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The insider-outsider perspective (Jim Bouton example)

One theme that’s come up often here over the years is what the late Seth Roberts called the insider-outsider perspective of “people who have the knowledge of insiders but the freedom of outsiders,” and here’s one of many examples.

I thought about this again after reading this interview by Steven Goldleaf on Bill James Online of Mitch Nathanson, author of biographies of baseball players Dick Allen and Jim Bouton. Bouton, of course, is one of the two authors of the classic Ball Four. Goldleaf quotes Nathanson:

The “outsider within” theme/category is something that really took shape as I [Nathanson] was researching. Yes, I know Dick Young called him a “social leper” but I wasn’t aware of how much he was an outsider his whole life. But not a total outsider – he was a good-looking, all-American-type who would fit in anywhere, at least on first glance, so he was an insider, at least superficially. So that was an interesting dynamic that I saw play out over and over again throughout his life. . . .

I’m actually working on another piece (a longer article) about how Bouton was an “outsider-within” and how that actually helped him see things that other players couldn’t. He had one foot firmly within the inner circle but another foot outside of it and could see things from both perspectives. This is how, I think, he was able to identify the absurdities within the game that those who were fully invested in it (think Pete Rose) just could never hope to see. . . .


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