Posted on February 15, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals
When Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth sat down to write a biography of Albert Pujols, I have a feeling they had no idea how timely the publication of the book would be.
Their work, Pujols: More Than The Game
came out a couple of weeks ago, in the midst of all the discussion and debate about Pujols's contract. Even as I sit down to write this, things are not resolved and it seems unlikely that they will be before Pujols's self-imposed deadline to cut off talks.
The focus is on Pujols, but then again, it always has been. Lamb and Ellsworth do a wonderful job of mixing in Pujols past and present, going from his time in St. Louis back to his early days in the Dominican Republic. We get to see some of what his life was like there in the DR and see why helping the people that are still there is such a passion for him.
Lamb and Ellsworth also do a masterful job of going back and forth between Pujols's two passions, baseball and his faith. Make no mistake about it, this is a heavily Christian book. The authors go by the Book, and I'm not talking about the unwritten one. Bible verses are quoted and the how and why of Pujols's Christianity is broken down on a theological level.
Some people have used the current contract situation to cast aspersions on Pujols's faith. They've commented that he couldn't be a real Christian because he's being greedy, holding out for every last dollar. Lamb and Ellsworth obviously don't get into that specific allegation, but when you look at the evidence of Pujols's Christian walk in this book, it makes it clear that this doesn't hold water.
I can't tell you why Pujols is asking for so much, but I can tell you that this man is the real deal when it comes to Christ. Page after page of this book is littered with his comments about God and Jesus, why he believes, what his belief means to him as a man, a father, a husband.
You see his devotion to the less fortunate, as evidenced by when he passed up a trip to the White House after the Cardinals had won the World Series because he was down helping people in the Dominican. You see the joy he gets from helping out the kids with Down's Syndrome. It would not surprise me that, at least in part, Pujols wants a big contract so he can do more and better things for others. While there's no doubt he lives comfortably and doesn't want for anything, he's not completely showy about it either and pours lots of money into his Pujols Family Foundation
and other charities.
Each season of Pujols's baseball career, from his time in high school all the way through the 2010 Major League campaign, is laid out with highlights and a general commentary. Not only that, but Lamb and Ellsworth tackle the steroid rumors head on, giving a 20-point reasoned argument for why we can believe Pujols when he says he's never juiced. Some may sway you more than others and a number are rooted in Pujols's faith, but denying all of them would take quite a bit of mental agility.
The one drawback from this book is that, for some reason, the authors were not able to talk directly with Albert. All the quotes from him come from other sources, such as newspaper interviews and magazine articles. There are plenty of those, of course, and there were direct interviews with people that know both Albert and Dee Dee, such as current players Kyle McClellan and Adam Wainwright. (In fact, one of the best stories in the book comes from Wainwright, when Pujols offers to buy a painting of him getting the last out of the '06 Series and Wainwright refuses.) Still, having direct contact with Pujols, especially being able to ask questions about his walk with Christ, would have made a good book even better.
Other than that and a couple of minor details (for example, the game after the passing of Darryl Kile is described as a "Sunday afternoon game" but actually was the ESPN Sunday Night game), this book shines as a great testament to a great player. Hopefully in ten years Lamb and Ellsworth can come back and write a sequel capping his career spent all in St. Louis!
Programming note: Scott Lamb will join me on the UCB Radio Hour tomorrow evening to talk about the book. Should be an interesting conversation!
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