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WHO'S ON WORST? by Filip Bondy

WHO'S ON WORST?

The Lousiest Players, Biggest Cheaters, Saddest Goats and Other Antiheroes in Baseball History

By Filip Bondy

Pub Date: March 19th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-385-53612-7
Publisher: Doubleday

A collection of anecdotes about some of the worst players, managers and owners in baseball history.

Bloopers are an enduring baseball tradition; fans never fail to appreciate watching some of the best athletes in the world stumble, bumble and trip over themselves. In attempting to import such ineptitude from the Jumbotron to the page, however, something gets lost in translation. New York Daily News columnist Bondy (Chasing the Game: America and the Quest for the World Cup, 2010) does his best to craft compelling accounts of horrendous hitters like Mario Mendoza (for whom the infamous “Mendoza Line”—a .200 batting average—is named), poor fielders like Chuck Knoblauch (who inexplicably lost the ability to make a simple throw from second base to first base) and terrible teammates like Rubén Rivera (who once stole one of Derek Jeter’s gloves and sold it to a memorabilia dealer for $2,500). Unfortunately, these player sketches quickly become monotonous, as there are only so many ways to describe ineptitude or outright mediocrity. Chapters on the worst cheaters and oddest ballplayers of all time fare better, highlighting some of the game’s most eclectic characters (including pitcher Joe Niekro, who was caught using an emery board to doctor balls) and intriguing athletes (including Chuck Connors, who would go on to TV stardom in The Rifleman). The author intends the narrative to be humorous, and he succeeds in places—primarily in the captions of the pictures that appear sporadically throughout the book. Too often, however, the most interesting tidbits aren’t related to terrible on-field performance, but rather to the colorful characters themselves, which would have been a far more interesting focus than using advanced sabermetrics to definitively identify players whose weak traditional statistics speak for themselves.

The literary equivalent of a mid-July baseball game: a few highlights but largely forgettable.