Bouton: The Life of a Baseball Original

Date(s) - 02/23/2021
7:00 pm-8:00 pm


FEBRUARY 23rd, 7-8 p.m.



Save the date: Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. for our next event featuring “Bouton: The Life of a Baseball Original” by author Mitchell Nathanson, writing 50 years after the publication of Bouton’s revolutionary book, “Ball Four,” regarded by many as the greatest baseball book of all time—certainly, the most controversial.

From the description of “Bouton”:

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.

Bouton defied tremendous odds to make the majors, won two games for the Yankees in the 1964 World Series, and staged an improbable comeback with the Braves as a thirty-nine-year-old. But it was his fateful 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and his resulting insider’s account, Ball Four, that did nothing less than reintroduce America to its national pastime in a lasting, profound way.

In Bouton: The Life of a Baseball Original, author Nathanson, a professor of law at Villanova University and author of multiple books and articles on baseball, 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 than 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.

The Great Fenway Park Writers Series would like to encourage you to make use of the great local bookstores in your community! For this event, we have partnered with Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury.


If you don’t live in Boston, you might consider looking for an independent bookstore closer to home.

*Donations to the Red Sox Foundation are Encouraged


“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

— John Swansburg ― New York Times Book Review

“Nathanson . . . an astute writer on the game, is 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

— Maxwell Carter ― Wall Street Journal Published On: 2020-05-28

“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

― Library Journal Published On: 2020-05-01

“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

— Mark Levine ― Booklist Published On: 2020-04-15

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

— Clayton Trutor ― Reason

“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

— John Werner ― Waco Tribune-Herald Published On: 2020-06-15

“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

— Bob D’Angelo ― Sports Bookie Published On: 2020-04-04

“If the reader has ever read Ball Four, then this book is one that he or she must add to their library as well as it is a great account of the man behind the legendary book.”—Guy Who Reviews Sports Books

― Guy Who Reviews Sports Books Published On: 2020-04-23

“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

— Dennis Star ― Peoria Journal Star Published On: 2020-05-20

“Readers who choose to visit Bouton will feel pleased to have made the acquaintance of a truly unique player in the panorama of American sports.”—J. Kemper Campbell, Lincoln Journal Star

— J. Kemper Campbell ― Lincoln Journal Star Published On: 2020-07-19