Ball Four

Updated: January 6, 2004, 4:47 PM ET
Special to ESPN.com

"I've been surprised from Day One, actually. It's one of those things that just took off like a rocket ship, and I don't feel like I'm at the controls. I just feel like I'm trying to hang on. But it's been a wonderful ride. I didn't think it would be groundbreaking, I thought people would find it was a fun book. I wasn't thinking beyond that. I had no idea of the importance of diaries." said author Jim Bouton on ESPN Classic's SportsCentury series.

The 'Ball Four' show will revisit the firestorm of controversy ignited upon the book's 1970 release and tell the story of its impact.

On its surface, 'Ball Four' appears to be no more than a tell all book about life in the Major Leagues through the eyes of its author, former major league pitcher, Jim Bouton.

'Ball Four' shattered the "milk and cookie image" of professional sports through its brash honesty and gave its readers a true behind-the-scenes look at what really takes place in the clubhouse.

In the 1970's the book was read into testimony at the Andy Messersmith/Dave McNally hearings, which initiated the age of free agency in baseball. Ultimately, the book helped swing the balance of power from the owners to the athletes, throughout the sports world.

'Ball Four' is also the personal story of Jim Bouton, and his transformation from twenty-game winner and World Series star for the New York Yankees, to outcast and public enemy #1 to the baseball fraternity.

"The Bulldog," as Bouton was known in his prime, persevered through a comeback with the Braves in 1977 and a successful stint as a local sports announcer.

"It was cussing. It had sex. Plus, it was baseball," explains writer Dennis Tuttle, yet former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent laments that it made the players seem like "vulgar teenagers."

Hall of Famer Bob Feller calls it "the worst book ever written about baseball" yet Nolan Ryan says "I found it quite interesting, quite humorous".

The late Mickey Mantle, idol to millions, is revealed to have hit a home run while so hung-over "he could barely see." Mantle, in his unique and unmistakable drawl, will be heard - for the first time - telling Bouton he harbors no hard feelings over his portrayal in the book.

'Ball Four' reveals Jim Bouton's life to be like his knuckleball, dipping and sailing through the highs of an unprecedented major league comeback and his trials as baseball outcast.

Rick Cerrone, the Yankees Director Media Relations & Publicity, explains that Bouton was not so much banned from baseball as he was "forgotten."

But, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner acknowledges aloud, "Who am I to judge?" The show exposes the emotional journey as Bouton ultimately rediscovers some measure of acceptance among his baseball peers through great personal tragedy."I've been surprised from Day One, actually. It's one of those things that just took off like a rocket ship, and I don't feel like I'm at the controls. I just feel like I'm trying to hang on. But it's been a wonderful ride. I didn't think it would be groundbreaking, I thought people would find it was a fun book. I wasn't thinking beyond that. I had no idea of the importance of diaries." said author Jim Bouton on ESPN Classic's SportsCentury series.

The 'Ball Four' show will revisit the firestorm of controversy ignited upon the book's 1970 release and tell the story of its impact.

On its surface, 'Ball Four' appears to be no more than a tell all book about life in the Major Leagues through the eyes of its author, former major league pitcher, Jim Bouton.

'Ball Four' shattered the "milk and cookie image" of professional sports through its brash honesty and gave its readers a true behind-the-scenes look at what really takes place in the clubhouse.

In the 1970's the book was read into testimony at the Andy Messersmith/Dave McNally hearings, which initiated the age of free agency in baseball. Ultimately, the book helped swing the balance of power from the owners to the athletes, throughout the sports world.

'Ball Four' is also the personal story of Jim Bouton, and his transformation from twenty-game winner and World Series star for the New York Yankees, to outcast and public enemy #1 to the baseball fraternity.

"The Bulldog," as Bouton was known in his prime, persevered through a comeback with the Braves in 1977 and a successful stint as a local sports announcer.

"It was cussing. It had sex. Plus, it was baseball," explains writer Dennis Tuttle, yet former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent laments that it made the players seem like "vulgar teenagers."

Hall of Famer Bob Feller calls it "the worst book ever written about baseball" yet Nolan Ryan says "I found it quite interesting, quite humorous".

The late Mickey Mantle, idol to millions, is revealed to have hit a home run while so hung-over "he could barely see." Mantle, in his unique and unmistakable drawl, will be heard - for the first time - telling Bouton he harbors no hard feelings over his portrayal in the book.

'Ball Four' reveals Jim Bouton's life to be like his knuckleball, dipping and sailing through the highs of an unprecedented major league comeback and his trials as baseball outcast.

Rick Cerrone, the Yankees Director Media Relations & Publicity, explains that Bouton was not so much banned from baseball as he was "forgotten."

But, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner acknowledges aloud, "Who am I to judge?" The show exposes the emotional journey as Bouton ultimately rediscovers some measure of acceptance among his baseball peers through great personal tragedy.

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