Friday, May 27, 2011

#30 Jim Bouton

#30 Jim Bouton
This is the first of two 1965 Topps cards that I acquired via trades on Topps' Million Card Giveaway site, last year's version of the Diamond Giveaway. I entered a code card that was pulled from a pack of 2010 Topps, and was awarded a 1964 Topps Wade Blasingame. Since I already had Wade's 1965 card and the drab '64 design is one of my least favorite, I offered it up for trade for various 1965s that I needed. Someone took the bait, and I got Jim Bouton in return! I waited until the March 2011 deadline to order shipping on the batch of cards that I had unlocked and/or traded for, and they arrived six weeks later. As you can see, this one isn't in great shape, but it's certainly not the worst-kept specimen in my set.

Fun facts about Jim Bouton:

-Jim was born in Newark, NJ and attended Western Michigan University before signing with the Yankees in 1959.

-The young pitcher, known as "Bulldog", went 13-7 with a 2.97 ERA at AA Amarillo in 1961 and earned a spot on the big league team the following spring. As a rookie, he made 16 starts and 20 relief appearances, going 7-7 with a 3.99 ERA and 2 saves. He did not appear in the World Series vs. San Francisco.

-1963 was a breakout year for the sophomore, as he went 21-7 with 12 complete games and team bests in ERA (2.53) and shutouts (6). He took a hard-luck loss in Game 3 of the World Series, dropping a 1-0 decision to Dodger star Don Drysdale.

-Bouton followed up with an 18-13 mark and a 3.02 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 1964. He dazzled in the World Series, winning both of his starts and allowing 4 runs (3 earned) in 17.1 innings for a 1.56 ERA.

-His intellectual, sarcastic, and iconoclastic behavior frequently made him conspicuous in the clubhouse, and arm troubles in the mid-1960s made him expendable in the eyes of the Yankees. While pitching for AAA Seattle in 1968, he began throwing a knuckleball in order to be effective. He was to spend much of the 1969 season in the Pacific Northwest, but this time with the Pilots, a first-year club in the American League. Used mostly in relief, he went 2-1 with a save and a 3.91 ERA. He was traded to Houston for the stretch run and had a 4.11 ERA in 30.2 innings for the Astros.

-Of course, Bouton kept a running diary of that 1969 season, and it was published as "Ball Four". It was a best-seller and a groundbreaking look inside major league clubhouses. The "old-boys" network in baseball was furious, with players and executives alike feeling that he had abused trust and privacy and painted the sport and its people in an unflattering light. He put up a 5.40 ERA in 29 games with the Astros in 1970, and following the publication of his book, could not latch on with another team.

-Throughout the 1970s, Jim continued pitching in semipro ball. He got a minor league deal from Bill Veeck in 1977, and the following year the similarly free-thinking Ted Turner signed the knuckleballer. He made it all the way back to the big leagues in September 1978, making 5 starts for a bad Braves team. The 39-year-old went 1-3 with a 4.97 ERA, earning his only win with a single unearned run allowed in 6 innings on September 14 against the Giants.

-In parts of 10 seasons, he was 62-63 with 6 saves and a 3.57 ERA.

-He's had a varied and fascinating life outside of the lines. He wrote several more books, both fiction and non-fiction, and during the 1970s he dabbled in acting, co-starring in the 1973 film The Long Goodbye and co-writing and appearing in a short-lived 1976 sitcom based on "Ball Four". He also spent a few years as a sportscaster in New York and invented  several products including Big League Chew, bubble gum that was shaped and packaged like chewing tobacco.

-You can read more about Jim at his official website. By the way, he reconciled with Mickey Mantle shortly before the slugger's death in 1995, and the Yankees finally welcomed him back to Old Timers' Day in 1998.
#30 Jim Bouton (back)


  1. Wow, I just now finished an entry centering on Ball Four on my blog for next week. Quite a coincidence!

    I played Little League and Ruth ball with Bouton's nephews. They were really good.

  2. I have a dupe of a '65 Bouton that is (depending on your grading preferences) either an outstanding EX or kind of a marginal EXMT - but it's OPC. Card stock is greyish and it says 'printed in Canada' on the back.

    If that is of interest, let me know.

  3. I read Ball Four during a cross-country trip with my family in 1971. A few years ago, I found the "updated" version of the book at a used book store, but have yet to read it again. I think I'll put that on my summer reading list!

  4. I've had a classic on my summer reading list the past couple years. Ball Four was two years ago, The Boys of Summer last year. I need a suggestion for this year. I'm in the middle of a Jackie Robinson biography, but have nothing in the hopper after that.

    I thought the players in Ball Four all came off pretty well. It was always management he was ripping on.

  5. Last summer I read "Crash", by Dick Allen.

  6. I actually though Bouton's later book about the reaction to "Ball Four," called "I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally" was almost as good as the original. After reading Ball Four, I always wonder if the players are checking out girls in the stands.

  7. Bob - Can't say that I played with anyone that close to a big leaguer. Though Tim Norris (pitcher from my high school who was the Orioles' 4th-round pick in 1978) was the assistant baseball coach at my high school. I didn't play on the team myself, but...what was my point?

    1967ers - I might be interested. Email me: brotz13 at gmail dot com. As far as your reading list, I enjoyed The Summer of '49 and October 1964, both by David Halberstam.

    Jim - Definitely. I read it for the first time during a family vacation to Ocean City, MD. Some of the pages still have saltwater's a nice reminder.

    Marc - I might have to check out Bouton's follow up.