Sunday, July 6, 2014

Review of "Great Stuff"

Here's hoping everyone who celebrate's the Fourth of July had a wonderful celebration.  I did by going to a baseball game - what is more American than that?   On the train ride to the park, I read a book on some of the most amazing pitching feats in the history of the game, and here is my review of that book.  

“Great Stuff: Baseball’s Most Amazing Pitching Feats” by Rich Wescott

Baseball, Pitching, History

May 6, 2014

336 pages

2 1/2 of 5 stars (okay)

The premise of this book grabbed my attention - while a fan may know about baseball’s greatest pitching feats like consecutive no-hitters by Johnny VanderMeer or the perfect game thrown by Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series, this book promised to deliver stories behind those accomplishments.  On that promise, this book by Rich Wescott delivers as there are some interesting stories on great pitching feats and accomplishment that span the entire history of Major League baseball.  Everything from Cy Young’s 511 wins to Mark Buehrle retiring 45 consecutive batters in a three game stretch (more on him in a minute) was covered.  

The stories will introduce the reader to the particular pitcher being discussed, details about the pitching feat that made him worthy of being included in this collection and then more details about his career before and after the accomplishment. This pattern made for easier reading of each story. Because there wasn’t too much detail in these stories – the reader would get stats and highlights but not much else – it made for an easy read.   Some readers may want more detail-oriented stories but for the theme of the book, the format was just right. 

There were some inaccuracies in the book that I noted in a few of the stories on pitchers from 1970 and later.  I will illustrate two of them here, plus two errors that appeared to be missed by the editors that a reader may quickly identify.      

The first inaccurate fact that caught my attention was on the chapter about Jim Palmer.  In that one, it is stated that “…Palmer beat the Kansas City Royals in Baltimore’s pennant clinching game.”   This was about the 1966 season when the Orioles won the World Series. However, that game was against the Kansas City Athletics, as the Kansas City Royals were not a major league franchise until 1969.  The second inaccurate fact was about Orel Hershiser’s win in the 1988 World Series. It is stated in the book that “In Game One, Hershiser pitched one of his best games of the season, a three hit-5-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics.”   Hershiser’s one win in that World Series was in fact Game Two, and it was a three-hit, 6-0 victory.   Game One of that World Series was won by the Dodgers on Kirk Gibson’s famous pinch-hit walk-off homer off Dennis Eckersley (who was the subject of another chapter in the book.)  These are just errors that caught my attention immediately before researching into them. They did raise a red flag for me as to what other errors may be found if the reader digs further, especially the statistics and details of the early history of the game.  

One of the editing errors was one that caught my attention because it would make a great feat even more astounding.  In the chapter on Dwight Gooden’s amazing sophomore season, it is stated that he had a “23-game scoreless streak” broken.  From the context, it was easy to see the author meant “23-inning scoreless streak,” so I believed that was an editing issue.  There was also a glaring editing error when the first page of the chapter on Mark Buehrle’s streak of retiring 45 consecutive batter was titled “Mike Buehrle.”  This was also in the table of contents and the first two times Buehrle’s full name was written.  It was corrected later in the chapter, but it was certainly a distraction to see the incorrect name. Again, I believed it was an editing error.  I will also note that the copy of this book that I read was an e-book that was borrowed from a public library so I do not know if an unedited version ended up in the library’s collection.  However, these were enough of a distraction for me to make me wonder about the validity of all the statistical information.

Nonetheless, I will give this book a passing grade because the stories were entertaining and it did contain information on old-time pitchers that is not easily found from other sources.  I am giving it 3 stars on the assumption that these errors and any others were found and a correct copy is available for purchase.

Did I skim?

Pace of the book: 
It was a fairly quick read – took me a little more than two hours.   None of the stories were extremely long and they moved along quickly enough that it is a decent read.

Do I recommend? 
Baseball fans will enjoy this book as long as they read it for the stories and admire the many outstanding pitching feats that have been accomplished over the course of the game’s history.   If the reader is looking for all facts, figures and statistics, he or she should look elsewhere. 

Book Format Read:
e-book (Kindle, borrowed from public library)

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