Krell: When ‘Ball Four’ went Hollywood

From SABR member David Krell at The Sports Post on March 9, 2016:

When Jim Bouton’s book Ball Four hit bookshelves in 1970, it exploded myths, revealed secrets, and offered tales of baseball, theretofore kept protected from the public. If reporters knew about Mickey Mantle’s alcohol problem, for example, they didn’t cover it. Womanizing, drug use, and clubhouse conflicts were other Ball Four topics, once forbidden from baseball scholarship.

It infuriated Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, betrayed long-observed rules of the locker room, and relieved reporters of the pressure to keep quiet on what they saw, heard, and learned.

And the public ate it up, shooting Ball Four to the best-seller list.


In 1976, CBS aired an eponymous television series based on Ball Four. The Tiffany Network, so called because of its quality programming, revolutionized television in the 1970s. M*A*S*H combined comedy and pathos in its tales of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. Authored by a M*A*S*H surgeon named Richard Hornberger, whose pen name was Richard Hooker, the 1968 novel M*A*S*H was, in a sense, like Bouton’s Ball Four. Readers learned a first-hand perspective of war’s horrors beyond anything digested before in books, films, or television shows. A 1970 film followed, starring Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, and Robert Duvall; the television series began in 1972, ran for 11 seasons, and racked up Emmy Awards with the dependability of Cookie Monster devouring cookies.

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Originally published: March 9, 2016. Last Updated: March 9, 2016.