If a fire, earthquake, flood or another insane Act of God ever threatened the foundation of my home, and there appeared to be just a couple of minutes to grab some prized possessions before bolting out the door, I’d spend more than a few seconds contemplating how many of the seven hard- and paper-back editions of Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” books could be carried out with care.
They have maintained an esteemed spot on the book shelf over the decades. Most of them are personally signed.
There are mix emotions reading that that Bouton’s family has decided to sell off a collection of the quirky materials he used to take notes on during the writing process involved in the 1970 classic — not just cassette tapes, but notes taken on air-sickness bags from airplanes, napkins, cereal boxes, index cards, whatever was available.
But more disheartening is to also read that the 77-year-old Bouton suffered a recent stroke and is unable to correspond well — something I fully appreciated in a back-and-fourth of emails correspondences over the years. And something that just seems impossible based on his personality and curiosity about life and society.
Less than three years ago, the Boston Globe had this story about how Bouton was still “opinionated as ever.” Now …
The Baseball Reliquary celebrated Bouton at the Burbank Central Library in September of 2010 for a 40-year recognition of “Ball Four,” and it was a special afternoon indeed, including the panel discussion with two of Bouton’s former Seattle Pilots teammates — Tommy Davis and Greg Goossen. Bouton was inducted into the organization’s Shrine of the Eternals in 2001.
Terry Cannon, the Baseball Reliquary executive director, said several years ago Bouton send him a binder that itemized the contents of his collection as he started to think about a home for it. Cannon says the binder is now part of the collection at the Institute for Baseball Studies at Whittier College.
“I knew that he wanted to sell the materials so that he would have money to leave behind for his family,” said Cannon. “Although it would have been a wonderful addition to the Reliquary and Institute collections, neither organization has any money in their budgets for an acquisition of this size. What I was hoping to do was find a library or museum that might have the financial wherewithal to purchase Bouton’s archive, but I just couldn’t see an appropriate fit in Southern California. Since Bouton never played or lived here, and it just seemed to me that an East Coast repository made more sense.
“Of course, I was delighted that Jim wanted to sell the archive as one lot, and not sell it off piecemeal, as is often the case when former players decide to liquidate. Having the collection go to one individual or organization makes it more likely that it will be displayed for the public to see, and that organizations like the Reliquary or Institute might be able to borrow pieces for exhibition purposes.
“With the 50th anniversary of ‘Ball Four’ coming up in 2020, there is bound to be many organizations celebrating this milestone. I know that the Reliquary and Institute will be. It would be wonderful if we would be able to access a few pieces from Bouton’s archive to share with our audience at that time.”
SCP Auctions in Laguna Nigel is handling the auction of lot #468, which ends Saturday. Starting bid was $50,000, it is up to $97,000 but the reserve has not been met yet.
The collection includes:
• The complete hand written notes, audio tape transcripts, manuscripts, drafts and revisions of the classic Ball Four, including all material not included in the final published version of the book.
• The edited manuscript detailing the publisher’s attempt to gut the book of every tough, revealing or sexual passage.
• The letter from the publisher’s lawyer identifying 42 instances of potential libel, and Bouton’s final edits that addressed only four of them.
• The exquisitely maintained scrapbooks which Bouton’s mother kept to record his entire career, from junior high school to the major leagues, including the furor that erupted when Ball Four was first published.
• The scrapbooks which trace Bouton’s semi-pro baseball years, from 1971 to 1977, and his 1978 comeback with the Atlanta Braves after seven years as a television sportscaster, sitcom writer and actor.
Dan Imler, the managing director of SCP Auctions, has been the point person in this Bouton auction, calling it “a little bit outside the category of traditional memorabilia we have on a regular basis, but in my opinion, it’s extremely historic and ground-breaking material.”
The Bouton auction extends to Lots #469 to #487 that includes jerseys, bats, balls and caps from his career. But the “Ball Four” collection is “literally every piece that physically went into the book,” said Imler. “They are the bones of the skeleton that show you the process. It’s fascinating. If you remember parts of the book, you can find a note scrawled on a scrap of paper, a two-line casual observation made by Jim, and recall it from the book. That’s really cool.”
Imler said there are many notes that did not make it into the book but are part of this collection. It also shows “how he stood his ground during the process and what a maverick he was, with positive and negative feedback.”
There’s also this:
— Beckett Media LLC (@beckettmedia) January 18, 2017
The link to the Beckett story with Bouton’s wife, Paula, starts with this quote about why the items are being sold:
“You can’t take it with you and the thought of dividing it up between four children and six grandchildren is just too daunting. Jim has tremendously enjoyed looking at those things for so many years and we’ve treasured them and kept them safe and protected. It was just time.”
And there’s this quote about where she hopes the collection ends up:
“With a passionate fan who has a desire to share it. We will own the rights to the materials in it, but lending or donating it to an institution for study and research because it’s also a really good look at the ’60s. It’s kind of a time capsule book. We want someone to love it the way we’ve loved it and I imagine that’s the only type of person that would buy it.”
After the diary of that 1969 season, Bouton had the presence to keep it going with the 1971 book, “I’m Glad You Didn’t Take It Personally,” also edited by “Ball Four” partner Leonard Shecter, which focused on all the reaction he got from the initial tell-all book.
We have that book right along with the Bouton updates of “Ball Four” that he did in 1981 (with “Ball Five” after making a comeback with the Atlanta Braves), in 1990 (the 20th anniversary edition) and finally in 2000 (“The Final Pitch.”)
All of them had updates that got readers up to speed on the triumphs and tragedies of his life.
Bouton also did several other books, including the 2010 “Foul Ball,” which recounted his attempts to save Wahconah Park near his home in Pittsfield, Mass.
