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Still Pitching: Musings from the Mound and the Microphone Hardcover – April 1, 2003
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When he retired in 1983, Kaat had spent more time in a major-league baseball uniform than any other player. That alone merits a memoir. In addition to his ball-playing credentials--he finished just a few wins short of the 300 that would surely have won him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame--Kaat also served as a coach under the now infamous Pete Rose, and for nearly a decade he has worked as a broadcaster for the New York Yankees. If at times a bit biased in favor of the ballplayers from his heyday (the 1960s), Kaat proves an affable tour guide to the world of big-league baseball. He's insightful when discussing what it was like to work with Rose as the latter's gambling problems worsened, and he offers interesting tidbits on current Yankees and other major-league stars such as Barry Bonds. This is not a tell-all book; there's little in the way of dirt or gossip but plenty of strong and learned opinion from a lifelong student of the game. Kevin Canfield
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Note: In describing his 3-2 win over Oakland saved by Goose Gossage striking out two with men at first first and third, Kaat remembers the score as 2-1. No matter, great game.
While it may seem almost Kafkaesque to laud an ex-athlete for "doing the right thing" in his memoirs, that is not to say, however, that Mr. Kaat doesn't offer any criticism of some the men that he played with. It is just done tactfully, and in a manner that is devoid of the sort of malignant narcissism that one finds in say, David Wells' Tell-all tale.
Indeed, this book does feature more than its fair share of criticism against those who Mr. Kaat feels could have done more to help themselves, and their respective teams. For example:
- Did you know that Harmon Killebrew, while a great ballplayer, lacked the sort of leadership skills that one would hope for in a star of that magnitude? His passivity, especially with regards to his sheepish acceptance of any contract offered him by ownership, helped to undermine the position of many of his teammates when negotiating contracts.
Remember, this was long before professional athletes earned the sort of money they do today. They measured their financial success, as did most Americans at that time, in the tens of thousands, not the tens of millions that they do today.
- Did you know that George Steinbrenner, while always willing to spend millions on high-profile free agents, was capable of lying to and then chiseling aging veterans, like Jim Kaat, out of a meager few thousand dollars? (hehe...surprised? Nor was I).
Now, Mr. Kaat does not frame his criticism of King George in quite the same way as I did above. But his anger was, nonetheless, evident. There are, of course, more such examples of this book's critical offerings, but the two I've provided above should suffice.
Any Yankee fan, like me, who has listened to Mr. Kaat broadcast Yankee games for the past nine years, knows that he is literally a bottomless well of baseball anecdotes. One of my favorites from his book is the story he tells about Graig Nettles, the great Yankee third baseman from 1973-83, who had started his career with Minnesota in late-60s.
Kaat and Nettles had been good friends during their days together in Minnesota. Subsequently, after Nettles had been traded to Cleveland and then to New York, the two faced each other many times, with Nettles usually getting the better of Kaat. Kaat speculates that this was so because they had been such good friends in Minnesota. Nettles, therefore, felt comfortable batting against Kaat-too comfortable. One night, Nettles, while batting against Kaat, was being pestered by a moth that kept flying around his face. Nettles jokingly barked out at Kaat, "hey Jim, was that your fastball?" Angered by this, and by all the previous success that Nettles had had against him, Kaat threw the next pitch, a fastball, right under Nettles' chin. Nettles fell backward and looked out at Jim in stunned disbelief. Suffice it to say, Nettles never again enjoyed the same success against Kaat after that.
That is but one of many charming stories that Jim shares with his readers. This is a book that any true baseball fan will enjoy reading. Mr. Kaat's sincerity, straight-forwardness, and love for the game of baseball is as refreshing as a cold iced-tea is on a hot summers day...a day which is perfect for baseball.