by (the late) Durwood Merrill
Summary: After decades of abuse and spittle, Major League umpire Durwood Merrill strikes back with some pretty incisive, funny, and no-holds-barred anecdotes. When his book stays in the game, it’s a real hoot, light and folksy; how can you not laugh with a guy who can admit that “Folks around the American League say I’ve sent a few pitchers to the Hall of Fame before their time because my strike zone tends to swell like George Steinbrenner’s ego”? It’s his own ego, though, that has him swinging for the seats and coming up short; he’s not much of a memoirist. Thankfully, like a good umpire, he keeps his personal interference to a minimum and mostly sticks to business, offering some tough prescriptions for what ails the game, and some solid dissection of the intricacies of his craft. His thoughts on Pete Rose might lead you to believe that Charlie Hustle is the book’s title character.
Joe’s Remarks: When I first bought this book, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I had heard a few negative things about it, and kind of had a prejudice against it. Boy, was that wrong! I found this to be a very funny, lighthearted read (for the most part). There’s some really wonderful insights into what it takes to become a big league umpire – never quite realized all they went through in “Umpire boot camp” (my term). It’s not all fun and games, there’s a few stories about how an umpire friend of his was attacked and crippled on the streets of Dallas, and the latter part talks a lot about his charity works.
A great book – funny, light, and to be honest, something that surprised me in a very good way. What was personally annoying was that after I read this (during the last month of the 99 season), I wanted to watch Durwood, and then he up and retires during the playoffs. Damn. Really wanted to see him after reading his book. Oh well. Check it out, a good light read.
Update Feb 2012: This book is too out of print, but used copies are pretty easy to come by. I cannot recommend this highly enough. Great read, I’m overdue to read it again. Enjoyed it an awful lot.