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Ball Four is an American sitcom that aired on CBS in 1976. The series is inspired by the 1970 book of the same name by Jim Bouton. Bouton co-created the show with humorist and television critic Marvin Kitman and sportswriter Vic Ziegel. Bouton also starred in the series.[1]

Ball Four
Jim Bouton (left) as Jim Barton and Ben Davidson as 'Rhino' Rhinelander in the pilot episode
Based onBall Four by Jim Bouton
Developed byJim Bouton
Marvin Kitman
Vic Ziegel
StarringJim Bouton
Ben Davidson
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes7 (2 unaired)
Running time30 minutes
Production company(s)Time-Life Television
DistributorWarner Bros. Television
Original networkCBS
Original releaseSeptember 22 –
October 27, 1976

Ball Four followed the Washington Americans, a fictitious minor league baseball team, dealing with the fallout from a series of Sports Illustrated articles written by Americans player Jim Barton (Bouton).[2] Like the book, the series covered controversial subjects including womanizing players, drug use, homosexuality in sports, and religion.[3] The series included a gay rookie ballplayer, one of the earliest regular gay characters on television.[4] The trio began developing the series in 1975, looking to other series like M*A*S*H and All in the Family as models. CBS expressed interest and the creative team developed a script. CBS shot the pilot episode and ultimately bought the series.[2]

Ball Four aired at 8:30 PM Eastern time, which was during the Family Viewing Hour, an FCC-mandated hour of early evening "family-friendly" broadcasting. Consequently, the writers had some trouble with the network's Standards and Practices in their attempt to portray realistic locker room scenes, especially the language used by the players. Pseudo-profanity such as "bullpimp" was disallowed, while "horse-crock" and "bullhorse" were approved.[2]

Ball Four debuted on September 22. While Bouton and other members of the cast received praise for their performances, critics found the series uneven in quality.[1][2] CBS canceled the show after only five episodes.




Title Original air date
Work in Progress September 22, 1976
The Unpractical Joke September 29, 1976
High-Flying Rookie October 13, 1976
A Quiet Day at the Iroquois Hotel October 20, 1976
What's a Nice Watch Like You Doing in a Place Like This? October 27, 1976


  1. ^ a b Sharbutt, Jay (September 22, 1976). "Ball Four Falls Off Mound". Sarasota Journal. Associated Press. p. 16C. Retrieved September 4, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d Ludtke, Melissa (September 27, 1976). "Two Strikes On 'Ball Four'". Sports Illustrated. p. 38. Archived from the original on November 22, 2018. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  3. ^ "Bouton Stars In Series Created From His Book". Sarasota Journal. July 12, 1976. p. 5D. Retrieved September 4, 2010.
  4. ^ Frutkin, Alan; Gerry Kroll (August 20, 1996). "Gays on the tube". The Advocate. p. 12. Retrieved September 4, 2010.

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