Topping Green Day as the least likely creator of a Broadway musical, Jim Bouton marks the 40th anniversary of is groundbreaking dirt-spiller ‘Ball Four’, by telling the LA TImes’ Kevin Baxter he’s ready to bring his dugout tales to a new medium.
“Without that book, I’d probably be a surgeon like my dad,” said David Kipen who while in grade school was so smitten by Bouton’s prose that he went on to become director of literature for the National Endowment for the Arts. “He hijacked my life.”
“Ball Four,” fortuitously for the players union, came out the same year that St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood challenged the reserve clause by refusing to accept a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies, setting off a legal battle that eventually led to free agency.
Bouton played a part in that, too, when he was called to read passages from his book in front of arbitrator Peter Seitz, who eventually ruled in the player’s favor.
“That was tremendously powerful,” Kipen said. “You can make the case that Bouton did just as much as Flood did to overturn the reserve clause.”
At 71, Bouton is working a stage adaptation of the book ” the working title is “Ball Four: The Musical” ” around trips to the basement, where he throws knuckleballs at a strike zone painted on a wall.
“My feeling has always been that the only way to portray ‘Ball Four,’ the characters and everything, is with a Broadway musical,” Bouton said. “Anything goes in a musical. And you can be gross and profane and bawdy. “The stage. I think that’s where it belongs.”