working for ABC Television. Schultz told him to leave the field before the Tigers began their workouts. This took Bouton by surprise; he felt he had portrayed Schultz as colorful and lovable. “Joe, you were one of my favorites,” said Bouton. But the ex-manager would not listen. “Get the hell out,” yelled Schultz.

Schultz remained with the Tigers through 1973. When the Tigers fired Martin, they named Schultz interim manager. Over 28 games, he forged a respectable 14-14 record, but would never manage again.

Schultz settled into life in St. Louis, where he died in 1996 at the age of 77.

Tomorrow: In the second part of our look back at Ball Four, we will find out what happened to some of Bouton’s most memorable teammates with the Houston Astros, with whom he finished the 1969 season. That list includes players like Bob Watson, Jimmy Wynn, Larry Dierker and the late Don Wilson.

Bruce Markusen has authored seven baseball books, including biographies of Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and Ted Williams, and A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, which was awarded SABR's Seymour Medal.
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Marc Schneider
8 years ago

Very interesting article. Couple points: I think that the quote by Locker about Miller was not intended to be negative; in fact, I think his point was that Miller was good for the players because he was so tough. So I don’t think he changed his mind about Miller. I think a lot of Ball Four shows Bouton’s own prejudices, which I think he would acknowledge, such as the one about southerners being stupid. As good as the book was, I always felt that Bouton used it to attack people he didn’t like. For example, with respect to Elston Howard, he knocked Howard for not being militant enough for Bouton’s liking on civil rights; Bouton has since acknowledged that he was unfair to Howard. But he also seemed to dislike Roger Maris and didn’t seem to have much sympathy for the difficulties that Maris endured going after the home run record (which occurred before Bouton joined the Yankees). Bouton was a young man when he wrote the book and, perhaps, would have had more sympathy for some of the characters if he had been older. I thought he was condescending to a lot of the people, such as Joe Schultz. Bouton portrayed him basically as a nitwit; the fact that Bouton didn’t recognize this says something about Bouton at the time, I think.

I always had some mixed feelings about Ball Four because I felt, and still feel, some unease at the way Bouton talked about things that people said, presumably thinking it would be in confidence and would not be disclosed. I’m sure most people say things to friends that they would not want published. I sure as hell would not want my college roommate to publicize some of the things I said in our room. So I think there was a degree of betrayal with respect to Ball Four and Bouton sort of recognized it. I recognize, though, that he, as he later noted, did not include some of the worst stuff that was said.

I also think it’s interesting that everyone talks about Ball Four but no one ever talks about his later books, especially “I’m Glad You Didn’t Take it Personally”, which was about the aftermath of Ball Four. I think that’s a hilarious book that discusses the hysteria that ensued in baseball after Ball Four came out.

8 years ago
Reply to  Marc Schneider

“Schultz did not like the way that Bouton had portrayed him—as someone who constantly mouthed obscenities”

From memory: “Joe was muttering his two favorite words — ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ — in all their possible combinations.”

Jason S.
8 years ago
Reply to  bucdaddy

I read Ball Four many years ago and I only remember 4 things from it.
1) Some player (I don’t remember who) used to get a lot of crap from his teammates because he wasn’t a superstar in high school. Bouton pointed out that his teammates were the greatest baseball player or the greatest athlete their high school ever had but one guy had barely made his high school team and made little impact there.
2) Some player got tricked that he was going to be arrested for rape, that his girlfriend had pressed charges against him.
3) Bouton really liked playing in Hawaii a lot.
4) His description of Joe Schultz which was not in any way kind. I guess Bouton was the only guy who didn’t think he made Schultz look like an idiot.

Mitchell Moore
8 years ago

Good stuff. As an adolescent baseball fan I rooted mightily for the Pilots that summer, to no avail, and “pounding the Budweiser” became a catchphrase amongst me and my bench warming teammates after Ball Four. I believe it was Gaylord Perry who was dubbed The Ancient Mariner by Ms play by play guy Dave Niehaus when the old goat joined the team in 1982 and junk-balled his way to his 300th win. Among the teams Diego Segui’s journeyman son David played for included the Mariners in 98/99.

Dennis Bedard
8 years ago

I first read this book around 1973. I remember Bouton talking about how the players made fun of Gene Brabender because of his name but no one was gutsy enough to do it to his face. Then I remember seeing Brabender at Fenway Park. He was about 8 feet tall and had huge glasses. I could never figure out how he got that name and kept it.

