Thanks to our friends at the Kindle Daily Post for sharing this guest post from ex-knuckleballer Jim Bouton, who wrote the landmark Ball Four, his irreverent and funny insider look at the big leagues. (Fun fact: in addition to working as a TV reporter and actor, Bouton invented Big League Chew bubble gum.)
I never thought I'd write an update to Ball Four, let alone three of them. But I kept getting mail from readers who said they felt as if we were friends. They wanted to know what was happening with all the people mentioned in the book, and what I was thinking about lately, not just about baseball, but life in general.
Invariably, they'd share a story about what Ball Four meant to them, or they'd say that it meant something different each time they read it. They said it gave them the strength to be an underdog, or helped them get through a difficult time in their lives.
In recent years, I've had emails from soldiers who say the book brought them home for a few hours. Or they read it while recovering in a field hospital and their stitches almost came out from laughing so hard.
Readers tell me of dog-eared copies handed down from fathers or older brothers, or of copies they loaned to friends and never got back. Best of all, they want me to know that if I'm ever in some nearby city, I'm invited to have dinner with them, and maybe "pound a few Budweisers."
Each new generation of readers has its own questions, which makes the book continuously come alive for me. Recently I've been getting scolding emails from younger readers asking when was I going to enter the 21st century and release Ball Four as an ebook? And my wife Paula has been bugging me for years now to record Ball Four in my own voice while I still have one. I'm happy to report that both versions are now available.
Most poignant of all, whenever a character from Ball Four passes away (and there have been too many lately), readers will send me condolence letters. With a question or two about what I think of those guys today. The truth is that I love them one and all.
When my daughter Laurie (the Unsinkable Molly Brown) died in an automobile accident, in 1997, I got mail from all over the country. Those letters helped me endure the most painful time in my life. As I wrote in my latest (and final) update to Ball Four, "I'm sure it's been difficult to read this, but I thought you should know. If you've come this far, thirty years worth, you're practically family."