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Book Review: The Mets and A Moment In Time

Posted on October 31, 2011 at 11:16 PM
Filed Under: Baseball | New York Mets
One of the wonderful things about being a blogger is that people want to send you baseball books.  Now, personally, I have a motto.  My motto is, "Happiness is a pile of unread books".  Which means that when people want to send me books, I typically let them.  They don't have to be Cardinal books.  If they are, great.  But if not, if they are baseball books, I'm perfectly fine reading about other parts of the game.

Which is why I just finished reading The Mets: A 50th Anniversary Celebration.  I knew of the Mets, of course.  While my immersion into baseball has come at a time when the divisions have gone from two to three and the rivalry that the Cards and Mets had has waned, there's still a lot of ties between the two teams.  The 1980s was a great time in the history of both squads.

However, this book is great about delving into the real history of the club.  From the beginnings as a compromise between MLB and a group trying to start a third league, to their improbable run in 1969, all the way through their disappointing slide as they deal with The Curse of Yadier Molina, the history of the club is laid bare for all of its glory--and all of its warts.

Reading this book, it really helps you realize how blessed we are as Cardinal fans.  The Mets have won two championships in 50 years, but more often than not they've been beset with injuries and weak play at times they should have dominated.  It's hard to believe that a team in the largest market in baseball has only two titles, one by a team that came out of nowhere and one that could have been prevented, perhaps, if a first baseman fields a ball.

I really enjoyed reading through the whole history of the club.  It obviously meant more when you started seeing the names that you recognized, but the Mets have had a lot of famous players even from the very beginning.  If you know a Mets fan, this would be a great Christmas gift for them.  If you are one that just loves reading about the game, give this some strong consideration before your next baseball purchase.

Another book that I recently went through was A Moment In Time, written by former major league pitcher Ralph Branca.  Branca's book traces his life, from his first interest in baseball all the way through the present day.

Branca's book is an easy read.  Even though it is written with David Ritz, the style and wording comes across as if Branca is talking to you.  That tends to mean that the book is not necessarily as in depth as you might like or any great work of art, but it tells the story well and it gives you some of the details that were going on at the time of the story.

Which is really one of the things that bugged me about the book.  Branca would write about remembering seeing in the paper that Jackie Robinson had played his first game.  OK, maybe, even though it wasn't a huge part of the paper in his recollection.  Other things, though, like the conversation with his future father-in-law, seem stilted, the kind of thing you read in a bad fiction book when they are trying to set the scene.  For example, here's a snippit of it:

"So you make movies, Mr. Mulvey?" 
"Well, it's actually Sam [Goldwyn] who makes the movies.  I make the deals with the distributors.  I try to make sure that the movies make money." 
"Of all the movies you've been involved with, what's your favorite?" 
"Pride of the Yankees.  I actually bought the rights to that film from Sam.  I own it personally." 
"The one about Lou Gehrig?" 
"Right.  Gary Cooper plays Lou."
Does any of that seem natural?  It continues on in that vein for a bit, talking about another movie, name dropping Frank Sinatra.  While the gist of the conversation may have happened, I find it tough to believe that you'd have to spell out to a ballplayer and a movie mogul that Pride of the Yankees was about Lou Gehrig.

However, what really tarnishes the book is Branca's inability to make peace with the fact that the New York Giants were stealing signs when they made their comeback run against his Brooklyn Dodgers, a run that culminated in the signature moment that Branca is known for, the Bobby Thomson home run.  Even after he has become friends with Thomson, when the cheating news breaks, he's more concerned with making press and nursing that grudge than he seems to be with the friendship he received out of the situation.

Obviously, Branca has a right to be somewhat bitter about it.  Without the extra help, there's no doubt that the Dodgers would have been in the World Series that year since the race was so close.  That said, even if you know what's coming, you still have to hit it.  Branca seems to think that if Thomson, who apparently knew what was coming on that fateful pitch, had been in the dark, he'd have gotten him out.  However, it was still a pitch that could be driven out of the ballpark.  Thomson still had to hit it, even if he knew it was coming.

It's a good book, don't get me wrong, but I don't think Branca comes off as sympathetic in the whole thing as you would expect from a book bearing his authorship.  That might just be my opinion, though--you won't go wrong in picking it up and deciding for yourself.

I've got more reviews coming during the offseason, but I had a little time before finding Tony La Russa on Letterman and David Freese on Leno and thought I'd bring these to your attention.  Both are well worth your time!

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2 Comments | Leave a comment

Nobody sends me any books. :-(

Next time I get someone offering, I'll try to drop your name. :D

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