A baseball memoir that pulls no punches as it settles scores and attempts to set the record straight.
Though the sport has produced plenty of stars who enjoy a higher profile than White, few have proven as accomplished in such diverse facets of the business of baseball. During his 13 years as a player, he won All-Star recognition and frequent Gold Gloves as a slick-fielding, power-hitting first baseman, though he was never the flamboyant type who would call attention to himself. Then he embarked on an 18-year career as a broadcaster, memorably providing a balance to the more unpredictable Phil Rizzuto as announcers for the New York Yankees. He capped his career by serving five years as president of the National League, during a period of expansion and controversies concerning the umpires and their union (as well as a steroid scandal that went unacknowledged then and receives scant attention in the book). Whatever his level of involvement, White approached baseball as a career through which he made his living rather than a sport he loved, an attitude that is likely to ruffle sentimentalists. “Baseball was our job,” he writes. “And for the vast majority of players, in my opinion, love of the game had nothing to do with it…I didn’t love baseball. Because I knew that baseball would never love me back.” Much of his antipathy has a racial tinge, as he describes the abuse he took from redneck fans during minor league days when he was one of the few black players on a team, through his battles with the white tycoons who exerted increasing control over the industry before he resigned as league president. Yet his account is otherwise color blind as it separates the heroes of White’s life (Willie Mays, Bing Devine, Johnny Keane and others in addition to Rizzuto) from the villains (primarily former Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam and deposed baseball commissioner Fay Vincent).
Veteran journalist Dillow (co-author: Where the Money Is: True Tales from the Bank Robbery Capital of the World, 2003) does an admirable job shaping the narrative, though the edge and attitude are all White’s.