Thursday, May 1, 2008

Book Review: Living on the Black by John Feinstein

Originally published on Pinstripe Alley

Last night, I finished reading Living on the Black, John Feinstein's 500 page chronicle of the 2007 season focused on the performances of Mike Mussina and Tom Glavine. The title, of course, comes from way both cerebral pitchers have to pitch in order to get major league hitters out.

After reading the introduction and the first few chapters, which followed Mussina and Glavine as amateurs, up through the minors, and to New York, I was really excited. The writing was crisp and clear, the characters were beginning to take shape, and the arc of their careers had been clearly laid out.

Feinstein's supposed goal involved exploring the "inside baseball" aspect of a pitcher's life.
What do pitchers really do during the off-season- especially as they get older- to prepare for spring training? What do they do while "throwing a bullpen"?... How do pitchers and catchers relate to one another; what in the world do pitching coaches really say when they jog to the mound; and what does a pitcher, especially one who can't just rear back throw 95-miles-an-hour fastballs, do to get hitters out? How do they interact with umpires? Opposing hitters? The managers? Their wives?
After a 150 page primer, class had been called to order, and I was prepared to sit at the feet of the master and learn. And then Feinstein began writing about the 2007 season (for about 400 pages).