The ability of Ball Four to resonate unlike any sports book that had come before led to the swift and furious response to it as soon as excerpted sections hit the newsstands in the June 2, 1970, edition of Look magazine. Even before. The book’s title itself cued readers into the idea that this would be a baseball book like no other. “Sports books always had these upbeat titles, ‘Running to Daylight,’” Bouton said a few years later. “You never heard of a sports book called ‘Running to Darkness.’” During the season he experimented with various titles: “There’s More to Baseball than the Score,” “Take Me Out of the Ballgame,” “View from the Pitcher’s Mound,” “Bullpens I Have Known,” “Hiya Baseball,” “How’s Your Old Tomato?” and a direct reference to Jerry Kramer and Dick’s Schaap’s 1968 football diary—Constant Replay—were a few of the dozens he contemplated but never settled on. But when a drunk woman at the Lion’s Head bar on Christopher Street overheard Bouton and New York sportswriter Len Shecter debating possible downbeat titles (the working title for the book as described in the publication agreement with World was “Baseball Journal”), she slurred her way to literary gold by suggesting a title that evoked failure rather than success: “Whyyyyy don’t you caaaauull it Baaaaaallllll Foooouuuuuurrrrrr?” After rejecting it out of hand, they realized she was on to something.

Read more