“The Best Seat in Baseball but You Have to Stand!” By Lee Gutkind
Baseball, professional, umpires
March 11, 2014 (originally published 1975)
3 of 5 stars (okay)
This book of the chronicles of a National League umpiring crew during the 1974 season was originally published in 1975 and has been re-released in ebook formats now. Lee Gutkind traveled with the crew that was headed by Doug Harvey, who later was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and gives the reader an inside look at the men who are not remembered during a game unless they make a mistake – the umpires.
It was billed as a tell-all book that would make fans realize exactly what umpires must go through and how they endure life always on the road, since they do not have home games like the players, how they interact with fans and other people in each city and some of the shenanigans they do as well to bide their time. Some have called this the “Ball Four” of umpires. There is some NC-17 language in the book, but that is about all that this book has in common with the Jim Bouton classic.
Some of the stories are downright entertaining, such as the cab driver in Chicago who will only give rides to and from the ball park to umpires. His take on what these men are like is funny, touching and even a bit poignant. If for no other reason, this story alone would be a good reason to pick up this book.
However, the same can’t be said of some of the other passages in the book. Gutkind touches on some sensitive issues, such as infidelity (although none of the four umpires in the book are guilty of that in any of the stories) and race issues. However, some of these and other stories tend to get a bit wordy and start to repeat themselves. The book could have had some shorter passages or not repeat some topics and still have been able to make the same points.
Overall, this book is okay for baseball fans, and one that those who are interested in learning more about the umpires would really enjoy. But as an interesting read, it struggled to keep my interest and was only mildly impressed. An okay read.
I wish to thank NetGalley for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Did I skim?
Pace of the book:
It felt to be dragging at times, especially when the talk was about Williams and the reason he was in the major leagues was only for integration. After a while I got tired of hearing that and to have it described for several pages made for tough reading.
Do I recommend?
If you are a hard core fan of 1970s baseball or are interested in the life of an umpire, then pick this one up. If not, then I recommend passing.
Book Format Read: