Pro baseball player and author Jim Bouton died on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, at his home in Massachusetts. His wife, Paula Kurman, announced his passing after a long struggle with vascular dementia. He was 80 years old.
Bouton spent 1962 to 1978 in pro and minor league baseball, pitching for the New York Yankees, Seattle Pilots, Houston Astros, and Atlanta Braves. The righty threw 720 strikeouts and had an earned run average of 3.57.
In addition to his player stats, Bouton is known for his tell all book, Ball Four, a candid even raunchy player’s diary that painted a different picture of America’s favorite pastime. Published in 1970, the book detailed some of the selfishness and childishness of players in professional baseball. Some readers approved of the naked honesty while others considered it too scandalous.
Bouton was born on March 8, 1939 in Newark, New Jersey. After his family moved to Homewood, Illinois, he started playing for his school’s baseball team, mostly as a warm-up pitcher. He attended Western Michigan University and pitched for the team, then played amateur baseball and caught the eye of Yankees scout Art Stewart who signed him for the team.
After playing in the minors, he joined the Yankees team in 1962 and earned the nickname “Bulldog” for his fastball. Two years later during the World Series, his team won both games that he started, including a complete game six-hitter.
An injury in 1965 changed the trajectory of his career and he became a reliever for the minor league Seattle Angels, in 1968. He retired about midway through the 1970 season after being sent back to the minors by his then pro team, the Houston Astros. During his retirement, Bouton became a sports anchor for a few TV stations then tried his hand at acting in The Long Goodbye and Ball Four.
He launched a comeback in 1975, playing with the Portland Mavericks where he achieved a 5-1 record. In 1977 he was signed on to a minor league team under the Chicago White Sox. His final year of pro baseball came in 1978 when he joined the Atlanta Braves on their rotation in September.
In addition to Ball Four, he wrote several other books on baseball, and he was one of the inventors of Big League Chew bubblegum.