Jim Bouton, whose controversial book “Ball Four” exposed the personal lives of his baseball teammates, died Wednesday after a bout with vascular dementia, his wife, Paula Kurman, said. He was 80.
Media reports said Bouton died at his home in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
“Ball Four,” which came out in 1970, had a dramatic effect on baseball by revealing the late-night adventures of players like New York Yankees star Mickey Mantle and the use of illegal drugs.
The diary of his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and the Houston Astros also included anecdotes from his time with the Yankees during the first seven seasons of his career.
“The motive for doing this was not to make money or write something that was going to last a long time,” Bouton told the Los Angeles Times in 2010. “Basically, I just wanted to share the fun of baseball.”
But while the book, co-written with Leonard Shecter of the New York Post, was a critical hit, the funny tales angered the baseball establishment and many former teammates.
He was already on management’s bad side. According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Bouton negotiated a new contract each year and told the media details of the talks.
SABR says Bouton’s book “caused fans to look at the game in an entirely new way, and revolutionized baseball journalism and literature.”
Sports writer Peter King tweeted that “Ball Four” is the greatest sports book of all time.
New York Times sports writer Tyler Kepner wrote, “Nobody ever captured the humor and humanity of ballplayers the way Bouton did in ‘Ball Four.'”
Bouton also pitched with the Atlanta Braves. He was an all-star once, in 1963 when he was 21-7 with New York. In 1964, he won two games in the World Series but the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Yankees four games to three.
He was 62-63 in his 10-year career.
There was also a short-lived CBS sitcom based on the book and starring Bouton as a player for a fictional team called the Washington Americans. It aired in 1976.