Friday, May 30, 2014

Living on the Black: two pitchers, two teams, one season to remember by John Feinstein

This book is a record of the 2007th season that highlights the careers of pitchers Tom Glavine of the NY Mets and Mike Mussina of the NY Yankees.  It is the season that Glavine got his 300th win insuring him for the Hall of Fame but the Mets shut down and lost after being in the lead of the Pennant drive .  This book is for the aficionado who has the patience to plow through 500 plus pages.  I felt the book could have been curtailed to 300 pages and still captured the essence of two very intelligent, mature pitchers.

Pitching is not only very taxing but requires great concentration to pinpoint accurate throws.  Both Glavine and Mussina work the corners of the plate; hence the title "Living on the Black" which refers the black outline of Home plate.  What makes this record worthwhile is not necessarily the description of the baseball but rather the introduction to these two men as likable, smart, and mature individuals.  It is a book that introduces the protagonists not as 'jocks'.

Ted Williams used to say that Pitchers were stupid because they tend to repeat pitches.  He would take note of a particular pitches in particular situations and expect them when the situation repeated itself and then would crack a base hit as a result! The success, however, of these two pitchers lie in the fact that their selection varied and were not repetitive and placement was consistently at the corners of the plate making hitting more difficult.

When reading such a book, I can not help but recall my own experience in organized baseball in High School.  The challenge between hitter and pitcher is great and palpable: the hitter is going smack the ball unless the pitcher places the ball where the hitter can't hit it.  I recall one particular hitter, a very successful powerful one.  I placed two pitches 'up and in' which this fellow crushed both foul by pulling the ball and then I came in with a low and away screw ball that tailed away from hitter striking him out with a weak swing!(Didn't even waist a pitch!)  On the other hand, there was another fellow whom always seemed to expect my pitches and as a result he was always getting base hits!

Mr. Feinstein's writing is fluid and his knowledge of baseball comes through with enthusiasm for the game that I believe mirrors life very well.

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