Foul Ball: My Life and Hard Times Trying to Save an Old Ballpark

Overview

Jim Bouton had a revolutionary plan to save one of the oldest ballparks in America. The only people who didn't like it were the mayor, the mayor's hand-picked parks commissioners, a majority of the city council, the only daily newspaper in town, the city's largest bank, its most powerful law firm, and a guy from General Electric.

Everyone else-approximately 94 percent of the citizens of Pittsfield, Massachusetts-love it.

The "good old boys" ...

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Overview

Jim Bouton had a revolutionary plan to save one of the oldest ballparks in America. The only people who didn't like it were the mayor, the mayor's hand-picked parks commissioners, a majority of the city council, the only daily newspaper in town, the city's largest bank, its most powerful law firm, and a guy from General Electric.

Everyone else-approximately 94 percent of the citizens of Pittsfield, Massachusetts-love 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 people of Pittsfield had voted against on three different occasions.

What the people wanted was their beloved Wahconah Park, a historic landmark and host to organized baseball since 1892. Nationally acclaimed as a "great baseball cathedral," Wahconah Park was soon to be abandoned by the owner of the Pittsfield Mets, who was moving his team to a new stadium in another town-an all-too-familiar story,

Enter Bouton and his partners with the best deal ever offered to the community-a locally owned professional baseball team for a fully restored city-owned ballpark at no cost to the taxpayers.

You would think this would be a no-brainer. But you would be wrong. And you might be shocked to find out why.

Why would a city $9 million in debt want to spend $18.5 million for a new stadium that dooms an historic landmark? Why build this stadium that the citizens don't want on a site that requires the taking of peoples homes? Why are all the decisions being made behind closed doors? And why are the shots being called by a guy in Denver, Colorado? Those are the million dollar questions.

Maybe tens of millions.

For readers, however, the most important question might be why Bouton was originally forced to publish this book himself. And you can read about that, too, in this revealing diary-Bouton's first sine Ball Four.

"Ball Four is a book I wanted to write. Foul Ball is a book I had to write."
--JIM BOUTON

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Editorial Reviews

David Kipen
"An irresistible story whose outcome remains in doubt until the very end. Not just a funny book, but a patriotic one."
San Francisco Chronicle
John Feinstein
"Now in his fifth decade of telling the truth no matter the consequences, Bouton proves that a badly-run city government can be just as dangerous---and just as hilarious---as a badly-run baseball team."

"What it shares with Ball Four is Bouton's humor, his sense of what's right and wrong, and a remarkable tale that---if you didn't trust the author---you would find difficult to believe."
AOL Sports

The Capital Times
"Erin Brokovich meets Fields of Dreams."
Publishers Weekly
This former Yankee pitcher, who wrote the sports tell-all template Ball Four, has a self-conscious voice that almost stifles this compelling story of Pittsfield, Mass., residents resisting a new stadium in order to renovate historic Wahconah Park instead. Bouton fancies himself both "pariah" and U.S. marshal, and writes one public official, "we have always tried to be respectful.... Go take a shower." But he accomplishes his goal of making the oldest minor league ballpark in America a metaphor for business interests run amok whatever the costs politically, environmentally and, yes, financially. When he points to former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani's nearly successful (yet minority-view) efforts to build new stadiums for the Mets and the Yankees despite a multibillion-dollar budget gap, Bouton is persuasive. But when Bouton declares his own motives are to "save an old ballpark, make some money, have fun," he is less so because he seems to delight in all the chicanery. Still, his commitment is beyond question; the book includes not only news accounts and e-mails, but even instant-messaging exchanges. At 354 pages,it's exhausting, but also heartfelt. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Bouton pitched for the New York Yankees in the 1960s, when such legends as Mickey Mantle starred for the team. His real claim to fame, though, was his tell-all diary, Foul Ball, which became an instant classic-and, to the baseball establishment, made him a permanent pariah. With this new diary, he again bucks authority by questioning America's need for publicly financed stadiums. He regards this feverish trend as a scam that the well-heeled perpetuate at the expense of the struggling tax payer and common fan. Bouton illustrates his argument by focusing on his hometown, Pittsfield, MA, where a highly rated stadium called Wahconah Park still fills a serviceable role. Wahconah Park is so old that the great Lou Gehrig played here some 80 years ago. The fans love it, but the city fathers and big business want to tear it down and replace it. Bouton here details the struggle to preserve this landmark. His self-published offering is a cautionary tale for us all. Recommended for most collections.-Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Populist maverick, pariah of professional baseball bigwigs, Bouton (Strike Zone, 1994, etc.) tells of his efforts to preserve-and a coven of movers-and-shakers and good-old-boys to abandon-a historic baseball park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. When it comes to baseball parks, writes Bouton, " 'If we build it, they will come' has evolved into 'If we don't build it, they will go,' " referring to the rash of new, economically dubious stadiums. Pittsfield's Wahconah Park, built in 1892, one of the oldest in the US, was about to become another of these statistics, until Bouton and his comrade-in-arms Chip Elitzer decided to offer an alternative to the $18.5-million, pork-barrel proposal for a new stadium: "We'll spend private dollars to renovate an existing ballpark for a locally owned team." Bouton-as zealous to entertain his readers with tangy one-liners as he is in uncovering the myriad corruption, deals, and fixes that attended the drive for a new stadium-adroitly manages a number of stories at once. There's the backroom power-brokering, ego-strutting, and just plain greed of making taxpayers foot the bill for a stadium they have time-and-again voted down in referendums; the historic importance of old ballparks, with their quirks and intimacy and evocation of the game's past; and an environmental subplot: the land being touted for the new stadium may be a toxic dump. Capping it with a ballpark would put paid to the millions of dollars it would cost to clean it up. (Bouton points fingers, too, at other infamous polluters-General Electric, for instance. After a GE lawyer was set to invest in PublicAffairs, Bouton's intended and enthusiastic publisher, PublicAffairs suddenly requested thatthe GE material be excised. Bouton smelled a rat-et voilà: a self-published work.) A good, if at times windy, story. Even if his proposal got smothered by the small-city political weight, he got the voice of Pittsfield's regular folk heard and the ballpark saved, for now.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592288670
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/28/2005
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.24 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Meet the Author

JIM BOUTON was an All-Star pitcher and won twenty-one games for the New York Yankees in 1963. In 1964 he won eighteen games and beat the Cardinals twice in the World Series. His diary of the 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros-Ball Four-was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the Books of the Century, a list that included Gone with the Wind, Catch-22, and In Cold Blood. Bouton, who builds stone walls and does motivational speaking, lives in Egremont, Massachusetts, with his wife Paula Kurman.

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