The greatest Jewish baseball player since Sandy Koufax fuses sports autobiography with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
The moniker “average ballplayer” certainly did not apply to Green during his playing days. From his on-field exploits as a prolific slugger with a slender frame to his religion to his contemplative approach to the game, he defied categorization. In crafting his memoir, the author—with help from McAlpine (Mystery Box, 2003)—continues to flout convention. Rather than the standard post-retirement, paint-by-numbers tale of groupies and life on the road or addiction recovery and redemption, he offers an account of his philosophical approach to hitting, a method developed in response to a frustrating first few years in the big leagues. By developing a solitary routine that involved taking hundreds of swings off a tee, Green discovered a way to find inner stillness, to free his mind of distraction and focus on nothing but the act of hitting. The results were impressive: two All-Star appearances, a Silver Slugger award, and three top-10 finishes in MVP voting. The narrative describing the process and the insight that led to it, however, may not hit a home run with readers. Green’s a likable narrator, and his Eastern-tinged philosophical musings have merit, but it’s difficult to determine the intended audience. Baseball junkies will relish his discussion of how pitchers tip pitches, but are likely to tune out the Zen advice; Jewish fans looking for religious insight will be disappointed by their hero’s relatively secular worldview; and those seeking enlightenment aren’t likely to achieve a higher state of being by following the author’s recycled platitudes.
Perfect for a semi-religious Jewish casual baseball fan in search of a Zen-lite guidebook…or maybe just Blue Jay, Dodger, Met and Diamondback fans who remember Green’s playing days fondly.