Sports

Ball Four, Jim Bouton, 1990.  Thanks to Steve Sailer.  Jim Bouton.

Jim Bouton

From Steve Sailer

Baseball pitcher Jim Bouton has died at age 80.

He won 39 games for the Mantle-Maris Yankees in 1963-64, plus two World Series games, but burned out his arm.

In 1969 he attempted to come back as a soft-throwing knuckleballer. A knuckleball is thrown with, ideally, zero spin, which causes it to flutter in a random pattern on its way to the plate. Everything about a knuckleball is the opposite of normal good pitching, in which the ball is thrown with as much of a combination of velocity, spin, and accuracy as is possible.

A few pitchers have enjoyed endless careers well into their 40s throwing the knuckleball, such as the Niekro brothers who won a combined 537 games. But it’s so contrary to conventional pitching that usually only a few pitchers at a time are ever throwing it.

Bouton wasn’t particularly good as a knuckleballer, going 2-3 with a 3.96 ERA in 1969. Yet, to be a knuckleballer is to be a philosopher.