Book Review: Foul Ball (plus Part II)

 

Foul Ball is the story of how Jim Bouton and his partners attempted to bring a minor-league baseball team to play in a historic old ballpark in Pittsfield, Mass. Bouton (for reasons that you’ll learn if you read the book) originally self-published Foul Ball in 2003. In Fall Ball (plus Part II), he adds another 150 pages to the story to chronicle his team’s further adventures during 2004.
 
On the heels of a failed referendum to build a new, publicly financed minor league stadium in Pittsfield, Bouton and friends hatch the idea to renovate a historic local ballpark. Pittsfield’s Wahconah Park had been home to baseball for over 100 years. In fact, during Part II it’s discovered that early baseball was being played on the grounds in 1791! However, as one can imagine, the old ball yard is in a state of decay requiring major upgrades in order to attract professional baseball.
 
Enter Bouton (of Ball Four fame), his investment banker neighbor Chip, their wives, and assorted allies. The Bouton team proposes to renovate Wahconah Park and bring in an independent minor league team – all with private investment dollars. All that’s needed is for the city to give them a lease on the publicly owned Wahconah. The odyssey to obtain this lease is the main theme of the story.
 
In pursuit of the lease and team, Bouton and his crew run into opposition from every direction. They have to fend off the powerful supporters of the recently defeated “new stadium initiative”, as well as other business and political factions that seem not to want them to succeed. The opposition even appears to lead back to alleged environmental pollution infractions, and includes the local carpenters’ union. After failing to get the lease in 2001, Bouton and his partners are invited back in 2004 by a new city administration to try again to make it happen.
 
This book is more about politics and civics than it is about baseball. Nonetheless, SABR members that enjoyed Ball Four and a good laugh will enjoy this book.
 
Here’s the key statistics:
 
Book: Foul Ball (plus Part II) My Life and Hard Times Trying to Save an Old Ballpark
Author: Jim Bouton               
Author Credentials: A twenty-game winner and All-Star pitcher, Bouton is best known as the author of Ball Four (published in 1970). He is also a motivational speaker, and gave the keynote address at the 2006 SABR national convention. 
Published: 2005, Lyons Press; ISBN 1-59228-867-7                        Length: 499 pages

Price: Retail list – $17.95; Online: new from $15.95 + ship; used from $6.95 + ship.

 

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