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Long Shot Hardcover – February 12, 2013
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"Piazza applies the single-minded drive he showed at the plate to making the case for his legacy. . . . [He] is forthright and often quite funny. . . . Mets fans will find insights, if not solace, in Piazza's account of the team's woes." (Ada Calhoun The New York Times Book Review)
"Mr. Piazza has had one of the stranger and more inspiring careers in baseball history. . . . [Long Shot] explain[s] how this non-prospect blossomed into a legendary hitter." (Tim Marchman The Wall Street Journal)
"Beloved Mets catcher Mike Piazza comes out swinging in a new memoir—confronting rumors about being gay and taking steroids, detailing his romantic home runs and finally setting the score with his hated rival, Roger Clemens." (Michael Gartland and Cynthia R. Fagen The New York Post)
About the Author
Mike Piazza grew up in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, and was chosen by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixty-second round of the 1988 Major League Baseball amateur draft. He was National League Rookie of the Year in 1993 and was a twelve-time All-Star selection. He holds the record for most home runs by a catcher (396) and held the record for highest batting average in a season by a catcher (.362) until it was recently broken. He lives with his family in Miami Beach, Florida.
Lonnie Wheeler’s numerous books include collaborations on the autobiographies of Hank Aaron (I Had a Hammer), Bob Gibson (Stranger to the Game), Mike Piazza (Long Shot), a baseball dialogue between Gibson and Reggie Jackson (Sixty Feet, Six Inches), and reflections on a summer at Wrigley Field (Bleachers). The author of Intangiball: The Subtle Things That Win Baseball Games, he lives in New Richmond, Ohio.
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Top customer reviews
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Baseball fans have heard the story: 62nd round draft pick, who was chosen by a well-known major league manager as a favor to the player’s father. Worked his way up to the big leagues where he became one of the best hitting catchers in the game. Mike Piazza shares his thoughts on these topics and a lot more in this memoir of his life and career that was fun to read, and at the same time it evoked a lot of reaction for his comments and viewpoints on many issues and people that affected him personally.
The first impression I had when reading this book, no matter at what point in his life or career he was describing, was that he was being himself and honest. It didn’t seem to matter to him if someone would be upset or offended by his comments; he wrote what he felt about the topic. This was especially telling when he talked about his bitter contract negotiations and subsequent trade from the team that drafted him, the Los Angeles Dodgers. He blamed many others for the situation, including broadcaster Vin Scully, a beloved icon in Los Angeles. He blamed the Dodgers’ ownership, fans, and anyone else that he could except himself. He had the on-field statistics to back him up for his position in the negotiations, but even to this day, it doesn’t seem that he fully understood why some people would not look upon this situation favorably.
While this was the most notable example of Piazza being critical about others, it wasn’t the only one. When he ended up in New York playing for the Mets he was critical of many of their moves as well. Whether the reader believes the criticism is justified or not, Piazza’s style of writing and the items he chooses to discuss can rub many readers the wrong way. However, it is also obvious that he is being honest with his opinion and because of that I thought the book was one to enjoy, even if the reader disagrees or will react with anger to some of the comments.
The tone he sets also comes across as defensive, especially when addressing topics such as performance enhancing drugs, the feud between himself and Roger Clemens and the aforementioned departure from Los Angeles. Whether he was explaining why he was taking “andro” (a legal substance at the time and the one that was famously found in Mark McGuire’s locker in 1998), telling why he would not react differently to Clemens beaning him and then throwing a broken bat piece at him in the World Series, or even when trying to explain the rumors in New York that he was a homosexual, he comes across as overly defensive. He is honest, he doesn’t pull punches, but it felt like he was trying too hard to win over the reader’s mind. That wasn’t necessary in my opinion. The honesty was refreshing – that was all that was needed.
Some of his stories can be quite touching. One in which I thought was really good was also my favorite one in the book and that was when Ted Williams came to his house and watched Piazza takes some cuts in the backyard. Williams, who always had a keen eye for hitting, felt that Piazza would be a great hitter someday. That prediction did turn out to be true.
So given all this, I still felt the book was an enjoyable read even if by the end of it, the aura he left in my mind of his career was a little tarnished because of his attitudes. That doesn’t take away his on-field accomplishments, nor does it take away from my opinion of the book, which certainly is one to read if you are interested in learning more about him. It was an enjoyable and entertaining read, and one that will surely leaving you wanting to talk about it with anyone else who read it or follows baseball.
