Spector: Q&A with Jim Bouton on ‘Ball Four,’ social media and more

From Jesse Spector at SportingNews.com on September 23, 2013:

In chronicling his experiences with the 1969 Seattle Pilots in the book “Ball Four,” Jim Bouton changed the way the world looked at baseball, humanizing the men who play the game in hilarious, colorful, and sometimes uncomfortable ways. A pitcher who appeared in 304 major league games, including five with the Atlanta Braves in a 1978 comeback, Bouton also helped to revolutionize Major League Baseball by writing about the dynamic between owners and players in the era before free agency. A legend for more than what he did on the field, the 74-year-old Bouton spoke to Sporting News this week for an extensive Q&A.


SN: How much influence … does a manager have?

JB: Depends on the manager. Ralph Houk seemed to me to be a great manager in 1962 and 1963. Then he moved up to general manager, and then he was never, ever successful again as a manager. Did he forget how to manage? No. There are other factors involved. Looking back on it, I would say that Ralph was — you average out his good years and his bad years with the Detroit Tigers, and he becomes a halfway decent manager, but not one of the greats.

SN: Was he the smartest manager that you played for?

JB: He was very intuitive. He understood his players. He was in the army, in the Rangers, a major and a cigar-smoking man’s man kind of guy, and that worked well with that team. So, he was the right guy to be manager at that time. You could probably say the same thing about every manager when they had good years — they probably were in a clubhouse of guys that fit. I don’t think most managers change their philosophy. To the extent that they match their players, they’re successful. Somebody like (Pilots manager) Joe Schultz didn’t understand what was going on around him. I remember in Ball Four, there are numerous times when I would go to Joe and I would say, “Joe, I think you could get better use out of me. The knuckleball is hard to catch, but on the other hand, I get a lot of strikeouts with it,” you know what I mean?

SN: Yeah. It’s hard to hit.

JB: Then I would tell him how well I’m pitching, and he’d say, “I don’t want to hear your statistics. I just need to see — I can tell what’s going on just by looking.” Well, we know now that you’re not going to be successful as a manager if all you understand as happening is something that you saw or remember. If you’re not understanding statistics, you’re not going to be successful as a manager. There were a lot of managers back then that never thought about statistics, never understood tendencies, all of that. All of that stuff has changed now. You have a whole different cast of thinking people right now. It used to be, in the old days, a manager, and he would hire a pitching coach that was his drinking buddy. They’d be pals. Coaches and managers would be pals with each other, and there would be no rhyme or reason — I don’t think they understood each other, and they surely didn’t understand the players that well.

Read the full article here: http://www.sportingnews.com/mlb/story/2013-09-23/jim-bouton-ball-four-twitter-interview-yankees-pilots

Related link: Listen to the SABR 36 Seattle Pilots Player Panel with Jim Bouton, Steve Hovley, Mike Marshall, Jim Pagliaroni and moderator Jim Caple from 2006 (audio)

Originally published: September 23, 2013. Last Updated: September 23, 2013.