"Ball Four" - the best sports book in the USA in the last century

"Ball Four” – the best US sports book of the last century

The story surrounding the most memorable season of baseball player Jim Boughton impresses all lovers of the game

Baseball is an extremely popular sport in the United States, but not worldwide. Still, there are enough people who are interested in the game and are attracted by more than just the news and the matches themselves. Products such as movies, books and the like related to baseball are not few and many of them are extremely successful. An example is former player Jim Boughton's biography of the 1969 season. It also tells about a few more curious moments from his game.

Boughton is a pitcher best known for his time with the New York Yankees in the 1960s. In "Ball Four", or "Fourth Ball" in a literal translation in Bulgarian, he talks about his campaign with the Seattle Pilots and the subsequent late trade to the Houston Astros, where his Major League Baseball career ended. The pitcher became famous for his writing skills, and the famous journalist Leonard Schecter helped him with his editing. The book was published in June 1970 and pleased all fans of the popular American game.

In The Fourth Ball, Boughton gives readers a look at the other side of baseball. It became the first book that teenagers, passionate about the game, read without it being one of the compulsory ones at school. The form in which it is written also contributes to the great interest and easy, pleasant reading. In effect, "Fourth Ball" is a diary in which the baseball player recounts his experiences on buses, clubs, at practice and even in the cramped hotel room where he lives with his wife and three young children.

The first attraction that might grab your attention in the pages comes from the salacious stories about Boughton's former teammate Mickey Mantle hitting a game-winning home run while hungover. There are also more curious stories about the other players who did not observe decency at all.

Unlike the first Jim Boughton autobiography written by Mitchell Nathanson, The Fourth Ball shows that baseball is much more than just a game. There is nothing accidental about the fact that over a million copies of this book have been sold. The main action in it takes place during the 1969 season, when the 30-year-old veteran tries to help the Seattle Pilots become a more famous team in the United States.

Curiously, in every single decade from the 1980s to the 2010s, the baseball player released an update with new chapters that continued to hold readers' attention. It is no coincidence that "Fourth Ball" is the only sports title of the last century according to the list published by the New York Public Library in 1996.

Boughton's book explores men's feelings and emotions. At the same time, it is also cheerful. The other solid group of readers, namely aging men, tend to re-read The Fourth Ball because they feel the same way the pitcher does in trying to stay in the game. Boughton was rejected by the Yankees because of his serious age, and as part of the Pilots team, he also feels out of place, experiencing desperation and anxiety that he tries to mask with a joking demeanor and hopes to keep his job.

Another interesting touch in the baseball player's story is that he combined the game with other activities to ensure his financial independence. Boughton started a real estate business, renovating homes and renting them out to businessmen and athletes. He likes to talk at length with reporters, often passed by the other contestants. In addition to the game, he also talked about the Vietnam War, politics and books, demonstrating that he was smart, literate and had a knack for more than just baseball.

Perhaps one of the few downsides, but only for the player, is related to the fact that after the release of the book, many of his teammates cannot forgive him for exposing personal dramas, fates and actions that he learned in secret. This leads to quite a few scandals, which, however, cannot erase the wonderful work that "Ball Four" has become.