The former All-Star hurler for the New York Mets, now a baseball analyst for TBS, reflects on the profession and psychology of pitching as exemplified in his career.
Is there a trite expression not found in Darling’s prose? Enshrined here: “a ball game can turn on a dime,” “I had some butterflies” and myriad others. Granted, it’s somewhat effective to organize the text into nine “innings,” plus pregame, warm-up, extra innings and postgame. Each inning/chapter centers on an actual game the author either played or watched, which allows him to ruminate on a pitcher’s strategies in early, mid-game and late-game situations. Darling makes some mildly interesting comments about the craft of pitching (why he couldn’t throw a slider) and his mound behavior (what he did when someone hit a home run; how he felt when the pitching coach strolled out). He also offers encomiums for former teammates Gary Carter and Jamie Quirk, coach Dave Duncan and manager Davey Johnson. He writes affectingly of his realization that his family had been having a life of its own while he was off playing and movingly describes his emotions when he reached the end of his Mets tenure, as well as his career-sunset years with the Oakland Athletics. It’s evident that the author watched a lot of video; he often provides a pitch-by-pitch account of key moments in games long past. Occasionally, a felicitous phrase elbows its way through the crowd of clichés. Near the end, for example, Darling mentions baseball’s “beautiful cruelty”—too bad he tries to slip the same pitch by us again 18 pages later.
Will certainly appeal to devoted Mets and Darling fans, but few others.