Jim Bouton, the former pitcher for the Yankees, Seattle Pilots, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves, is a seminal figure in baseball history. Less so for his pitching than his writing, as he is the author of the indispensable “Ball Four,” which for my money is the greatest baseball book of all time.
Bouton’s keen eye and sharp wit turned what could’ve just been a simple tell-all book into a masterpiece, and he has been dispensing his wisdom on baseball and life for nearly 50 years. Now, however, he faces a struggle to simply communicate. From the New York Times:
Bouton had a stroke five years ago this Aug. 15. . . Bouton’s body was largely unaffected by the stroke. But his mind, the one whose pointed and poignant observations produced the classic memoir “Ball Four” in 1970, will never be the same. This weekend in New York, at the convention for the Society of American Baseball Research, Bouton went public about his brain disease: cerebral amyloid angiopathy, which is linked to dementia.
As a result of the stroke and a subsequent hemorrhage brought on by blood thinners, Bouton’s language skills were “wiped out.” The Times story notes that he had to relearn how to read, write, speak and understand. He can talk now — he spoke at the SABR convention — but he forgets things and struggle to do what he’s always done so well: write.
Bouton is 78 years-old and, physically, remains in excellent health. Still practices with the knuckleball. But this challenge is definitely a tough one. Here’s hoping he continues to meet it as he’s met every other challenge in his life. With an admirable, stubborn determination to do things his way.