Saturday, October 22, 2005
Harry Walker Born
Today I must remedy a situation that I only realized today was a problem. I have, including for the man born today, referenced Jim Bouton's Ball Four. However, I have never given a proper entry to the book itself. While Jim Brosnan's The Long Season and Ring Lardner's fictional You Know Me Al had given some sense of life as a Major League player on a day-to-day basis, there was no book before or since as done as good a job as Ball Four. Bouton had been a star for the Yankees, winning twenty-one games in 1963 and eighteen (plus two more in the World Series) in 1964. By the season of 1969 however, he had blown out his arm and was getting by on his knuckleball under the eye of Joe Schultz for the expansion Seattle Pilots. The book is remarkable then for showing how someone for whom the game had once been almost easy and was now barely hanging lived, but also the more ordinary joys (defeating one's former team) miseries (getting sent to the minors) pleasures ("beaver shooting") and indignities (bed checks) of playing in the Majors. It is a brilliant book, one that is as readable (and enjoyable) the tenth time as the first, and highly, highly recommended.