Foul Ball (RosettaBooks Sports Classics)by Jim Bouton
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In his first diary since Ball Four, Jim Bouton recounts his amazing adventure trying to save a historic ballpark in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Host to organized baseball since 1892, Wahconah Park was soon to be abandoned by the owner of the Pittsfield Mets, who would move his team to a new stadium in another town--an all too familiar story.
Enter Bouton and his partner with the best deal ever offered to a community--a locally owned professional baseball team and a privately restored city-owned ballpark at no cost to the taxpayers.
The only people who didn�t like Bouton�s plan were the Mayor, the Mayor�s hand-picked Parks Commissioners, a majority of the City Council, the only daily newspaper, the city�s largest bank, it�s most powerful law firm, and a guy from General Electric. Everyone else--or approximately 98% of the citizens of Pittsfield--loved it.
The �good old boys� hated Bouton�s plan because it would put a stake in the heart of a proposed $18.5 million baseball stadium--a new stadium that the citizens of Pittsfield had voted against three different times!
In what one reviewer called �that same humane, sarcastic voice� Bouton unmasks a mayor who brags that �the fix is in,� a newspaper that lies to its readers, and a government that operates out of a bar.
But maybe the most incredible story is what happened after Foul Ball was self-published--a story in itself. Invited back by a new mayor, Bouton and his partner raise $1.2 million, help discover a document dating Pittsfield�s baseball origins to 1791, and stage a vintage game that's broadcast live by ESPN-TV.
Who could have guessed what would happen next? And that this time it would involve the Massachusetts Attorney General?
�What Foul Ball shares with Ball Four,� wrote John Feinstein, �is Bouton�s humor� and a remarkable tale that--if you didn�t trust the author--you would find difficult to believe.�
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim Bouton was born in Newark, NJ, in 1939. He grew up in Rochelle Park, a blue-collar town that was too small for Little League. The result was that kids learned to play baseball without uniforms, parents, coaches, or umpires.
In high school, his nickname was ""warm up Bouton"" because he never got into the games. Advised that becoming a major league pitcher was ""unrealistic,"" Bouton wrote his Careers Week report on the life of a forest ranger. He got a C on his report and an A on the cover--a nice drawing of a squirrel in a tree.
Bouton was an All-Star pitcher and won 20 games for the Yankees in 1963. The next year he won 18 games and beat the Cardinals twice in the World Series. Eventually a sore arm got him sold to the Seattle Pilots--for a bag of batting practice balls. That�s when he began taking notes for his diary Ball Four, published in 1970.
In the 1970s he was a top-rated TV sportscaster in New York City, acted in a Robert Altman film called The Long Goodbye, and made a brief comeback with the Atlanta Braves.
In 2003 Bouton wrote and self-published Foul Ball, a diary of his battle to save a historic ballpark in Pittsfied, MA. Bouton says he only writes when he�s bursting to say something. �Ball Four was a book I wanted to write,� he says. �Foul Ball was a book I had to write.
Today Bouton lives in a forest in western Massachusetts.
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Hollywood, where are you? Jim Bouton¿s ¿Foul Ball¿ got everything that anyone could dream up as a perfect film. It¿s ¿Meet John Doe¿ meets ¿Field of Dreams¿. Or better, ¿Meet Joe Doe¿ meets the Three Stooges¿ ¿Scheming Schemers.¿ You got the old ball player (Jim Bouton ¿ like John Doe, the out-of-work pitcher played by Gary Gooper) trying to save a beautiful old ball park (Waconah Park, in Pittsfield Mass ¿ where scores of famous big leaguers played in the minors). You got the fat cats out to get the taxpayers to build them a new stadium. (General Electric Co., the local big bank, and the big fish in a little pond law firm). You got the good-old-boys in city hall (Mayor, his councilors and their hand-picked parks commission). You got the local newspaper, once highly respected, but now owned by a money-first, objectivity-last Denver-based chain, that just happens to own a piece of land ¿perfect¿ for a new taxpayer-financed stadium, possibly to cover a toxic waste site. (Curiously, in ¿Meet John Doe¿ it was a newspaper tycoon who was out to crush John Doe.) You got a hometown boy made good, returning with his multi-millions but looking for a public hand-out ¿ supposedly to help the town but more interested in seeing a stadium built in his honor. And you got a handful of brave local folk who love that old ballpark, and who are fed up with greedy pols and their pals dipping into the taxpayer¿s pocket. The old ball player, Jim Bouton, a local area resident, tries to convince the Mayor and his cronies that his team¿s plan ¿ shocking! with no taxpayer money whatsoever ¿ can bring good baseball back to a restored Waconah Park, where professional ball has been played since 1892. How does it end? Well, the bad guys may have won the first few innings, but the game is not over, and the good guys are still in there swinging ¿- we hope. The book got everything ¿ and if Jim Bouton were to write the screenplay, it would not only be authentic, but as hilarious as his book. Come to think of it, nobody would be better cast than Jim Bouton playing himself. But while we¿re waiting for ¿Foul Ball¿ on the screen, read the book and you¿ll be thanking the Gods of baseball that there are guys like Jim Bouton and his merry team who fight to preserve America¿s history and traditions. --Robert Skole, Boston