Now, this is a wonderful book. It's a bit dated, since Glavine was a Brave when it was written, and the past collective bargaining agreement was still in effect. However, this book is a treasure trove of baseball knowledge. Its target audience is probably younger, casual fans, but even more knowledgeable adult fans will probably take away some facts which open their eyes to certain fine points of the game.
Like the title says, the book is a sweeping exploration of baseball - broad enough in scope to satisfy just about anyone. The book is one in a series of "....... for Everybody" books aimed at introducing and increasing comprehension of various sports. All in all, I'd say this book succeeds.
As far as the structure goes, the book is divided into six sections, which are all subdivided into many smaller chapters. The first of these sections is called "Where Were You When History Happened." It contains chapters on the lure of baseball, the great hitters, the historic moments, the numbers of the game and what they mean, and a chapter on the modern game. Each chapter floods the reader with information in a very simplified, easily read and comprehended manner. Perhaps more importantly, it doesn't overwhelm you.
The chapters don't contain a lot of fluff, and they talk in straight forward fashion about topics like the Curt Flood case, free agency, the strike of 1994, modern ballparks, Jackie Robinson, Spring training and historical issues. One of the most novel things about the book are Tom's insights on topics like pitching to the great home run hitters.
The second section of the book is about the basic rules of the game, the positions - where they play and why, umpire signals, the count, uniforms, defense, and some of the more complex rules. It's a very good section on the basics, not to mention clear explanations of things like balks, interference, dropped third strikes, the infield fly - even umpire errors, and getting tossed from the game.
The third section talks in-depth about such things as what the position players do defensively, what they are expected to do offensively, how they work together, which players have to be faster, and which players have to be stronger. It also has a beautiful section on the fundamentals of both hitting and defense. The first three sections are really only precursors to insure that the reader has the foundation to really understand the next three sections - and these are what really make the book something special.
Section 4 called "The Show, the Major Leagues," really gets deeper into baseball matters, and how the professionals think. The first chapter of this section (Chapter 11) has beautiful synopses on things like building a team, drafting, trading, signings, roster size and how they are set, the trading deadline, and making changes to a team. Chapters 12 and 13 deal with the grind of the season, injuries, how the pennant race effects a team, the achievement of the playoffs and World Series, differences in 5 and 7 game series, and how the dynamics change as things progress
Chapter 14 deals with the business of the game. It answers a lot of questions about contracts a young player has to take, when they are eligible for arbitration, how arbitration works, and how they eventually become a free agent. Other money issues are touched upon including non-glamor free agent signings and trades, taking less money to play where you might want to, and how market size effects a team's decisions.
Chapter 15 is all about the minor leagues. It's about the various ways players are developed. How teams draft, and what expectations a high draft pick faces, are both explored. Tom discusses the difference between the mind-set and goals of college and minor league coaches. He then explains rookie leagues, the levels of minor league ball, and what kind of players are to be found at each level of ball. Minor league contracts and travel are covered as is moving to the big leagues, and even being cut.
Section 5 is really Glavine's show. It's a section called "The Art of Pitching." It's almost an everything you wanted to know about pitching section. The first chapter in the section, chapter 16, is about who makes up a major league squad - starters, middle relievers, closers and specialists. It discusses why you want them, who they are, and what they do. It talks about the evolution to the current form of pitching from smaller rotations, and why lefties are so valuable to a team.
Chapter 17 is about pitching mechanics, the windup, delivery, and the various types of pitches. There is an interesting section explaining how each pitch moves, how the pitcher holds the ball and throws it. My one gripe about the whole book really comes here. The grips used for each pitch, which Tom describes, should be illustrated. The rest of the Section (Chapter 18) is on the mind-set of a Cy Young pitcher, of course in this case author Tom Glavine, in approaching pitching, and working in certain situations.
The sixth and final section of the book is about the managers, coaches, trainers, and support staff. It talks about their jobs, strategy, signals and making teams gel in a way that makes the team better and stronger. It's about how winning comes from a plan, not by random chance, and the role of the thinking man in the game. In essence, it's about why so many of us love the game, why we debate and analyze it, and even feel compelled to endlessly write about it.
This book is one that almost every fan would benefit from reading. In fact, I wish I had been given a copy at age 10. The only thing that this book lacks is an current edition, and my hope is that the people who publish this book will get together with Mr. Glavine and do an update.
Give this one 3 our of 4 stars and I'll rate it even higher if they come out with a new edition in the not too distant future.
Our Rating System is based on a four ball system as follows:
One Ball: Average. It has something to say but is nothing special.
Two Balls: Something men usually have - also means its a cut above average, and worth reading/owning.
Three balls: Stands out from its peers and is highly recommended.
Four Balls: More than just what two men have when hanging out together, it means it is an exceptional book that truly earns a walk - straight to the local book store to get a copy.
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