Sometimes I find a baseball autobiography and wonder if this player really needed their own book. If that player had an average, or even less than average career, what could they possibly bring to the table? Sometimes I get a pleasant surprise when one of those average player writes a book that holds my interest and produces a good reading experience for me. Today’s book falls into that pleasant surprise category and from an unlikely source to boot.
Jerry Reuss by most standards had an average career. Never the ace of a staff, but a serviceable arm that would eat innings and help teams in their push to the top. Pitching for eight teams over a 22 year span, Reuss compiled an impressive win total of 220. From a pitcher that never won more than 18 games in any given season, that is an impressive total.
Jerry Reuss starts the reader on a journey through his early years in Missouri, where he first dreamed of becoming a major league pitcher. Signing with the hometown St. Louis Cardinals, Reuss had all the makings of a real life dream come true.
Reuss then shows the reader what the inside, off the field life of a baseball player is really like. Back stabbings by the upper management people he trusted, trades, releases and other not so pleasant things a player deals with on an annual basis. It shows how much more players even back in those days had to deal with off the field.
The big thing I took away from this book is how remaining true to yourself and dealing fair with people will help you get ahead at whatever your vocation. Jerry Reuss played more years than many of his contemporaries did who maintained the same skill set. It comes across as being a combination of perseverance at his chosen trade and being a decent person on and off the field. In the end this average pitcher ended his career, after a few stops in different cities, the proud owner of a World Series ring.
This book is a pretty enjoyable read. It moves along at a brisk pace and holds the readers interest through more than just on the field happenings. Anecdotes about himself and teammates keep you engaged and give you a real feel what it was like to be a teammate of Reuss’. It also shows a glimpse of the personality of Reuss himself which comes across as a fun loving guy and a great teammate.
If you are a fan of Reuss or any of the teams he played for, take the time to read this book. It is not a book that one would compare to War & Peace in any way. It is more of a breezy light hearted read of an average pitcher with an interesting journey. I wasn’t expecting much out of Reuss’ stories about his career and his teammates, but was pleasantly surprised at what I got. You never know who or what is going to present you with an enjoyable book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
There are teams out there that have through their history had iconic players. When you think of the Yankees, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle always pop to mind. For the Red Sox, Ted Williams is the man. What if you are a team that does not have a century long history in the game and has had limited success on the field. The Tampa Rays come to mind with having no one that has been a stand out player and really have had limited success. The Astros and the Mets both entered the league together and have taken different paths. The journey of the Mets has generated a bunch of post-season births, coupled with a few World Series championships and a roster of iconic players. The Astros on the other hand have had limited success and a handful of post season appearances. With their past performance it is surprising how many great players the Houston Astros have had during their time in the league. One name that immediately pops to mind is the iconic Jimmy Wynn. Essentially being there from the beginning when they were still the Colt 45’s, Wynn’s performance on the field and his down to earth nature easily made him a force to be reckoned with on the field and a fan favorite off of it. While today’s book is not a new release, I wanted to share it because it really is an enjoyable tale.
In today’s terms Jimmy Wynn was a stud. Being the player on the top of the Houston power heap, Wynn was able to give the Astros someone to build a team around during their formative years in the league. Unfortunately for both parties they were never able to reach the ultimate goal of a visit to the World Series during their time together.
This is not like reading a regular book, it is more like sitting on the porch with your friend and listening to his stories. Wynn walks the reader through his childhood in Cincinnati and his dreams of one day being a big league baseball player. You get a nice look at the Wynn family values and how those ideals helped produce a fine person in Jimmy Wynn. Next you see the minor league struggles that brought Wynn from the hometown Reds farm system to the fields of Houston.
A good portion of this book is rightly so about his time with the Astros. He his most widely known for his accomplishments on the field there and where he spent the biggest bulk of his career, so it is only natural it takes up so much space in the book. Jimmy tells the reader about events both on and off the field that have helped him both learn and grow as a person, as well as the mistakes he has made along the way that effected his life. Finally the book takes us through stops with the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees and Brewers. It is a career well traveled and a lot of accomplishments that any player would be proud of.
The most surprising thing is that Jimmy Wynn admits his flaws and his mistakes he has made over the years. Most baseball players would not take the time to admit these things at all, let alone do it in their autobiography. It really shows the depth of character he has and what a genuine person he really is.
The book is a great read for all baseball fans. It shows the real side of a baseball star and how they are human just like the rest of us and have their own faults. It also shows how a player of this caliber can admit his faults and shows there is no shame in asking forgiveness from those you have wronged. Check it out, I don’t think you will be disappointed..
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
As you go through life, even if you don’t want to admit it, luck plays a big part. As the old saying goes I would rather be lucky than good any day of the week. For some people timing and opportunity is everything. It allows them to reach beyond their God-given talents and cross paths with the people who possess incredible talent and skills. Such is the case with today’s book, proving that timing is everything.
Ask any baseball fan who their personal Hall of Fame members are and I bet you would be hard pressed to find Charlie O’Brien’s name on any of those rosters. A journeyman catcher that spent 15 years in the Major Leagues that included eight various stops around the league. Charlie was a part-time player at best appearing in 800 games over those 15 years, that averages out to about 53 games played per year, and a career .221 batting average. Now these stats are nothing to be ashamed of because Charlie got to play the game we all love for a decade and a half at the highest level. What makes his story most interesting is the pitchers Charlie was able to work with during his 15 years on the field. Charlie O’Brien was able to say that he was the catcher to no less than 13 Cy Young Award winners during his career, which is the premise for his new book.
Charlie along with co-author Doug Wedge walk the reader through the his experiences working with these pitchers. Showing how each pitcher liked to work on the mound and how Charlie would adapt to each of their styles and how he helped to motivate each one in troubled times on the field. From his start in 1985, to the end of his career, he was able to work with essentially four decades worth of various Cy Young Award winners. It is a great story of perseverance and even though it may not be a Hall of Fame career, you still can have a pretty cool experience.
Unfortunately there were some down sides to this story. You get a lot of on field stories but not too much about Charlie himself. I always like to get the personal side of a player in an autobiography. Secondly, the entire book is based around the Cy Young premise. Which is all well and good, but Charlie never played with any of these pitchers when the were winning the award, it was always before or after the fact. So basically, it is a star crossing with a Cy Young winner, but never at the right time. That being the fact, it makes the premise of the book a little bit of a stretch, but honestly it is a good tie in to grab readers.
This is in no way a bad book. It is well written and tells a very entertaining story about what it was like to work with some players that we don’t often find much written about. Charlie O’Brien should be very proud of his work on the field with these Cy Young pitchers and even though his personal statistics may not reflect the great standards of the game, his own career as well. Baseball fans should pick this up, if you can get past the lack of continuity with the Cy Young premise, you should really enjoy it.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Texas A&M University Press