But “Ball Four” is remembered quite simply as the book that changed baseball, it becomes more and more treasured over the years.
== David Davis has a Q-and-A on LAObserved.com with writer (and former Los Angeles Daily News columnist) Ron Rapoport about the 560-page work he edited for University of Nebraska Press called “The Lost Journalism of Ring Lardner” that’s magnificent in its undertaking.
== Ian Eagle and Bill Raftery are on CBS’ call of No. 3 UCLA-No. 14 Arizona from Pauley Pavilion (Saturday, 1 p.m., Channel 2). Thursday at 8 p.m., FS1 has UCLA-Arizona State with Gus Johnson and Steve Lavin.
== The Pac-12 Net’s Ted Robinson, Mike Montgomery and Lewis Johnson have USC’s matchup with Arizona at the Galen Center (Thursday, 6 p.m.). ESPNU has USC-Arizona State on Sunday at 5:30 p.m., with Roxy Bernstein and Corey Williams.
== Marv Albert, Chris Webber and Ros-Gold Onwude are on the TNT call of the Clippers’ Staples Center game against Minnesota on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., following Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller doing Washington at New York at 5 p.m. The TNT pregame show at 4 p.m. will announce the 2017 NBA All-Star starters for both conferences.
== Dave Pasch and Jon Barry are on ESPN’s coverage of the Lakers’ Staples Center game against Indiana (Friday, 7:30 p.m.), following Mark Jones and Hubie Brown on Golden State-Houston at 5 p.m.
== The Galaxy have 12 appearances split between ESPN and Fox Sports as the two networks released their 2017 MLS broadcast schedules.
Fox Sports’ 33-game schedule starts Friday, March 3 with expansion franchise Minnesota United playing at Portland (FS1, 6:30 p.m.) and includes a Sunday, March 5 game between expansion team Atlanta hosting the New York Red Bulls (4 p.m., FS1) at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The first Galaxy game broadcast on FS1 will be at StubHub Center on Sunday, March 12 against Portland at 4 p.m., and a Galaxy-Seattle game on Sept. 10 is one of the last regular season games on the Fox schedule. Four of the 33 games will be on Fox’s main network, including the Galaxy at Orlando on April 15, with the rest on FS1. Fox also has the 2017 MLS All-Star game.
ESPN has 31 MLS games starting Sunday, March 5 with expansion team Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC in Orlando, Fla. Two of the Galaxy’s appearances are against Seattle (April 23 and July 29). It climaxes with “Decision Day” on Sunday, Oct. 22. Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman and new sideline reporter Julie Stewart-Binks are on the broadcasting crew.
= When you’re a journalist who has been campaigning for a certain retired MLB player to get enough support to finally make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame, then this reaction may be considered justified. CBSSports.com writer Jonah Keri, who also wrote the 2014 book, “Up, Up and Away:The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos,” explains himself in this post as well. It’s almost a shame Vlad Guerrero didn’t make it in as expected on his first attempt.
== Why wouldn’t TV stations in San Diego keep showing Chargers games even with the team moved to L.A.?
== U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Kansas City, Mo., have Terry Gannon, Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir and Scott Hamilton describing it with Tanith White and Andrea Joyce doing interviews. The highlight of the weekend is the ladies free skate on Saturday at 8 p.m., live in the East but delayed in the Pacific time zone on KNBC-Channel 4. The men’s free skate is live at 1 p.m. Sunday on NBC/KNBC-Channel 4. The televised part of the event begins Thursday with the pairs short live at 2:30 p.m., followed by the ladies’ short program live at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN. Friday as the short dance program live at 3 p.m., NBCSN and the men’s short program live at 5:30 p.m. on Universal HD. Saturday also has the pairs free and free dance live at noon on KNBC-Channel 4. The exhibition on Sunday will be taped to present on Saturday, Jan. 28, on NBC. The entire event is also streamed live on NBCSports.com.
== NBCSN has the NASCAR Hall of Fame 2017 induction ceremonies on Friday at 5 p.m. from Charlotte, N.C. Krista Voda and Rick Allen co-host it.
== The PGA’s CareerBuilder Challenge from La Quinta, which adds the technical challenge of having to cover three courses at the same time, stays on Golf Channel all four days. It launches Thursday at noon with Steve Sands and David Feherty, plus Gary Koch, Roger Maltbie, Notah Begay, Kay Cockerill and George Savaricas. The round replays at 9 p.m.
Friday’s live coverage has shifted from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. due to incoming weather issues, replayed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s final rounds are scheduled from noon to 4 p.m., with the fourth round replayed at 5 p.m. Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller move into the main play-by-play and analysts roles for the last two rounds.
“Golf Central” has pre- and post-round coverage: 11 a.m. to noon each day and 7-to-7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, plus 4-5 p.m. Sunday.
== Saturday’s NFLPA Collegiate Bowl from StubHub Center in Carson (1 p.m., FS1, with Joe Davis, Joel Klatt and Peter Schrager ) goes up against Andrew Siciliano, Mike Mayock and Daniel Jeremiah doing the NFL Network’s call of the East-West Shrine game (noon, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.)
== Woody Paige and Jay Mariotti have a podcast. Just in case you find it by accident and act like you’ve seen a rat running across your kitchen floor.
== Curling Night in America? Sure, we’re up to speed. NBCSN has the nine-episode series that leads into the world men’s and women’s championships in March and April. Jason Knapp does play-by-play with Pete Fenson and Tanith White from the event that took place at the Duluth Curling Club in Minnesota in early December. The first episode airs Thursday, with most “Curling Nights” airing Friday. Last year, it averaged 101,000 viewers, up 28 percent over its 2015 coverage.
== And finally:
— Tom Hoffarth (@tomhoffarth) January 16, 2017