87 Cards
8 years ago

I have to mention my favorite ex-Pilot–Lou Pinella—- though he had zero ABs with the Pilots and 893 wins as the Mariners’ manager. At age 25, the Pilots were his fourth organization via five transactions (Cleveland property twice, 4 ABs with Baltimore and 6 with the Tribe). With a week before the start of the season, Seattle shipped him off to the KC Royals for John Gelnar and Steve Whitaker where Sweet Lou was named 1969 A.L. Rookie of the Year.

8 years ago

What about THE Dooley Womack?

Ray Miller
8 years ago

The first time I read Ball Four, I loved it. The second time I read it, after the shock had worn off and all the punchlines were known, the only things that stood out were Bouton’s arrogance and ego. Meeting Joe Schultz, et al., the second time around, under these changed conditions, I found myself bristling on their behalf instead of feeling smugly contemptuous: I mean, if Bouton thinks he’s so damn superior to everybody (I thought), why doesn’t he just quit baseball and do something more worthy of his middle-brow intellectual gifts? I remember reading recently some reminiscences about Joe Schultz (perhaps on this very site) and being astounded at how different the picture was–Why, he wasn’t really an imbecile, was he? So I agree with Marc S. re: Bouton’s condescension and unfairness. But I can’t agree with him about I’m Glad You Didn’t Take it Personally, which is arguably the single worst book I’ve ever read (in a lifetime of reading books for a living): it has all of the faults of the first book and none of the strengths, and in the end had no reason to be.

For all that, some anecdotes from Ball Four have become a permanent part of my personal baseball memory and will always bring a smile to my face. They have added a depth to my understanding of the game that I would otherwise not have. But now I find I have to cleanse them of all the envy and pettiness they’re steeped in before I laugh.

8 years ago
Reply to  Ray Miller

young and bullet proof….even as you live and discover you’re not, not really….you’re going to have the appropriate level of arrogance to succeed. or you won’t.

bouton did. and the young him thought this, and said that.

well. sure, okay.

and i read it when it first came out. a big fucking deal. ‘jesus, mickey….*mickey*?!?’

fuck the joe schultz shit, that was the smallest of small potatoes. jesus.

8 years ago
Reply to  purebull

pound that budweiser boys…..was the motto of my HS team, within five years of the original publication. a good thing…

Joe Pilla
8 years ago

This is a most welcome flashback to BALL FOUR and its dramatic personae, Bruce, and I thank you for it. I certainly won’t disagree that Jim Bouton was settling scores with the book and deserved a great deal of the pushback he received. However, the importance of the book in helping to establish a more realistic sense of a pro ballplayer than was commonly available in print can’t be overestimated. BALL FOUR’s greatest asset is how human it portrays its author and his teammates. In that respect, it followed up on Jerry Kramer’s INSTANT REPLAY, but Bouton’s iconoclasm gave his diary greater spice and insight. And, here on THT, your welcome player profiles possess that quality, too: offering a more rounded human story behind the stats and video that we sometimes confuse for a complete picture of these ball playing people.

Marc Schneider
8 years ago
Reply to  Joe Pilla

I think it would be interesting to read a Ball Four today, now that the relationship between the players and management is a lot different and they make much more money and security (at least the better players). The players have gone from being part of the proletariat in Bouton’s day to being part of the 1%. I wonder how much this has changed the dynamics of the clubhouse. Are there as many funny stories? The other thing, too, is that some of the stories in Ball Four that were considered funny would now not be seen in the same light. For example, players running around on a hotel rook looking into women’s rooms would not be seen as funny, boys-will-be-boys type of thing, but as sexual predation. And it would be on You Tube within two minutes. I remember that, back in the early 70s at the beginning of the feminist movement, Bouton went on the Dick Cavett show and caught holy hell from a feminist for his “wham-bam-thank you ma’am” comment in the book.

8 years ago

When I was in 4th grade in catholic school, I stole my older brother’s copy of Ball Four, and brought it to school, where my mates and I read the juicy parts until the cover of the book fell off. The nuns confiscated the book and called my parents, telling them I had brought in a book called Four Balls. Nuns have dirty minds. Great book!

Paul G.
8 years ago

My opinion of the book, which I read many years ago: the writing was pretty good, the stories were interesting, and Jim comes across as both an earnest writer trying to tell an important story and a pompous ass. Seriously, I’d read two paragraphs and wonder how the same person could write both. He reminded me of a (hypothetical) friend who provides wonderful conversation during lunch and then leaves without paying.

