Bouton had great success as a pitcher with the New York Yankees in the early 1960s, winning 20 games and two World Series contests. But his book Ball Four (written with New York Post sportswriter Leonard Shecter) broke some of the sporting world’s biggest taboos, revealing behind-the-scenes carousing by legends like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford, and the widespread use of amphetamines by ballplayers.
The book chronicled Bouton’s 1969 season pitching for the expansion Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros, but it was the Yankees information that drew the biggest uproar. For breaking the omerta, Bouton was ostracized by many of his fellow players, particularly ex-teammates, and he was blackballed from Yankees events for 50 years. Finally, the ban was lifted last season when Bouton appeared at the Yankees Old-Timer’s Day game, receiving a warm ovation.
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Bouton followed up his first book with I’m Glad You Didn’t Take It Personally, another tell-all. After his sports career, Bouton became a New York area sportscaster with WABC and WCBS.
On the diamond, Bouton debuted in 1962, and was known for his cap flying off his head as he delivered his fastball. In 1963, he went 21-7 with six shutouts and lost a 1-0 World Series decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Don Drysdale. A year later, Bouton’s record was 18-13 with a 3.02 ERA and he won a pair of World Series starts against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Arm problems derailed his career, and Bouton developed a knuckleball to hang on for a few more seasons. Bouton finished his 10-year career with a record of 62-63 and an ERA of 3.57.
Survivors include his wife, Paula. No memorial plans have been announced.