Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review of "The Captain"

I have had this book in my Kindle library for over a year and now that Derek Jeter has retired, I decided it was time to read it.   Or should I say listen to it, as I am now commuting nearly one hour each way, so I will be listening to audio books when reading time is limited.   This review was based on the audio book and here is the review of "The Captain."

“The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter” by Ian O’Connor, narration by Nick Polifrone

Baseball, Yankees, biography

Publish date:
August 16, 2011

448 pages

4 of 5 stars (very good)

While I cannot consider myself a fan of either the New York Yankees or of Derek Jeter, I respect the consistent excellence that both of them bring to the game of baseball.  When I found this book when looking for a good biography, I picked this up.  I then let it sit on my “to be read” pile for over a year until the 2014 regular season ended and I decided to read it after Jeter played his last game.  I was able to obtain the audio version of the book at no extra cost, and now that I have a longer commute, I decided to listen to the audio book and this review is based on that version.

This is a book that truly lives up to the title.  Ian O’Connor does take the reader on a journey of Derek Jeter’s life and career.  In the opening notes, O’Connor does state that he did not obtain interviews with Jeter and that the book was a result of research and interviews with other people. That is the strength of this book as O’Connor tells the complete story of Jeter’s baseball career from his days in Kalamazoo, Michigan to the 1992 draft when Jeter was unexpectedly available for the Yankees (my favorite chapter in the book) to his struggles in the minor leagues and finally his adventures in pinstripes at both the old and new Yankee Stadium.  

O’Connor covers many sports in the New York metropolitan area, including the Yankees and his knowledge of the game and the team shows in the book.  He writes not only about Jeter’s ride through the Yankee dynasty of 1996-2000, but also has many stories about the team itself and some of the players in those years such as Scott Brosius and Mariano Rivera.  The reader is taken through those seasons, as well as the more frustrating seasons as the Yankees waited nine years before winning another title.

Not only is Jeter’s baseball career covered in the book, but O’Connor also does a fine job writing about Jeter’s biracial roots, the values his parents instilled in Jeter and his sister and also the type of lifestyle that many men can only dream of.  What I really liked about this aspect of the book is that it did not turn scandalous, as many other biographies do on this topic, nor did it come off as too admiring.  Sure, O’Connor states at times that Jeter seems to be living a charmed life.  But he didn’t overdo it by letting the reader know that Jeter worked hard at keeping that portion of his life as private as possible, therefore it didn’t turn into tabloid material.

This isn’t to say there weren’t problems with the book as well.  Because I listened to the audio version, it was clear that the narrator, Nick Polifrone, was not familiar with some of the players mentioned in the book as there were several mispronunciation incidents of player names.  Two examples are Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia – the second syllable was pronounced with a long A sound instead of the correct short A sound.  Also notable is Robin Yount’s name was pronounced with the first syllable sounding like “You” instead of the proper “Yow.”  Of course this is not an issue for readers of the paper book or the e-book, but I was disappointed to hear these names not properly pronounced.

I also felt that at times O’Connor’s writing came across as an admirer of Jeter instead of an objective author. That came across when Jeter would be struggling – he would always find a way to overcome it. Those were written in a way that it seemed like the man could do nothing wrong and if he did, he would correct it. I also felt that O’Connor was critical of players not on the Yankees and other teams when it wasn’t called for. This was especially true when the book would need to include the other New York baseball team. The accounts of the 2000 World Series when the Yankees defeated the Mets and also the comparisons to responses by both teams to the 2001 terrorist attacks felt like O’Connor was trying to show just how much better the Yankees were than the Mets. I am sure that he did not intentionally do this, but that is how it felt, especially when listening to the book instead of reading it.

Despite these minor issues, I felt that the book was a very good recap of Jeter’s career and life up to the middle of the 2011 season, including the day Jeter got his 3000th base hit.  This book is well worth the time to read for learning more about Jeter and what lead to his Hall of Fame- worthy career.

Did I skim?

Pace of the book: 
Excellent.  O’Connor keeps the book moving with interesting tales on each portion of Jeter’s career.  This is not only for his time with the Yankees but also during his high school days and his struggles in the minor leagues.

Do I recommend? 
Yes.  Whether the reader is a Yankees fan, a baseball fan in general or enjoys well-researched biographies, this book is a good choice.  If the reader is someone who believes too much attention was given to Jeter during his playing days or strongly dislikes the New York Yankees, then pass on this one.

Book Format Read/Listened:
Audio book

Buying links:

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