Monthly Archives: May 2007

Pride and Pinstripes: The Yankees, Mets, and Surviving Life’s Challenges – by Mel Stottlemyre

Autobiographies written by former players tend to not make my must read list very often. A lot of the time they are just pages of self-praise…how great I did this, how great I did that, how hard it was for me, and so on. Needless to say, I had some reservations when I started Mel Stottlemyre’s new book Pride and Pinstripes: The Yankees, Mets, and Surviving Life’s Challenges.

Thankfully – Stottlemyre delivers a refreshingly engaging book that manages to tell a story of a successful life in baseball, delivered with a genuinely human touch that doesn’t leave the reader tired of superlatives.

Stottlemyre is a Northwest product – growing up in Mabton, WA before being signed by the Yankees. He went on to pitch in the 1964 World Series, went on to 5 All-Star Games, and pitched for 10 years with the Yankees before a shoulder injury cut his career short. He’s also widely regarded as one of the best pitching coaches of the 1990s – most notably for his work with both the Mets and Yankees.

But while Stottlemyre could simply focus on the glory of his on-the-field experience – he is also very forthcoming about his off the field life – including the death of his 11-year-old son after a battle with leukemia, and his own battle with myeloma – a form of cancer.

Stottlemyre uses Pride and Pinstripes as both a form of therapy and as a way to tell his side of the story. He makes it very clear that life as a Yankee isn’t easy – from the requests for time and attention to dealing with George Steinbrenner, and the constant watch and judgment of the media and a rabid fan base.

Pride and Pinstripes is a very well balanced book that is light on self-promotion, but very forthcoming in dealing with life’s struggles. It’s a good read that a lot of baseball fans should appreciate.

What do you think about Pride and Pinstripes? Post your comments and join the discussion!

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Dropping the Ball – by Dave Winfield

Hall of Famer Dave Winfield believes that baseball is in trouble, which can be hard to believe when you consider that revenue is at an all-time high, attendance at games is strong and the reach of baseball around the world grows every day. But to Winfield, there are some significant problems that unless corrected, will knock the foundation out from under the game.

In Dropping the Ball – Winfield presents his Baseball United plan – unilateral plan that calls on owners, players, the league, and fans to band together for the good of the game.

Winfield examines several hot-button topics in baseball – the steroid scandal, the decline of African-Americans in baseball, self-centered superstars, constraints on Little League facilities and resources, and competition from other sports – and through his Baseball United plan shows how baseball can survive when all invested parties come together.

The crux of the book is both its best and worst part — Winfield’s Baseball United plan seems to be totally feasible. Then you realize that you’re talking about billions of dollars at stake, and that there’s the human factor, which almost always seems to complicate things. It leaves you with a debate to wrestle with, to say the least.

Dropping the Ball is an engaging read that will open your eyes to both the problems and solutions that baseball must address. If you care about the game and want future generations to enjoy the game as much as you do, I recommend you read it.

What do you think about Dropping the Ball? Comment and join the discussion!

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Watching Baseball Smarter: A Professional Fan’s Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks — by Zach Hample

When I picked up Zack Hample’s new book – Watching Baseball Smarter – I was really looking forward to gaining some new insight into how to watch a ballgame and get something totally different out of it. I’ve been watching baseball almost my entire life – and I felt like I had a good idea what to look for – but here comes a new book promising to show me new stuff. So you can imagine my excitement.

While Watching Baseball Smarter is filled with a lot of very interesting stuff – if you’ve been around baseball for a long time or have played baseball in high school or beyond, you probably won’t find that much new information in it.

However – I think that for most baseball fans, this would be a really insightful read. It will probably answer a lot of those questions you’ve asked yourself during a game – like why a hitter rubs his helmet during at at-bat. It’s to ask the second base umpire to move because he’s right behind the pitcher and it’s making it hard for him to watch the pitch.

If you’re not sure if Watching Baseball Smarter is worth your time, here are twenty questions that get answered in the book — if you don’t know the answers, then it’s probably a good read for you.

  1. Why do some players paint their fingernails white?
  2. What is the Grapefruit League?
  3. Which positions are never played by lefties?
  4. What does “hitting for the cycle” mean?
  5. Who was the first pitcher to ever receive ligament replacement surgery?
  6. What does it mean when the third-base coach flings both arms and hands to the ground?
  7. What is the Wheel Play designed to prevent?
  8. At which stadium did “The Wave” first make an appearance?
  9. How long can an official scorekeeper wait to reverse a decision?
  10. Why do some players urinate on their hands?
  11. Who was the first pitcher with a losing record to win the Cy Young Award?
  12. Who’s the only Hall of Famer to jump straight from college to the major leagues?
  13. Who’s the shortest player in Major League history?
  14. How much meal money do minor league players get per day?
  15. What’s the difference between a split-finger fastball and a forkball?
  16. What does it mean when the batter pats the top of his helmet a few times?
  17. Can a hitter switch from one side of the plate to the other during an at-bat?
  18. Who’s the only president in the last 100 years who didn’t open at least one season with a ceremonial first pitch?
  19. What are people referring to when they mention the “pine tar incident?”
  20. What was the last team to play on AstroTurf?

Answer all of them, and you should probably be writing baseball books. Otherwise, it’s probably worth reading Watching Baseball Smarter by Zach Hample. You’ll be amazed what you don’t know.

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