Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review of "The Phenomenon"

As I was somewhat familiar with the story of Rick Ankiel, I have been interested his memoir since it was published in April.  I was able to obtain the audio version and I believe that it made a good story even better.  Some of the reviews of this book that I read were somewhat critical of the writing and the narration, but I felt that those were secondary to the story which is one that is inspiring.  Here is my review of "The Phenomenon"

The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips and the Pitch that Changed My Life” written by Rick Ankiel and Tim Brown, narrated by Rick Ankiel

Baseball, Professional, memoir, autobiography, Cardinals, Braves

Publish date:
April 18, 2017

304 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
In October 2000, Rick Ankiel felt like he was on the top of the baseball world.  He was considered one of the best young pitchers in the game and was on the mound for a post-season game against the team he cheered for as a boy, the Atlanta Braves.  In the third inning, a seemingly innocent wild pitch led to even more of them and he had to soon thereafter be removed from the game. That led to even more wildness and Ankiel was in the fight for his baseball career.  But that fight was an internal one and how he handled that is chronicled in his recently published memoir.

When I saw that Ankiel was the narrator of the audio version, I decided to listen as I always believe that hearing the author tell his or her story lends an air of credibility to the book if he or she sounds honest.  That was certainly the case here as Ankiel comes across in both words and voice as completely honest.  While he had a difficult childhood by seeing his father treat his mother badly, he doesn’t blame that or any other external reason for his sudden loss of the ability to throw a baseball where he wanted.

When Ankiel subsequently underwent surgery on his throwing arm and still did not have success, the reader or listener will be surprised at how he decided to change from being a pitcher to an outfielder.  Even though I knew the story behind his decision to change and his subsequent work to learn a new position, I believed this was the most inspiring part of his story.  Late in his career, he played in another post-season game, this time for the Braves and he hit a game-winning home run against the San Francisco Giants.

He also spoke honestly about his name appearing on the Mitchell Report, the report written by former senator George Mitchell on his investigation in the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball.  Ankiel states that he took human growth hormone while recovering from his surgery and at the time, he checked if it was a banned substance in the game.  He stated that it was not at the time (not until 2005) and therefore he decided to use it.  There was no defiance, no bitterness at being listed on the report – just stated as a matter of fact. 

This statement is in line with the rest of his book – narrated as just what happened without a lot of emotions, regrets or anger.  It was an audiobook that I enjoyed listening to and would recommend this book, either print or audio, to baseball fans who enjoy memoirs or a good comeback story.

Book Format Read:



  1. Why did he feel arm surgery would cure his yips?

    1. He had a UCL tear while still trying to fight them off, not to solve the problem. Surgery was to repair that