A Hall of Fame umpire calls the game of his own life, concluding, “By God, I loved every minute of it.”
Harvey, now an octogenarian battling oral cancer and the effects of strokes, teams with veteran co-author Golenbock (Glory in the Fall: The Greatest Moments in World Series History, 2010, etc.) to produce a breezy and sometimes-grumpy memoir about his years in major league baseball. There is no shortage of self-regard (see the subtitle), and the author repeatedly reminds readers that he was the best. Later in his text, he even repeats, virtually verbatim, a story he’d told earlier about being named the second-greatest umpire of all time. In most other ways, the text is yawningly conventional: We begin with Harvey’s boyhood during the Depression, his scholastic days (he excelled at basketball), his early marriage and divorce (his second marriage has lasted more than 50 years), his decision to become an umpire and his rapid rise to the big leagues (“faster than anyone else ever has”). Harvey also did some basketball refereeing (and was great at that as well). Along the way he settles a few old grudges (“asshole” appears throughout) and grinds a few old axes (low pay, wimpy commissioners, contentious players and managers). He soon tires of chronology and settles into an I-remember-when mode. Koufax was the best pitcher he ever saw; Musial, the best hitter; Mays, the best overall player. Pete Rose was great but deserves his exclusion from the game. Alleged spit-balling pitcher Gaylord Perry was “the cleverest motherfucker I ever saw.” Harvey revisits his close and controversial calls, the violence on the field (Juan Marichal hitting catcher John Roseboro on the head with a bat), the unionization of players and umpires, and the heavy drinking on the road.
A soufflé of anecdote, revenge served cold and self-promotion.