Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stories about Mets and Muggles

Mr. Met warns students about books by Tom Verducci and Bob Klapisch.

The Mets have never had a Harry Potter, but they did have Harry Parker.

Parker displayed no magical abilities during his three-year stint with the team. Arriving in a deal with the Cardinals for Art Shamsky in 1973, he went 14-19 with 11 saves and a 3.77 ERA before we sold him back to Azkerban, err, the Cardinals in 1975.

But I spent the weekend immersed in the world of the teen-age wizard, finishing the book before accidentally stumbling on any spoilers in the media, be they articles or co-workers. We saw the movie on Saturday, too. You can read more about my adventures in obtaining the book at my work blog, Head of the Class

My wife is often amazed that I just don’t read fiction. I figure I’ve read 9 works of fiction in the last decade, seven of which are the Potter books. Ironically, I read one of the other two — “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon — earlier this month after a discussion about autism at work.

I’m not sure why I stick to non-fiction. Maybe it’s a reporter thing, because we like to stick to the facts. Maybe it’s because truth is sometimes even stranger than stuff anyone can make up. More likely it’s because I stick to my two main areas of interest — presidents and the Mets.

I haven’t read all the Mets books, but certainly a bunch of them. Here are some notables:

Best example of an author without a clue: “Amazin': The Miraculous History of New York's Most Beloved Baseball Team” by Peter Golenbock.

Golenbock’s MO is that he finds a couple old players, lets the tape recorder run and calls it an “oral history.” And indeed, some of the anecdotes in this book are interesting and amusing.

But I nearly tossed the tome when he got to 1967 and referred to someone called “Thomas George Seaver.” I have no idea who the hell that could be, because everyone knows that the only guy in Cooperstown with a Mets cap on his plaque is George Thomas Seaver, better known to all as Tom.

When kids ask me about my job, I tell them about the importance of getting things right. Because if one thing is incorrect, it makes people wonder what else in a story is inaccurate.

And frankly, if Golenbock can’t even get the name of the team’s all-time hero and best player right, well, it makes me take everything else with a grain of salt. After seeing this, I was looking for other screw-ups — and there were others — the rest of the way through.

Plus, there’s the subtitle. “New York’s Most Beloved Baseball Team” is a shameless attempt to lure us in by a guy who had previously published two fawning oral histories about the Dodgers and Yankees. I'm sure he got Derek Jeter's name right.

Most special book: “New York Mets, The First Quarter Century,” by Donald Honig

The writing here is nothing special — unless you count the parts that were added by hand. A Christmas gift from my folks in 1986, this book has accompanied me to nearly two decades of spring trainings, major and minor league stadiums and baseball card shows.

Whenever I meet a Met past or present, I ask him to sign the book. I think I’m up to about 200 signatures, from Hall of Famers Tom Seaver, Warren Spahn, Gary Carter and Richie Ashburn to short-timers Brent Mayne and Eric Cammack, from phenoms like Gregg Jefferies to flops like Marvelous Marv they’re all a part of our Mets history and in the book.

Jorge Sosa was the most recent signer, obtained at Comerica Park last month.

Personal glory aside, this is still a good book packed with photos from 1962 through 1986.

Best book with a bad cover: “New York Mets: The Whole Story,” by Leonard Koppett.

I have a soft spot in my heart for this tome — my first Mets history book! I knew every photo caption by heart. "McGraw arrives, McGraw delivers."

Koppett is a member of Baseball's Hall of Fame's Writers Wing and the book was written after the 1969 championship. I had the updated version that came out in 1974 after the World Series. And here’s where things get strange. The Mets team colors, as we know, are blue and orange. Don’t get me started on the addition of black. The team that beat them in the World Series was the Oakland Athletics, who wore green and yellow.

The cover of this book? That would be green and yellow.

Did this not strike anyone at the Macmillan Publishing Company back in 1974 as even a little odd? Had Yankee fans infiltrated?

This is proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Best cover: “The Game of Baseball,” by Gil Hodges

Not sure about the book, but the cover is a classic old-school baseball photo of Gil — bow heads reverently — kneeling as if in the on-deck circle, with batting helmets posed neatly on either side.

It’s exactly the kind of old-school photo I used to hang on the bedroom wall. And speaking of old school, when was the last time you saw a player kneeling in the on-deck circle. I guess the idea was to not block the view of the paying customers. Now guys just stand there swinging.

Book most likely never read by its alleged author: “Nails,” by Lenny Dykstra.
Look, we all love Lenny. And he’s a successful businessman so he certainly isn’t a dummy.
But I just don’t see him being the kind of guy willing to seriously sit down and put pen to paper.

Best book about a single Mets game: “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” by Jerry Izenberg

Izenberg, then a columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger, gets points just for pissing off Yankee fans who no doubt erupt at the very idea that their pinstriped blowhards didn’t appear in something billed “the greatest game ever played.”

The book is a quick read and a fine look at Game 6 of the NLCS between the Mets and the Astros. Sure, he looks at the game in great detail, but also the personalities on both sides.

The game was on Oct. 15, 1986, and I was at the University of Missouri. I remember being glued to the TV, frustrated that I had to head off to class during the game. I rushed back to our apartment hoping to catch the score – this was before we could follow along on the Internet – and was amazed -- and thrilled -- that the game was still on.

The sixth game of that World Series gets a lot of the attention, but Izenberg wasn’t too far off. This was a game for the ages.

Book for Mets-haters by a Mets-hater: “The Worst Team Money Could Buy: The Collapse of the New York Mets” by Bob Klapisch

This is like me writing a book about Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Roger Clemens and everyone else whose middle initial has been replaced with an F.

Klapisch is known to despise all things Met and you can no-doubt hear him cackling with glee as he types every word about Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman and the other participants of what might be our darkest hour.

