The Baseball Reliquary has enjoyed an ongoing association with the Burbank Central Library.
For a number of years, the library has hosted a variety of baseball-related events and displays put on by the San Gabriel Valley-based organization.
The library again is playing host to another event provided by the Baseball Reliquary.
The “Ball Four Turns Forty,” exhibition began Monday and will run through Oct. 1 at the facility located at 110 N. Glenoaks Blvd.
The exhibition celebrates one of the great books in American literature, Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four,” on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of its publication. The exhibition is housed win the lobby display cases at the Burbank Central Library.
Along with the display, Bouton will be in attendance at a day-long event at the library in September.
“We have a couple of places that we like to bring our exhibitions to every year, and Burbank is one of them,” said Terry Cannon, executive director of the Baseball Reliquary. “The library is very supportive and they do an exceptional job at helping us accommodate the displays.
“But along with the exhibitions, they are very good at helping us with the special events.”
Perhaps former Major League pitcher Jim Bouton’s greatest impact on the game came as the author of “Ball Four,” published in 1970. It is arguably the most influential baseball book ever written, and one which forever changed the face of sportswriting and the public’s conception of what it means to be a professional athlete.
Bouton had considerable success with the New York Yankees, including two World Series victories over the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964, before suffering arm problems in 1965. However, his book is a diary of Bouton’s attempt to resurrect his career as a knuckleball pitcher with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros in 1969.
Ball Four was vilified by the baseball establishment for its candid depiction of the sex-obsessed lives of Major League players, the pernicious conduct of ownership and management and the intolerance to nonconformists such as the author himself — who was distrusted even by his teammates for his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War and his strong pro-union stance in the locker room.
Fearful that “Ball Four” would damage baseball’s image, then MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn tried to suppress it, which only ensured its commercial success. It has sense been acknowledged as one of the most important works in American literature. It was even anointed in 1995 by the New York Public Library as one of its “Books of the Century” — the only sports book so honored — along with such classics as “The Great Gatsby,” “Gone with the Wind,” “In Cold Blood” and “Catch-22.”
Among the materials on view in the exhibition are several of the hardcover editions of “Ball Four” that have been published over the years, as well as photo scans of some of Bouton’s original notes for “Ball Four,” which were often written on whatever was handy at the moment: hotel stationery, scorecards, popcorn boxes, laundry receipts, cocktail napkins, menus, ticket stubs, travel itineraries, air sickness bags and even toilet paper.
Also on display is a selection of Seattle Pilots photographs and memorabilia from the collection of Charles Kapner, including a yearbook, pocket schedule, ticket stubs, a child’s sweatshirt and a coaster and swizzle stick.
The expansion Pilots would become famous as the first major league baseball team to declare bankruptcy and the first club since the 1901 Milwaukee Brewers to last only a single season. “What is the attraction of the Seattle Pilots?” Jim Bouton has once asked.
“I think the fact that they existed for only one year has made them special. Unclaimed by town or franchise, the Pilots are like the Flying Dutchmen, doomed to sail endlessly without a harbor. Or, as the decades pass, more like Brigadoon, the enchanted village that comes alive every 100 years,” he said.
The exhibition explores the origins and sad demise of the Seattle Pilots, which would become the Milwaukee Brewers, and some of the great characters associated with the franchise.
The exhibition is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.
The library will also host a special program in conjunction with the exhibition. The Baseball Reliquary will present a day-long event from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 18 in the library’s auditorium.
The festivities will include two panel discussions on “Ball Four” and the Seattle Pilots; the Los Angeles premiere screening of the documentary film, The Seattle Pilots: Short Flight Into History; and a book signing with Jim Bouton, who will appear in person from his home in Massachusetts.