Did I skim?
Pace of the book:
It reads fairly quickly as Piazza takes the reader throughout all the important events and stories of his life and career, from childhood to the end of his playing career. There isn’t a lot after that except for his opinion on a few baseball topics in the epilogue.
Do I recommend?
Fans of Piazza and the Mets will enjoy this book. Dodger fans may not take kindly to some of his remarks, however. If the reader was not a fan of Piazza or looks poorly upon any player who is controversial, this is not a book for him or her. Otherwise, I do recommend it to all baseball fans, regardless of team loyalty.
Book Format Read:
After reading this book -- enduring this book -- I want to go back in time and root for Clemens.
Piazza is the most successful catcher in history, in terms of raw offensive numbers in general and home runs in particular. But he bears so many grudges that his bitter, near-libelous autobiography, which settles so many scores and assails so many critics, is shockingly angry. He admits that he was a one-dimensional high school player who never learned to run or field a position -- in other words, he admits to having been a hitter, not an athlete -- and then wonders for chapters at a time why he didn't draw the scouts attention? Piazza remembers every pitcher who threw at him, every batter who unintentionally clonked him with the bat on a backswing, and calls them all out by name. Why so much hate?
Piazza questions why he was never accepted as a clubhouse leader. He then proudly retells a sorry story from 1997, about the time when he criticized his own team, the Dodgers in general and their GM in particular, for signing too many foreign players and for having no team unity. To be clear. A leader unites such a diverse team by force of will and behind closed doors. A bigot whines about that diversity in the press and allows himself to be quoted by name. Piazza appears to have still not learned what he might have gotten wrong 15 years earlier.
Piazza describes his time in the Dominican winter leagues by portraying Dominican culture in sub-human terms. Piazza grew up in a very wealthy family, a man so rich that his father has tried to buy at least two different Major League Baseball franchises; thanks to family connections, he had Hall of Famer Ted Williams come to his house and watch his teenage self take batting practice. Who is he, then, to complain about the quality of life in small Dominican villages? He later rants on for pages about young Latino ballplayers who come to the US before completing their formal schooling and who can't speak English. He calls Ozzie Guillen out by name for suggesting that those players be given interpreters. To be clear, Mike Piazza, the fabulously wealthy, privileged son of a very rich and influential man, thinks he knows more about the subject of young, under-educated Latino Players than Ozzie Guillen. By way of comparison, this makes about as much sense as the time that the billionaire corporate titan complained that a hungry child was receiving a few dollars a month in federal aid.
There's more to dislike about the book, but I'm not exactly inspired to flip back through it and review unhappy memories. Piazza does have a good ghost writer who slips in a few funny lines, and a good research assistant who capably recounts accurate game detail, something that so many baseball bios still get wrong today. At the end, Piazza does express some regret over the way he behaved during his career. And, of course, his retelling of 9/11 shows a more tender and sensitive side than most of the rest of the book put together.
Bottom line, though? There are many, many other baseball bios out there from grateful, humble, or funny athletes, and most of them from players who had to struggle to achieve 10% of what came to Mike naturally. Any one of those is far more worth your time than "Long Shot".
I came into it as a huge baseball fan and a huge Mets fan, with a slightly positive attitude towards Piazza and what he did in his career and what he was for the NY Mets. I finished the book, and I actually think I loathe the man now. He came across as a selfish, self-absorbed, jerk. He whined and whined over and over in this autobiography. The tone of the book was also very angry. I found myself skipping entire paragraphs when the whining started, or when he was being an angry conceited jerk. It just got to be too much. At times it was annoying to read, and at other times, it was just so disappointing.
He told some interesting stories in this book, for sure, but they were surrounded by his ego and his complaining about everything that didn't go his way. I'm glad I read the book because I love baseball knowledge and history, and I got some from it. But I'm also upset I read this book, because I can't stand Piazza now. For that reason, I'm not sure if a diehard Piazza fan should read this or avoid it. You might like hearing how he got where he got, but you also might end up thinking a little (or a lot) less of him because of how selfish, angry, conceited, and whiny he comes across. Read at your own risk, I guess. I, personally, will never re-read this book.