Then again, I have to assume that you can hear the Klap cackle, because I have never held this book in my hands, much less read it.

I'm not one of those book-burners, but this might be an exception. Heck, had Ray Bradbury not penned "Farenheit 451" prior to 1993, he would have had characters saying things like, "People, we can't go burning books. OK, you can burn that crap frm Klapisch. But nothing else!"

There you go! I'd love to hear what Mets books you've liked over years.


David said...

I finished Book 7 Sunday afternoon. I also picked up "The Bad Guys Won" when I was at the Potter party friday night, and it has been a fun read so far...

Mets Guy in Michigan said...

OK, without giving anything away, what did you think of that short, add-on chapter at the end?

As for "Bad Guys," I'm afraid to read it because I might learn about things I just don't want to know.

Anonymous said...

I have a book right now given to me by a very special person. The problem: it weighs 200lbs and is over 1500 pages long. It is well written, and I do enjoy reading it when I'm not doing my MBA, screaming at the kids, admitting to my wife she is right again, being the chief of my department, operating and seeing patients; not to mention being the member of two committees and a “Team Leader on a Regional Consultant Project" (I won't even try to bore you with what that means). Oh I almost forgot, cleaning up after a bankrupt cafe and being sued by a she-devil (or the closet thing walking the planet) “over business”. So to say the least, my plate is so full, even the salad plate and soup dish have things in them. My fear is I will not finish it until I'm in my 80's. I know you write blogs, but could you but on your advice cap and let me know how to handle this. Do I read ten pages a night, pull a month of all-nighters, quit my job and just keep on reading? I have so many questions with so few answers!!!
By the way, I am so glad you advised children to get there facts right. "Match Day" in the USA is when all medical students find out where the will be spending anywhere from 3 to 7 years of their life for training. I remember on the cover of the Boston Globe or Herald (read; well written v. trash) there was a picture of students from Boston University (my school) with the caption "Tuft's University Match Day" (The guy/gal must have been halfway through a bottle of Jack and I don't mean the good stuff).
P.S. I don’t think it will be long before this person will be asking for the book back, and he’s kind of big and scary and has no problems killing imaginary animals. Let me make that clear, imaginary, he is no Michael Vick. Please help!!


JLC 1863 said...

Non fiction all the way. The last fiction book I read was fiction based on fact. The "Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara. It happens to be my favorite book of all time. It is a fictional story based on fthe facts of the Batlle of Gettysburg. It was the basis for the Ted Turner epic "Gettysburg". I have read it twice.

Right now I am immeresed in "D-Day Jun 6, 1944: The Climatctic Battle of WWII" by Stephen Ambrose. It is a great read at 653 pages long. Stephen Ambrose wrote "Band of Brothers" also a great read.

TW, I use my hour long commute to NYC to do my reading. The only problem is that camps open this week and my fantasy draft is on 09/01. Bring on the Fantasy Football mags!!

As for the media getting facts right. Please don't get me started. Sorry Dave.

As a Squad Detective I always found amusement when the news would be reporting a shooting that we were working and half of the stuff the reporter outside the stationhouse was reporting wasn't true. Again, sorry cuz.

I'm sure TW can agree in the medical profession. We all know Newsday loves cops, firemen, nurses, and doctors. Again, sorry cuz.


Mets Guy in Michigan said...


Well, you should start every day by telling your wife she's right. But 1,500 pages? That's either an encyclopedia or "Ode to Derek, How I Love Thee" by Tom Verducci!

But I have the perfect way for you get through the Potter book: Books on CD. Jim Dale does an excellent job reading the books. Pop them in the car while you drive to work -- or even better, on a long trip with the family -- and you'll caught up in no time. And it will allow you to concentrate on something other than suit-happy she-devils.

As for the Boston rag, there's just no excuse for something that sloppy! We all sometimes get the facts wrong, but that's just sloppy.

I just got back from speaking to a bunch of high school kids at a Cornerstone University journalism camp and again stressed the importance of accuracy -- and dissed TV "journalism" too!

Mike, that's A-OK. Some papers -- and we know which ones -- don't make accuracy a priority!

MGIF said...

Dear TW, Not much of a decision here, wizards, old baseball players or Einstein, hmmmmmm which is better read? Please do not read on your commute to work, as you drive along the freeways at 85 reading is very dangerous.

Mike, Newsday serves a great purpose to society it makes a perfect bird cage liner and not much morethat is without getting too graphic?

TW take your time with the book and do not even think of handing it back to me over dinner, surely it will put my bags overweight.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice. I'm not sure this book is on CD, it would take a lot of CD's. It may even take one of those IBM's mainframes, I mean; this book makes War and Peace look like the Readers Digest version of "The Berenstain Bears Go on Vacation".

Dear MGIF,
Oh, don't worry mister, I'll get it done and you will have to bring it back (I suggest either buying or bringing a very large shipping crate).
My Best,
TW ;)

SteveJRogers said...


This is how greatly detailed the Izenberg book is. I bought it pretty much when it came out, then sometime later, when I started getting serious into collecting baseball memorabillia in the early 1990's I came across and bought an unscored 1986 Astros NLCS program with Mike F'N Scott and Glenn F'N Davis on the cover (along with Will Clark as it was the final out of the West division clincher, Scott no-hits the Giants)

So I decide to have a little fun and score the program using the book! And I was able to do a complete PBP of the game, and this is years before I knew Retrosheet.org even existed, to say nothing about the full decade plus before the complete game became available on DVD (part of the 86 World Series box set from a year ago)

Pretty incredible to have an entire game detailed for you in a book form like that.

Bob Andelman said...

You might be interested in this audio interview with Peter Golenbock .