Dennis Bedard
8 years ago

To Ray Miller: Bouton did try a third career: acting. Watch The Long Goodbye with Elliott Gould and a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. You will see very fast why Bouton stuck to writing!!! He looked like the Michelin Man dipped in butterscotch sauce.

John C.
8 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Bedard

They made a TV series about “Ball Four” in the 1970’s. Jim Bouton starred as “Jim Barton.” It lasted for all of five episodes.

Tom Tomsik
8 years ago

What about Gary “Ding Dong” Bell, perhaps the only pitcher whose first and last names, as well as each word in his nickname, has four letters, and also a prominent figure in “Strike Three! My Years in the ‘Pen”, and “Ball Four”!

Bruce Markusen
8 years ago

Tom, here’s an update on Gary Bell. (I didn’t include all of the players in these articles because there are just so many of them and the article would have become unwieldy.)

After splitting the ’69 season between the Pilots and the Chicago White, the free-spirited right-hander known as “Ding Dong” never again pitched in the major leagues. He worked a variety of jobs, including some public relations work for a minor league team and the start-up of his own sporting goods company in the 1980s.

Bell has also been active in the MLB Players’ Alumni Association. One of the leaders of the group since its inception, the good-natured Bell often attends charitable golf tournaments and participates in free clinics for children.

Bruce Markusen
8 years ago

And here’s an update on Dooley Womack:

As the man who was traded for Bouton, the oddly named but good-natured Womack never actually played with him in either Seattle or Houston. At the end of the 1969 season, the Pilots returned Womack to the Astros, who then rerouted him to Cincinnati for journeyman outfielder Jim Beauchamp. But Womack never made it to the Reds, who sent him to the minor leagues and then sold him to the A’s in August of 1970. Womack pitched badly in two games for the A’s before heading back to the minor leagues in 1971, when his career ended because of a torn rotator cuff.

His playing days over, Womack returned to his home in Columbia, South Carolina. Abandoning Organized Baseball, he sold men’s clothes for a while, became involved in real estate, and then joined the commercial floor-covering industry for nearly 25 years before retiring. Known for his infectious laugh, he remains a fan favorite to this day.

John Downing
8 years ago
Reply to  Bruce Markusen

One of my favorite Yankees(unlike Fred Talbot) after their fall from grace.

John Downing
8 years ago

Wasn’t Greg Goosen the player drafted by the Mets ahead of Reggie Jackson? Casey Stengel supposedly remarked that Goosen, then age 20, about his potential,that in 10 years he has a chance to be 30!

Greg F.
8 years ago
Reply to  John Downing

Actually that was Steve Chilcott who was picked ahead of Reggie Jackson in the 1966 draft. I remember the Greg Goossen quote by Casey Stengel – he was comparing 2 players, both 20 years old(don’t remember the other one) and he said of the other player – “In 10 years he has a chance to be a star”. Of Goossen he said “In 10 years he has a chance to be 30”. (Quotes approximate).

8 years ago

Certainly Bouton had an ego and the charge of pomposity has some merit but I think ‘score settling’ is a bit over the top. It strikes me as a pretty honest account, and the author certainly doesn’t spare himself from the dubious pursuits and downright idiocy present on the club. Too, ‘I’m glad you didn’t take it personally’ is a useful look back at the aftermath of the book’s release and impact. And you’ve got to give the guy credit for making it back to the bigs in 1978. I think big leaguers now do not have anywhere near as much fun, partly due to the corporate button down image they maintain so as not to lose a nickel in revenue, and partly due to the fact that just about every moment spent in public will be recorded, broadcast, and scrutinized. So I would doubt that there are much in the way of hijinks and comradeship today.

Marc Schneider
8 years ago
Reply to  mike

Score-settling is probably the wrong word. But, there were clearly people Bouton liked and those he didn’t like and I’m not sure he was always fair in his portrayal. On the other hand, that’s probably true of everyone; we all have images of others that are often not accurate. With respect to your point about less fun, sometimes I sit near the bullpen at Nats Park and when I see the relief pitchers, I’m always wondering if they are looking at women or doing other things that Bouton talked about in the book. I’m guessing that, with all the money at stake and the increased importance of the bullpen today, it is a much more serious place.