Skip to main content

With any luck, this review will appear in Jim Bouton's third treatise, 'Son of...'

Jim Bouton's I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally (Morrow, $5.95) is not so much a sequel to Ball four as it is Son of Ball Four—a tale not of baseball but of what happened to Bouton after he wrote the best-selling sports book in history. To hear Bouton tell it, not even William Manchester's The Death of a President evoked so much ink. Bouton not only recounts the reaction he met on the diamond and in the stands, but he even reprints reviews of the book and letters he received on the subject. Good heavens, he even reprints a Christmas card he received. One expects at any moment a fully detailed account of the searing drama of how Ball Four received its Library of Congress catalog card number.

Moreover, while the book is admittedly self-centered, it is occasionally horribly provincial as well. It opens, for instance, with a detailed account of those exciting adventures enjoyed by the members of the Channel 7 Eleven O'Clock News team in New York—an aggregation Bouton joined following his baseball retirement. Now, I watch this news right regularly—I really do—but my interest in the behind-the-scenes crises and pranks of these newscasters is about the last thing I would have included on my leisure reading list. Besides, all the I Howard Cosell stories seemed warmed over, perhaps because I think most of them originally featured Mencken or Harry Cohn or somebody.

But, as Joe Schultz is quoted as saying in both of Bouton's books, "—— "; all this is probably so much nitpicking. I'm Glad You Didn't Fake It Personally (the title is taken from an apology offered by a columnist who ran into Bouton after calling him and his editor, Leonard Shecter, "social lepers") is going to be read almost exclusively by those people who read and loved Ball Four. That is, people like myself, who thrilled as Bouton punched holes in stuffy old Father Baseball and all the cardboard characters who infest it. Wow! See our hero stand up to Bowie Kuhn. See Jim give the traditionalist sportswriters what for. See him scatter bigots and conservatives, publishers and Ellie Howard. Hit 'em again, Jim baby.

If you enjoyed Ball Four, and particularly if you understood that Jim Bouton was trying hard to put a little joy juice in a game—excuse me, a pastime—that sorely needs it, then I'm Glad is only more of what the doctor ordered.

Next—Son of Ball Four Goes West?

The Real McCoy, Robert Cantwell's biography of Prizefighter Norman (Kid McCoy) Selby, which grew out of an article in this magazine, has been published by Auerbach Publishers Inc. as a Vertex Book ($6.95).