It’s not your traditional baseball memorabilia, but in the realm of baseball and baseball literature, it’s a treasure trove.
Jim Bouton’s the vast original manuscript archive for his best-selling book Ball Four, is up for auction. The current high bid for Bouton’s notes, tapes and other items that led to the publication of the ground-breaking story is over $73,000.
The Ball Four collection includes the complete hand-written notes by Bouton – scribbled on everything from scratch paper, peanut bags, and air sickness bags – to audio tapes and transcripts, various drafts and revisions, and even a letter from the publisher’s lawyer identifying 42 instances of potential libel and Bouton’s final edits that addressed only four of them.
Bouton told ESPN in 2003: “The idea of Ball Four came to me after my first year in the minor leagues. I would spend all day long with a notebook in my pocket. I’d fill it with notes, sometimes the whole book in one day if it was a really good day. But then I’d run out of note paper and I’d write on whatever was available. If I was on an airplane I’d write on an air-sickness bag. If I was in the bullpen I’d write on a popcorn box, a peanut bag….I was constantly writing. I was a writing maniac.” Nearly every tangible piece of Bouton’s creative process is contained in the Ball Four manuscript archive in a remarkable state of preservation and organization.
“There is nothing to equal the Ball Four collection anywhere else in the world,” said SCP Auctions’ Vice President Dan Imler. “These documents and artifacts comprise a literary diary that changed the landscape of sports and journalism forever after. It is a museum-worthy collection that will inform and inspire historians, scholars and devoted fans for generations.”
The New York Public Library chose Ball Four as one of its Books of the Century—the only sports title on their list. “Ball Four,” the editors noted, “was the first ripple of a tidal wave of ‘tell-all’ books that have become commonplace not only in sports, but also in politics, entertainment, and other realms of contemporary life.”
Now 77 years old, Bouton pitched for the New York Yankees, Seattle Pilots, Houston Astros, and finally, the Atlanta Braves at age 39, recorded 62 wins, a 3.57 ERA and 720 strikeouts over the course of his 10-year MLB career, which included a 21-win season for the Bronx Bombers in 1963. But his claim to fame will forever be his authorship of Ball Four, which ignited a firestorm of controversy when it was first published nearly 47 years ago. A diary of Bouton’s 1969 season with the Pilots and Astros, it’s also a time capsule of life in the 1960s. When it was first released, Bouton was called everything from a Judas to a Benedict Arnold for having violated the “sanctity of the clubhouse” and airing in public a side of baseball that was previously unseen. Upon its publication, then-MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn called the book “detrimental to baseball” and tried to force Bouton to sign a statement saying that the book wasn’t true. The author refused.
In addition to the Ball Four collection heading to the auction block is Bouton’s personal collection of memorabilia and baseball artifacts from his playing career including game-used jerseys, baseballs and bats from significant moments in his career.
Bidding is open to registered bidders only at www.scpauctions.com through Jan. 21.