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Clearing the Bases: Juiced Players, Monster Salaries, Sham Records, and a Hall of Famer's Search for the Soul of Baseball Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 14, 2006
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What would otherwise be a light narrative on life as a major leaguer--with opinions thrown in on various baseball issues of the day--is suddenly serious reading when the author is Mike Schmidt, a Hall-of-Fame third-baseman and one of the best to play the game. Although Schmidt backs off the statement he made on HBO last summer about steroid use--he would have used them, he said then, if they had been available when he played--readers of this volume will appreciate how Schmidt's drive to succeed might have led him to performance-enhancing drugs. Schmidt offers thoughtful opinions on home-run records broken in the steroid era (no asterisks, but view them with clarity), on Pete Rose (ban from managing, but admit into the Hall of Fame), on selecting players for the Hall (use a panel of Hall members for their seasoned input), and on the finer points of playing and managing the game. There are some good anecdotes on teammates, too. Recommended for its ongoing discussion of baseball's concerns and because it's Mike Schmidt doing the talking. Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
The peerless third baseman’s honest examination of his own career in particular and of major league baseball in general. (Library Journal )
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While his solutions may not please the baseball purist, they are carefully thought-out and reasonable. On the issue of steroids, for example, Schmidt admits to understanding the temptation for players to "gain an edge" in order to remain "at the top of their game." But he believes that he would not take steroids if he were playing today. As for the record books? Baseball must take into consideration the context of the time in which these records were set. While steroids should not be tolerated in the game, baseball cannot justifiably eliminate slugging records simply because a player was suspected of taking performance-enhancing drugs. Nor should a "suspect" be eliminated from Hall of FAme consideration. These are strong sentiments from a Hall of Fame slugger whose own records have been broken in the steroid era.
What sets this book aside from other prescriptive tomes is Schmidt's earnest desire to approach each of these difficult issues from the standpoint of a former player, minor league manager, parent, and, now, fan. Thus, his judgements are informed by "all sides" of the debate.
This is a wonderful book, judiciously told by one of baseball's greatest stars. In that sense, "Clearing the Bases" represents Schmitty's 549th life-time dinger.
So, with modest expectations, I read Mike Schmidt's `Clearing the Bases.' Even the unwieldy subtitle (Juiced Players, Monster Salaries, etc., etc.) didn't fool me none. Putting the word `juice' in the title of a baseball book nowadays guarantees at least 10% higher sales, and anyway the endless subtitle adds a certain swagger. Schmidt was an All-Star third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1970s and 80s, a first ballot Hall of Famer, and considered by many the greatest third baseman in the history of the game. If Schmidt doesn't surprise and delight or swagger all that much past the title page, he doesn't necessarily disappoint, either. The awestruck first venture into a major league clubhouse is duly noted, as are the streaks and slumps, World Series' wins and losses are all dutifully catalogued, recalled rather than recreated.
Besides a brief and somewhat sketchy look back at his career Schmidt also writes about steroids - he would, he wouldn't, he would, he wouldn't but he would have been mighty tempted; modern ballplayers - superior to the old guys because of better nutrition and better conditioning; Pete Rose - interceded between his friend Pete and Bud Selig the last time Rose applied to the Commissioner to be reinstated in baseball; and Barry Bonds. I found Schmidt's comments on Bonds oddly affecting. Boiled down to its essence, his advice to the beleagured San Francisco Giant superstar is a simple "Enjoy yourself." Coming from a player who, in his day, was also viewed as an aloof and distant superstar, the advice has a sober, almost Gatsby-like quality to it.
A mild recommendation for Philadelphians and diehard baseball fans.
"Clearing the Bases" (201 pages) starts off tentatively in the first half, where Schmidt recounts his days growing up a Reds fan in Dayton, OH, and eventually becoming a superstar in Philadelphia. But the second half of the book is where things really take off, and where Schmidt spouts his thoughts on the hot topics in baseball. "Look, if I had played in the 1990s, I would have considered using steroids" (since it wasn't illegal then, but eventually stating that he wouldn't have). He lays the blame also squarely on the Commisioner and the players' union: "Did they ever bother to compare trading card pictures of guys in, say, 1993 with their cards in 1999?"
Schmidt also makes a convincing argument that with the many changing circumstances since his playing days (new hitter-friendly ballparks, changes in the make-up of bats, etc.), he would've averaged 50 homers a year instead of the mid-30s in his playing days. As to Pete Rose, Schmidt clearly is disappointed in both Rose's handling in the matter (not forthcoming, etc.) as well as the Commissioner's (not getting back to Rose after the November, 2002 private confession, 14 months before Rose published his tell-all book).
In all, this is a much better book than I expected. Schmidt is clearly a man of integrity, full of admiration, and respect, for the game. His disappointment for not having been considered for the manager's position for the Phillies in late 2004 is one I share. Baseball needs more guys like Schmidt.
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"then". Much has changed since Schmidt played, and he talks
Schmidt talks...Read more