Diverting tales from the big league—gifted with a low-key crackle—courtesy of baseball’s ultimate inside angle, by former (1989–92) Commissioner Vincent.
These stories are expressions of love for baseball, touching equally on good and bad moments, yet always affectionate and filled with the hope that the institution will do the right thing. There are plenty of bite-sized treats (Ted Williams on Warren Spahn: “If a right-handed hitter is up with a man on first or first and second with less than two outs, Spahnie always threw him that horseshit screwball”; Yogi Berra on what makes a great manager: “Good players”), quick recollections, and dabs of color on the field of play. But Vincent also feels compelled to set out the full story on a couple of incidents, including the eviction of Pete Rose from baseball (here readers will sense a man who truly believes in the game as a moral vehicle) and the earthquake that shattered the 1989 series in California. Like any good baseball aficionado, Vincent has his lists: all-time lineups, BoSox lineups, modern lineups (for Vincent, “modern” can go back to the 1940s), Negro League lineups, and an eye-opening one on umpires that reveals the magic word that will get players thrown out of a game, clarified by veteran ump Bruce Froemming: “If a player says, ‘That was a horseshit call,’ he’s fine. If a guy says, ‘You're a horseshit ump,’ you ring him up. He’s gone.” There are some deliberate character assassinations—George Steinbrenner gets roasted, as does Marge Schott, the insufferable owner of the Cincinnati Reds. And there are also some unintentionally telling comments: “Over the course of the contract, Winfield was paid about $23 million, a vast sum then.”
Heresy to some, Vincent’s parting words are apt: “Baseball is an entertainment, an escape. It is moving and dramatic, and for millions of us, it’s an important part of our lives. But it is not life itself.”