Foul Ball


by Jim Bouton (Bulldog Publishing)


(This column first appeared in the March 11, 2004 issue of ArtVoice of Buffalo.)


You don't have to love baseball to appreciate this outstanding book. Yes, it is by Jim Bouton, the major league pitcher and author of one of the finest and as it turns out most important baseball books of all time, Ball Four, but Foul Ball: My Life and Hard Times Trying to Save an Old Ball Park is really about small town politics. Jim and his friend Chip Elitzer set out to try to save the old but locally appreciated Pittsfield, Massachusetts baseball stadium. It seems as though everybody in town is on their side: everybody, that is, except those who control things. The opponents want to build an expensive new baseball park and they want to site it on ground contaminated by General Electric. Arrayed against the public are the Pittsfield mayor, his Parks Commissioners, a majority of the City Council, the local bank, the city's most powerful law firm and behind all the ominous specter of General Electric. Bouton doesn't pull any punches and in the end even his publisher turns against him. As a result the book is self-published and I hope it has record sales. Sadly, the manipulative behind-the-scenes behavior of the politicians in this book fits a pattern that many of us experience locally. In some back room decisions are made and all that is left is to work those decisions past the public. It appears that there may even be a happy ending to Bouton's project: his website indicates that the city is finally ready to cave in.-- Gerry Rising