A few years ago, former New York Times columnist Robert Lipsyte proclaimed that in order to understand the various ups, downs, twists and turns of the roller coaster that was twentieth century baseball, all one really needed to know were the stories of five iconic Yankees. Three of them are Hall of Famers: Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. The fourth was perhaps the most infamous owner in the history of the game: George Steinbrenner. The fifth was Jim Bouton
"BOUTON: The Life of a Baseball Original" is a full and unvarnished look at Bouton's remarkable life but also the unlikely story of how his revolutionary book came into being, how it was received, and how it forever changed the way we view not only sports books but professional sports itself. Jim Bouton was a minor figure as a ballplayer, not much more than an everyman pitcher, but his impact on professional sports – the way they're run as well as the way we understand them as fans – dwarfs that of the countless athletes who could throw harder or run faster. BOUTON tells the story of a man whose constitutional inability to stop himself from telling the world the truth as he saw it changed nearly everything he touched but who perpetually remained on the outside looking in because he insisted on turning his dreams into reality, consequences be damned.
From the day he first stepped into the Yankee clubhouse Jim Bouton has been the sports world's deceptive revolutionary. Behind the jokes and All American good looks lurked a radical spirit that challenged the establishment at every turn, pulling it as if by sheer will out of the dark. As a player and later as a broadcaster Bouton confronted the conservative sports world and compelled it to catch up with a rapidly changing American society. The gate-keepers cringed at every turn but despite their efforts to beat him back, Bouton succeeded in modernizing professional sports in countless ways. BOUTON shows how he did it, along with the price he paid along the way.
When the Philadelphia Phillies signed Dick Allen in 1960, fans of the franchise envisioned bearing witness to feats never before accomplished by a Phillies player. A half-century later, they’re still trying to make sense of what they saw.
Carrying to the plate baseball’s heaviest and loudest bat as well as the burden of being the club’s first African American superstar, Allen found both hits and controversy with ease and regularity as he established himself as the premier individualist in a game that prided itself on conformity. As one of his managers observed, “I believe God Almighty Hisself would have trouble handling Richie Allen.” A brutal pregame fight with teammate Frank Thomas, a dogged determination to be compensated on par with the game’s elite, an insistence on living life on his own terms and not management’s: what did it all mean? Journalists and fans alike took sides with ferocity, and they take sides still.
Despite talent that earned him Rookie of the Year and MVP honors as well as a reputation as one of his era’s most feared power hitters, many remember Allen as one of the game’s most destructive and divisive forces, while supporters insist that he is the best player not in the Hall of Fame. God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen explains why.
Mitchell Nathanson presents Allen’s life against the backdrop of organized baseball’s continuing desegregation process. Drawing out the larger generational and business shifts in the game, he shows how Allen’s career exposed not only the racial double standard that had become entrenched in the wake of the game’s integration a generation earlier but also the forces that were bent on preserving the status quo. In the process, God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen unveils the strange and maddening career of a man who somehow managed to fulfill and frustrate expectations all at once.
On October 7, 1977, the Philadelphia Phillies lost a playoff game to the Dodgers, a game that began so hopefully and ended so disastrously that it has become known in Philadelphia simply as "Black Friday." As a season of rare hope and unity crashed to a painful end in a ten-minute sequence of bad plays, so too did the city's urban renaissance falter and an old sense of inferiority return.
This ambitious examination of the relationship between the team and city delves deep into Philadelphia's social and baseball history to reveal how the disillusionment of Black Friday affected Philadelphia's self image and fans' relationship to the team they both love and love to hate.