The Life of a Baseball Original

Mitchell Nathanson

448 pages
24 photographs, index


April 2022


$24.95 Add to Cart

May 2020


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eBook (PDF)
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May 2020


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eBook (EPUB)
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May 2020


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About the Book

Named a Best Baseball Book of 2020 by Sports Collectors Digest
New York Times 2020 Summer Reading List

From the day he first stepped into the Yankee clubhouse, Jim Bouton (1939–2019) was the sports world’s deceptive revolutionary. Underneath the crew cut and behind the all-American boy-next-door good looks lurked a maverick with a signature style. Whether it was his frank talk about player salaries and mistreatment by management, his passionate advocacy of progressive politics, or his efforts to convince the United States to boycott the 1968 Olympics, Bouton confronted the conservative sports world and compelled it to catch up with a rapidly changing American society.

In Bouton: The Life of a Baseball Original, Mitchell Nathanson gives readers a look at Bouton’s remarkable life. He tells the unlikely story of how Bouton’s Ball Four, perhaps the greatest baseball book of all time, came into being, how it was received, and how it forever changed the way we view not only sports books but professional sports as a whole. Based on wide-ranging interviews Nathanson conducted with Bouton, family, friends, and others, he provides an intimate, inside account of Bouton’s life. Nathanson provides insight as to why Bouton saw the world the way he did, why he was so different from the thousands of players who came before him, and how, in the cliquey, cold, bottom-line world of professional baseball, Bouton managed to be both an insider and an outsider all at once.

Author Bio

Mitchell Nathanson is a professor of law in the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law at the Villanova University School of Law. He is the author of God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen, A People’s History of Baseball, and The Fall of the 1977 Phillies: How a Baseball Team’s Collapse Sank a City’s Spirit.


“Once you start reading, you will not be able to stop. A compelling look at one of the most influential and controversial figures in baseball history. A new generation needs to know the story of Jim Bouton: a man who never wearied of gleefully and hilariously skewering the establishment but who also had the old-school drive to will his dreams into reality. Above all, a lifetime love of baseball shines through in every chapter—a true reflection of Bouton himself.”—Brian Kenny, host for MLB Network and author of Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution

"Baseball fans will laugh alongside and, ultimately, feel touched by this look at an iconoclastic, often quixotic man who, despite the charges that his landmark book had hurt the game, loved baseball to the very end."—Library Journal, starred review

"An astute writer on the game, [Nathanson] is as at his best on the Bouton-Shecter collaboration—late nights at the Lion’s Head Bar in Greenwich Village; Shecter making sense of Bouton’s scrawls on stationery, envelopes and toilet paper; the pair noodling over the manuscript stripped down to their underwear in Shecter’s airless Chelsea apartment. . . . Nathanson is good, too, with Bouton wisecracks."—Maxwell Carter, Wall Street Journal

"When Mitchell Nathanson, a professor of sports law at Villanova, approached Bouton about writing his biography, the pitcher gave his blessing, on one condition: that Nathanson write about him with the honesty he’d tried to bring to the game of baseball. . . . Nathanson moves crisply through the deep back story, though he knows a good detail when he sees one."—John Swansburg, New York Times Book Review

"Nathanson goes beyond tracing Bouton’s life, focusing instead on explicating the roots of Ball Four. In so doing, the book becomes an inside-publishing exposé, showing how the publication and selling of Ball Four changed our expectations of what a sports book could be. . . . In addition, the book provides fascinating details about Bouton's post–Ball Four life, including his fling at acting and his turn as an entrepreneur, developing the successful bubble-gum product Big League Chew. A welcome look at one of baseball's signature mavericks."—Mark Levine, Booklist

"Nathanson's chronicle of baseball's renowned counter-culture renegade as author of Ball Four in 1970 is a masterful exploration of Jim Bouton's impact not only to major-league baseball but also within the larger societal spheres of the overall sports industry and American culture in general."—Charlie Bevis, Bevis Baseball Research

"Bouton: The Life of a Baseball Original is one of the best baseball biographies in recent memory. Nathanson is a fantastic storyteller, capable of juxtaposing Bouton's recollections with those of his contemporaries and situating these stories within their historical context. While researching the book, he spent a significant amount of time with Bouton in the final years of his life (Bouton died in 2019), which contributes to the depth with which he renders his subject."—Clayton Trutor, Reason

"Bouton is a book that deserves space next to Ball Four on the bookshelf. Nathanson has done a thorough job of presenting the life of a complex man who changed the game of baseball, not by what he did on the field, but what he observed on the field, in the clubhouse and on the road."—Bob D'Angelo, Sports Bookie

"A well-researched and fascinating read that tells how the free thinking Bouton always marched to the beat of his own drummer."—John Werner, Waco Tribune-Herald

"Nathanson's source list is deep and insightful and his writing is crisp. And his access to Bouton's Ball Four notes provides answers to some lingering questions."—Dennis Star, Peoria Journal Star

Table of Contents

Prologue: Publication Day    

Part One: The Bulldog
1. Warm-up Bouton    
2. Take a Hike, Son    
3. Joliet    
4. You Should Write a Book    
5. A Long Way from Amarillo    
6. Fucking Shecter    
7. All ’Bout Bouton    
8. A Threat, Not a Fine    
9. The Bulldog and the Chipmunks    
10. Rebel without a Fastball    
11. The Youth of America Is for Kids    
12. The End of the Line    

Part Two: The Author
13. Beginnings    
14. From Tell-Some to Tell-All    
15. Take Your Pants Off, Bouton    
16. Fuck You, Shakespeare    
17. Protectors of the Holy Flame    
18. Against the Unwritten Rules of Baseball    
19. Not Enough Sex    
20. The Leni Riefenstahl of the National Football League    
21. Taking It Personally    
22. Bad Stuff ’bout the Mets    

Part Three: The Iconoclast
23. Not Selling Refrigerators    
24. The Most Famous Vasectomy in New York    
25. Are We Rolling?     
26. One Smart-Ass and Four Lawyers    
27. You’re a Long Time Dead    
28. The Battered Bastard of Baseball    
29. Gilligan’s Island in Baseball Suits    
30. Too Old, Too Everything    
31. Magic    
32. Dreaming in Baseball    
33. Mask of the Bulldog    
34. Hey, New York—Bouton’s Back!    
35. Lightning in a Pouch    
36. The Solo Artist    
37. Laurie    
38. Existential Bad Faith    
39. A Mile in Bowie’s Shoes    
40. Cashing Out    
41. The Butter-Yellow Box    
Epilogue: The Cool of the Evening    

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