Random thoughts: Bouton changed how we watch

by Gary Shelton on July 14, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Jim Bouton was cool. Jim Bouton was funny. Jim Bouton was a rebel.

To me, Bouton was all of those things. He was a party hat in a world of baseball caps, and he made the sticks-in-the-mud nervous, and he shed light in all the secret corners where baseball didn't want us to look. He dared to giggle while playing a game, and he invited you to laugh along. He changed the way we looked at baseball, and glory be, his way was more fun.

Bouton, the author of -- among other books -- Ball Four, died this week at age 80. His spirit was far too young to go.

I did a college book report on Ball Four. I got a B, and I felt that I had been robbed because Ball Four wasn't a serious subject. Some years later, I interviewed Bouton, sitting by a swimming pool of a cheesy hotel while he tried to hang on with the Savannah Braves. I tried to talk him into writing another book. He just laughed at me. His current player contract, evidently, blocked such an effort.

But for years, I read Ball Four at the beginning of every baseball season. Heck, I didn't think less of Mickey Mantle because he was human. I thought more of him because of it. That's what baseball didn't get.

A few times over the years, I would call Bouton for an article I was working on. He thought the modern-day players would crush the Hall of Famers. He hated the idea of baseball in Florida. (Maybe someone should have listened).

Even now, I look on my bookshelf, and Bouton is there. He's still funny. He still matters.

Bless you, Jim Bouton. We'll miss you.

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-- Bob Gibson has pancreatic cancer. I'm betting on Gibson.

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