Thursday, November 10, 2016

Review of "Almost Perfect"

What is the best way for a baseball fan who is suffering from withdrawal after the World Series to get a fix? To read a book right after the Series ends. At least that was what I did to decompress after the exciting 7 game series between the Cubs and Indians. This book is about the sixteen near perfect games in major league history. Here is my review of "Almost Perfect."

“Almost Perfect: The Heartbreaking Pursuit of Pitching’s Holy Grail” by Joe Cox

Baseball, professional, history

Publish date:
February 1, 2017

272 pages

4 of 5 stars (good)

Sixteen times in the history of major league baseball, a starting pitcher has been able to retire the first 26 batters he faced, only to not be credited with a perfect game. Thirteen times the 27th batter reached base safely and in the other three games that batter was also retired, but the pitcher did not complete a perfect game until his team won. Those pitchers and games are the subject of this book by Joe Cox.

The stories are varied – from the 12 perfect innings thrown by Harvey Haddix, only to lose the game in the 13th inning to Eddie Shore relieving Babe Ruth and then retiring 26 batters, each game story is told in three acts. 

One act is a brief biography of the pitcher who came very close to making history.  Another act describes the important facts surrounding the game or the atmosphere surrounding it, such as the chapter on Mike Mussina’s near-perfect game in 2001, just days before the terrorist attack on the United States. The third act is an inning-by-inning recap of the game itself.  These are quite good and show the research that Cox did in order to write about each at-bat by those hitters who were retired in order inning after inning.  Even though the reader will know that eventually that the 27th batter will get a hit, there is still good drama in each game description.

The other two acts in each chapter occasionally will feel like they stray too far away from the objective which is to build up the drama of the game only to show the heartbreak suffered by the pitcher. When the subject pertains to the history of the team more than the pitcher or the game, it feels like filler material.  As an example, in the chapter about Pedro Martinez’s game in which he retired 27 batters and lost the perfect game in the 10th inning, a significant portion of the chapter was devoted to the history of the Montreal Expos, the team for which Martinez was pitching. 

While some of this material may not have been necessary to capture the spirit of the game and what went through the pitcher’s mind, the book was still a good read. It was very interesting to read about these games and realize how many different ways that a game like this can end in a manner that will not be a happy one for a pitcher who has been so dominant. Baseball fans will want to add this one to their bookshelves.

I wish to thank Lyons Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

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