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"Ball Four" author Bouton dies at age 80

14 July 2019

According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Bouton negotiated a new contract each year and told the media details of the talks.

New York Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton wearing his glove and holding a baseball.

The knuckleballer, who spent 10 years in the major leagues, was best known for writing the best-selling "Ball Four", recounting the 1969 season when he was a member of the expansion Seattle Pilots and the Houston Astros as well as his earlier years with the Yankees.

In his rookie season in 1962, he had a standout performance, making part of the winning team.

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While pitching in college at Western Michigan, Bouton impressed Yankees scouts and he signed with team as an amateur free agent in 1959 for $30,000. Bouton started Game 3 and was allowed one run over seven innings while being out-dueled by future Hall of Famer Don Drysdale in a 1-0 Dodgers victory at Dodger Stadum.

Throwing so hard that his cap often flew off his head, Bouton was 21-8 with six shutouts in 1963 - his second season in the majors and his only year as an All-Star - and went 18-13 with four more shutouts in 1964.

Bouton injured his right arm in 1965, going 4-15 that season, and saw limited action the next three seasons with NY.

Arm problems derailed his career, and Bouton developed a knuckleball to hang on for a few more seasons.

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A sportswriter approached him and asked him to write a diary during his 1969 season, which he agreed to.

Published in 1970, "Ball Four" detailed Yankees great Mickey Mantle's carousing and the use of stimulants in the major leagues.

When released, "Ball Four" was harshly criticized within the game, especially by baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

But the book caused most of his old teammates to ostracize him, and he was blackballed from Yankees events for almost 50 years, until the team made amends last season by inviting Mr. Bouton to the annual Old-Timers Day event, where he was given an emotional standing ovation. The Yankees took it personally, as he never was invited to take part in Old Timers' Day until 1988.

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Mr. Bouton also was a television sportscaster in New York City; wrote other books; appeared in the 1973 movie The Long Goodbye, directed by Robert Altman, and starred in a 1976 CBS sitcom based on Ball Four that lasted only five episodes.