Sunday, May 12, 2013

Review of "Drinking Coffee With a Fork"

“Drinking Coffee With a Fork: The Story of Steve Carlton and the ’72 Phillies” by Dave Brown and Steve Bucci
Non-fiction, Sports, Baseball

August 17, 2011
224 pages
5 of 5 stars – Absolutely loved it!
One of the greatest individual seasons by a pitcher is told in rich detail in this recap of the 1972 season of the Philadelphia Phillies and their ace pitcher Steve Carlton.   In that season, Carlton won 27 games for the Phillies, a team that won only 59 the entire season.   Carlton not only won the most games in the National League that year, but he also had the lowest earned run average and led the league in strikeouts.  This earned him the “Triple Crown” of pitching, something that only a handful of pitchers have ever done.
The book covers the season from when the Phillies obtained the left-handed pitcher in exchange for another pitcher, Rick Wise, from the St. Louis Cardinals.  The trade was met with disappointment from fans and the media as Wise was a popular player and had thrown a no-hitter the previous season, a bright spot in an otherwise bad season for the Phillies.  Now with Wise gone, why would anyone pay attention to the team?
While the team as a whole was even worse in 1972, fans were still interested in the team every fourth day as Carlton took his turn in the pitching rotation.  He dominated the opposing team regularly during that season, and had masterful performances throughout the season.  Fans who did not see baseball during that time would be amazed at what he did then, such as pitching the entire game when it would go extra innings, pitch every fourth day as opposed to five as is common now, and finish games in under two hours, something very rarely done today.   These feats and other descriptions make this book like a time machine, taking us back to a time when baseball was a very different game than it is now.
This was an outstanding book in all aspects and I highly recommend it to any baseball fan, regardless of age or favorite team.
Did I skim?
Did I learn something new about the topic? 
Yes.  I did not realize that Carlton was so respected by the media and teammates at that time.   Later in his career, Carlton was famous for his refusal to talk to the media, but this was before that self-ban and he was very cordial with them.
Pace of the book:
Excellent – I finished this very quickly even with 224 pages

The stories of the players and coaches were fascinating and rich.  Off-the-field aspects were well-researched and written as well, such as the trade that brought Carlton to the Phillies, the firing of manager Frank Lucchesi mid-season, and some of the antics of players after imbibing a little too much.

There were none.  However, some readers might not like the fact that the book often digresses on tangents when a teammate, coach or other person on that team talks about one of the games in which Carlton pitched.   As an example, after the recap of a game in San Francisco, catcher Terry Harmon talked about an incident when Carlton threw at the head of Garry Maddox after Maddox and Bobby Bonds celebrated a Bonds homer too long.  That story, not part of the game, took over three pages.   I don’t consider it a negative – stories like that make baseball books fun reads.  But for those who do not like digressions, this would be a problem.

Do I recommend? 
Yes – everything I love about baseball books is in this one.  Good historical accuracy, meaningful statistics, great stories by players and vivid description of the action on the field.

Book Format Read: ebook - Nook

Author Media Links: None.  Amazon links:


  1. Because I have followed the Phillies since my first game in 1951 I recall the 1972 season very well. I may have to read it now because it sounds like fun. Do you mean Gary Maddox who was labeled the secretary of defense in center for the Phillies or Gary Matthews?
    I recall that Carlton would put his arm into a barrel of rice to strengthen his arm. He really believed he could pitch til he was 50. It was pretty sad to see him cling so long after he had lost his stuff.

  2. Gary Maddox ... when he played with the Giants before the Phillies. Won't give that story away in case you read the book... but it made me laugh out loud.

  3. Gary Maddox ... when he played with the Giants before the Phillies. Won't give that story away in case you read the book... but it made me laugh out loud.