Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Jim Bouton celebrated his 75th birthday on March 8th.

Not least among his accomplishments is his membership in the Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals. He was selected in the third year of balloting, after having drawn only 4% of the vote on the initial ballot.

Jim was the only candidate who received such a low voting percentage in the Reliquary's initial ballot to be retained on the candidate list in the second year.

His appearance in Pasadena for the 2001 induction ceremony was a turning point with respect to the Reliquary's media scrutiny.

His landmark book, Ball Four (an inspired title choice), remains an entertaining read and a fascinating time capsule of a tumultuous year in American history. There are distant echoes of the culture clash in America at the time (keep in mind that the Vietnam War was still being fought in 1969, and there were still two very strong and diametrically opposed opinions about it) and Bouton finds ways to allude to those events even as he chronicles the bittersweet comedy of the Seattle Pilots' lone season of existence.

Ben Sakoguchi gives Bouton a starry-eyed background befitting his media celebrity that following quickly in the wake of Ball Four's publication. He shows Jim's comic roots by capturing his early hell-for-leather pitching style (when he still had a fastball) and referencing his Crazy Guggenheim impersonation (something that Jim wisely abandoned when his fortunes--and those of the Yankees--took a nosedive in 1965).

Jim is one of the Reliquary inductees who understands its unique stance. The Reliquary in turn has recognized the influence of Bouton's approach to the game on its own evolving mission. It's not a surprise that the Reliquary hosted a fortieth anniversary bash for Ball Four in 2010, and is likely to do so again when the book turns fifty in 2020.

Place name check: Balls Ferry, CA is yet another of Ben's impossibly obscure California locations. It is a small fishing resort on the Sacramento River just outside the town of Anderson, CA (population 9, 932 as of the 2010 census, located about one hundred fifty miles due north of Sacramento and ten miles south of Redding).