You didn't think I could let Opening Day of the baseball season pass without a baseball book review, did you? Having obtained a copy of this upcoming memoir on former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons earlier, when I was trying to decide on what baseball book to start the 2023 season with, I chose this one. Here is my review.
“Gibby: Tales of a Baseball Lifer” by John Gibbons with Greg Oliver
4 of 5 stars (very good)
John Gibbons is exactly who he says he is in the subtitle of this memoir – a baseball lifer. His book, co-written with Greg Oliver, is the perfect illustration of how a memoir of a baseball lifer, whose position was catcher, would read. It fits all the stereotypes that one thinks of when they pick up a memoir by a baseball lifer.
Let’s list a few of those stereotypes that a reader may believe about this book before reading a page. One – catchers usually make the better managers, especially marginal catchers. This checks off nicely as Gibbons talks fondly of his playing career, which really did not have much success in the major league level, but he did show enough knowledge of the game that when he realized his time as a player was through, he was able to find scouting jobs, which led to coaching, which led to managing jobs. Those were both in the minor leagues (Mets system) and in the majors, where he led the Toronto Blue Jays in two separate stints.
Two – baseball men of a certain age dislike the changes in the game today. For the most part, Gibbons shows how he is not a fan of some of the current strategies such as the early removal of starting pitchers. He will often wax nostalgic about how the game used to be. This is something not uncommon in many baseball memoirs, but at times this felt to be a little too much.
Three – there will be certain players that the baseball lifer will go on and on with stories about that player. There is plenty of that in this book, both for teammates while a player and also as a manager. They can range in talent from a fellow back up catcher to a Hall of Fame pitcher such as Roy Halladay. That is not necessarily a bad thing as many of these stories make great reading. It does show, however, that even though Gibbons had the reputation as a “player’s manager” as he refers to himself, he certainly had his favorites.
Four – self-deprecation as humor is almost always present in these types of books and that is certainly present here. Like the stories about players, that helps the reader enjoy the book even if it seemed a bit predictable.
While this may come across as a critical review, it really isn’t – it is meant to convey that everything one may expect from a baseball memoir is present here, including fond memories for Blue Jays fans of their run in the 2015 postseason. That is the section with the most detailed baseball talk for on-field action, but for baseball talk in general, this is a book that many fans, especially Blue Jays fans, will enjoy.
I wish to thank ECW Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are strictly mine.