NINE INNINGS by Daniel Okrent


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From the co-author of The Ultimate Baseball Book: a mind-boggling blowup of the June 10, 1982 game between the Milwaukee Brewers (9-14-0) and the Baltimore Orioles (7-17-2). Apart from those 31 hits, the game had a fair amount of back-and-forth drama, culminating in Ben Ogilvie's two-run, two-out double in the bottom of the eighth; it gave the Brewers a big lift by thwarting a sweep of the four-game series by the Orioles; and it counted heavily when the Brewers nipped the Orioles for the division title on the last day of the season. But Okrent really wants to present the game as a microcosmic view of the whole baseball world, and in some ways he succeeds admirably. He recreates every inning, every pitch, every swing, every defensive move in precise detail. ""Slaton brought his hands down to his waist, glanced first at Moore, his catcher, and then over his shoulder at Murray. He then pulled up his left knee, drew his right arm back and threw another fastball high, in on Al Bumbry's hands."" This could lead to total tedium, except that Okrent is fabulously informative. He tells how a pitcher throws a fork-ball and a ""slurve""; just how much of a jump a curveball, as opposed to a fastball, gives a base-stealer (only .07 second, but curves land lower to the ground and are harder for catchers to release quickly); why pitchers bag their arms in ice after a game (to stop the hundreds of tiny capillary hemorrhages that have ""warmed up"" the arm in the first place). Explaining all this, and sketching out little bios of the players (stars like Yount and Ripken, journeymen like Gantner and Dauer), naturally requires continual time-outs. These delays, however, begin to grate when Okrent rattles on about the Milwaukee front office and especially GM Bud Selig, whom he seems to venerate. (By contrast he gives the much more amusing and better known announcer Bob Uecker a brief and rather chilly treatment.) If Okrent can't cram everything about baseball into one book, he comes close: a tour de force in slow motion.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1985
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin