September 17th, 2004

Calvinball

It Was the Summer of '69

"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time."

In 1963 and 64, Jim Bouton was one of the best pitchers in baseball. Then he hurt his arm. He continued to pitch without much success for several years as the old Yankee dynasty crumbled around him. In 1968, he was discarded by the Yanks, and spent the rest of the year in the minors teaching himself how to throw the knuckleball. In 1969, he was signed by the Seattle Pilots, one of four expansion teams added by the majors that year. The diary Bouton kept that year became Ball Four: My Life and Hard Times Throwing the Knuckleball in the Big Leagues, arguably the finest book about baseball ever written. When I started rereading it, I wondered if it would still be as good as I remembered some twenty odd years after I last read it. Actually, it's better. I found that I appreciate it more now given everything that's happened in baseball since it came out.

Collapse )