Ever since I heard of its release, I have wanted to read Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty. In fact, there are tons of baseball books I want to read but I never make the time to do so.
The 2017 season will be different.
Since I was laid up for a week after knee surgery on May 23, I have torn through four books and am two-thirds of the way through a fifth. I began with Molina, visited the animals at The Bronx Zoo, cringed at the Yips of a Phenom and rode the busses for a year with Baseball Gospels. Currently I am avoiding bar fights with David Wells.
First I need to talk about Molina.
Tremendous. Absolutely, positively tremendous. A book where the heart of baseball, and how baseball was the heart of a lovely family, are beautifully intertwined.
Well written and difficult to put down, Molina’s book is a delightful, and at times emotional, story. And although our pastime seemed like it was the center of it all, it wasn’t. A love story, in fact, was. It was one I felt I could relate to but on a significantly smaller scale.
Bengie, his Dad, his Mom, his brothers, his girls. It’s a love story of a family in Puerto Rico. It’s a love story on a workhorse of a baseball diamond, across the street from house he grew up in. This is not a breakdown of game after game in his career. In fact, one thing that impressed the heck out of me was the part about winning his first World Series. Sure it was there, but it didn’t seem much more than a footnote. Probably because as amazing an experience that was for him, his family was always #1 with him. I loved that. I loved that winning the WS was no more than three pages. But dealing with significant lessons in life regarding his father? So very many. I will be forever happy Molina allowed us into his heart, the dugout and his life and equally as happy I finally took the time to read it. I hope every baseball fan I know, who appreciates the game and family, follows suit.
I followed up with The Bronx Zoo and reminisced about my childhood Yankee teams that won the ’77 and ’78 World Series’. So much fun. I can see how this was a groundbreaking book in its time. Plus, when you consider its author and Cy Young Award winner Sparky Lyle was a childhood favorite of mine and a bit of a local hero (Somerset Patriots), how could I not?
Next up, The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed My Life by pitcher-turn-centerfielder Rick Ankeil. I listened to this audiobook. That may not have been the best approach but let me begin with the positives. I was a fan of Ankeil when he came up and followed his first year closely (he was on my fantasy team).
When Game 1 of the playoffs against the Braves saw him throw five wild pitches in one inning, the baseball world witnessed something it does not normally see … especially from such a young kid with an expectedly amazing career on the mound. The guy got the yips and in short, ended his pitching career.
But the reason I bought the book was not because of that day against the Braves. It is because I have always been fascinated and in awe of Ankeil’s resilience to make it back to the Bigs. It is an amazing story, one worth having a book written about it. I am glad he is letting baseball fans like me know the depth of his difficulties with the yips, the monster, the thing and make it back to a successful baseball career. But if I am being honest, the writing lacked some and although Rick has a cannon for an arm and a nice swing of the bat, that doesn’t translate to an enjoyable and/or engaging audio narration. But damn, what a story.
Then, I took a friend’s recommendation of Dirk Hayhurst’s books of life in the minors. I picked up The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran and laughed from start to finish. I tore through it. It was, by far, the single funniest baseball book I have ever read. Even funnier than Jay Johnstone’s Temporary Insanity … and that was damn funny! Hayhurst has written three more books since then and I am sure I will read them too; I just have a few other books in front of it.
One of which is Perfect I’m Not: Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches, and Baseball by David Wells.
Two thirds of the way through it and I will tell you this. Imagine yourself in a bar, throwing back mugs of beer and shots and sitting at a table with Wells. He tells you one baseball story after another not giving a damn who is listening. That is this book. It has its fair share of mundane descriptions of some games, et al. That said, it is hard to read a baseball book without it (although Molina did an exceptional job of that).
Next on the nightstand after Boomer?
Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball by John Feinstein and The 33-Year-Old Rookie: How I Finally Made it to the Big Leagues After Eleven Years in the Minors by Chris Coste
I do love this game. Can ya tell?