SPORTS & RECREATION

Bouton: The Life of a Baseball Original

Univ. of Nebraska. May 2020. 448p. 448p. ISBN 9781496217707. $34.95.. SPORTS
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One might wonder how a baseball pitcher with a resume of only 62 major league victories (against 63 losses) merits a comprehensive biography. However, Nathanson (Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law; God Almighty Hisself) uses these pages to their fullest in presenting the life of Jim Bouton (1939–2019), who spent most of his career as a pitcher for the New York Yankees and was a vocal advocate of barring the apartheid state of South Africa from two Olympics. His 1970 tell-all, Ball Four, was controversial at the time, but eventually gained commercial success and became a baseball classic. With revelations of widespread drug use and drunkenness among baseball stars, the book forever altered perceptions of our heroes, such as Mickey Mantle, and how they would be treated in print. After Bouton was essentially blacklisted from the major leagues, he became a sportscaster, actor, entrepreneur, and advocate for the restoration of a rickety former minor league ballpark, to name a few of his endeavors.
VERDICT Baseball fans will laugh alongside and, ultimately, feel touched by this look at an iconoclastic, often quixotic man who, despite the charges that his landmark book had hurt the game, loved baseball to the very end.

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