Moment #55: Jim Bouton's 'Ball Four' TV show includes gay ballplayer

Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.

Baseball, 1976. Major League pitcher Jim Bouton had caused quite a stir with his 1970 book, Ball Four. The book chronicled his 1969 season in the Major Leagues and brought to the public eye the rampant womanizing and drug use taking place in Major League Baseball. Bouton was spurned for the book by many in baseball.

In 1976 he co-created and co-wrote a sitcom for CBS with the same name as his book. The series included one of the first regular gay characters in TV history: A gay rookie ballplayer. While the series was short-lived (only five episodes aired), it was an important break into national television. Even today, you could count on one hand the number of gay-athlete series regulars have been on TV in the last couple years.

From a 1976 Sports Illustrated article:

Pill-popping, religion and women sports-writers in the locker room and homosexuality are some of the issues that he would like to cover. With fewer than one-third of this season's new prime-time shows likely to survive until spring, the odds seem slim that Ball Four will last long enough to fully explore baseball's other side. And those chances were further reduced by the well-publicized uneasiness of some CBS executives about the series before it premiered.

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