An unusually engaging sports autobiography whose pleasures extend from unabashedly nostalgic reminiscences of a bygone era...



An unusually engaging sports autobiography whose pleasures extend from unabashedly nostalgic reminiscences of a bygone era in professional baseball through candid comment on the state of the national pastime's race relations. (Those with long memories may recall that Feller published a previous autobiography, Strikeout Story, in 1947). The author, of course, is the workhorse fireballer who in 1936, at age 17, went straight from his junior year in high school to the Cleveland Indians. In the course of a major-league career that earned him a plaque in the Hall of Fame, he won 266 games, struck out nearly 2,600 batters, and pitched three no-hitters. Feller compiled these stats during a time when infield as well as outfield grass was real; all teams in both leagues played east of the Mississippi; night games were a rarity; and TV was a fledgling medium. He did so, moreover, competing against the legendary likes of Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, and Ted Williams. There's no telling how much greater Feller's accomplishments might have been had he not enlisted in the US Navy immediately after Pearl Harbor and lost four years serving in the thick of WW II's Pacific theater action. At war's end, though, he picked up where he left off, helping the Indians to win two American League pennants and one World Series. The lively, literate narrative here takes Feller from boyhood on an Iowa farm to sports celebrity and beyond. He was, for example, organizing postseason barnstorming tours that provided roster spots for stars from the old Negro Leagues long before Jackie Robinson broke the diamond game's color bar. Feller was also active in forming the players' association that eventually gained free agency, salary arbitration, and a wealth of other benefits for major-leaguers. In retirement (after the 1956 season), he endured a more than fair share of personal sorrows and financial setbacks, owing mainly to his first wife's alcohol and substance abuse. Happily remarried now, Feller remains actively involved in baseball as a part-time coach with the Indians and participant in old-timers' contests. A winning, envy-free entry from a man who's a credit to the game of baseball and himself.

Pub Date: April 30, 1990


Page Count: -

Publisher: Birch Lane/Carol

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1990