Posts Tagged ‘Seattle Pilots’

Ball Four Time

March 23, 2010

Monday March 22nd, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

A ritual I’ve had every spring since I was in high school is to find a copy of my favorite book “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton and pass it on to someone who hasn’t read it. I love that book and never get tired of the stories and characters in it. I think it’s an absolute classic.

It’s amazing how many rabid sports fans have never read that book, even though it’s 40 years old now. It’s Jim Bouton’s diary of playing for the Seattle Pilots for the only season they existed in 1969 before they moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers, the same team I grew up watching as a kid in the ‘70s. It’s a very candid peek into life in baseball.

He talks about the politics, which aren’t all that different than the politics in comedy or any other field of endeavor. He caught a lot of grief for it when it came out, but looking at it now, it’s pretty tame. He had a lot of dead on observations and predicted correctly quite a few things that actually happened. The players of his era were not millionaire crybabies.

It’s also a lot more. 1969 was a pretty tumultuous time in our country too, and Bouton’s timing was perfect to capture it all in one book. Plus, he was traded during the season and played for the Houston Astros to finish out the season. That and his being sent down for a brief stint in the minor leagues really provided a fascinating in depth look into baseball.

I read it in high school and it really resonated with me for some reason. I love sports but it’s more than a sports book. It’s a diary of hilarious stories with strong characters and I’m always able to pick it up, turn to any page and start back up where I left off. It’s timeless.

A big reason I started writing my own diary of life as a comedian was a direct influence of Ball Four. I thought it was a treat to get to peek inside the world of baseball that so few people ever got to see. It revealed a human side to it and even though he caught hell for it at the time, Jim Bouton wasn’t disrespectful at all in my opinion. He handled it perfectly.

He was honest about how he felt, and didn’t exclude himself in his criticisms. I loved it then and continue to enjoy it year after year. That’s a mark of a true classic and there isn’t another book I can think of I’ve enjoyed as many times over the years as I have this one.

Hopefully, I can provide a similar peek into the world of what it’s like to be a comedian on the road. Jim Bouton was never a superstar and neither am I, but he did achieve a huge accomplishment by making it to the major leagues for several years. That’s no small feat.

Making a living solely from being a standup comic was no easy task either. I admit I’m not a household name, but I’m not a part time wannabe either. I’ve done it and been there and brushed up with some of the all time greats. Jim Bouton did too, and it’s interesting.

I recommend Ball Four to anyone, not just sports fans. I have an extra copy I’ll be glad to mail to anyone who asks for it, but it’s available at Jim Bouton’s website too which is http://www.ballfour.com. Hopefully my little diary will entertain people forty years from now.