In memory of Jim Bouton, who passed away July 10th this year. Bouton began his pro baseball career in 1959 after signing with the Yankees out of Western Michigan University for $30,000. His first year in the minors was unspectacular, pitching in 22 games with a 3-8 W-L record and 5.52 ERA between two Class D teams. The following year, 1960, Bouton was promoted to the Yankees Class B team, the Greensboro Yankees of the Carolina League. Greensboro won their league pennant in 1960 and Bouton finished with a 14-8 record and a Carolina League leading 2.74 ERA. Jim also struck out 121 in 194 innings pitched and completed 12 of the 24 games he started for Greensboro. For the 1960 season, Bouton was promoted to Double-A Amarillo of the Texas League. Once again, his team won the pennant as the Amarillo Gold Sox finished with a 90-50 record with Bouton winning 13 in 28 games he pitched.
Bouton’s first year in the Majors with the Yankees in 1962 was respectable, as he split time between New York’s rotation and bullpen. After his rookie season, Bouton spent six months in the Army. Upon his return to the Yankees in 1963, at the age of 24, Bouton would have his best season in the Majors. Jim would pitch in 40 games, starting 30, and winning 21 games while sporting a 2.53 ERA. He also earned his lone All-Star selection in 1963 where he would pitch a scoreless 6th inning getting the Cardinals’ Key Boyer on an infield pop-up, and inducing both the Cardinals’ Dick Groat and Julian Javier to ground out.
Bouton was an outspoken player and gained additional notoriety for his book Ball Four which was published in 1970. Upon his retirement from pro-baseball, Bouton spent time as a sportscaster in New York City. CBS attempted a TV series based on Bouton’s Ball Four book in 1976, but the show didn’t go over well with critics and was canceled after 5 episodes. After toiling around with a few independent teams and a few minor league appearances in the 70s, Bouton attempted a Major League comeback in 1978. Ted Turner gave him that chance with the Atlanta Braves organization. At age 39 and relying mostly on the knuckle ball, Bouton went 11-9 with a 2.82 ERA for the Double-A Savannah Braves before being promoted to Atlanta. With the Atlanta Braves, Jim went 1-3 with a 4.97 ERA in 5 starts. Bouton finished his 10-year MLB career with 62 wins and a 3.57 ERA.