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It's What's Inside the Lines That Counts: Baseball Stars of the 1970s and 1980s Talk About the Game They Loved (The Baseball Oral History Project) Hardcover – March 16, 2010
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"Like Vincent's two previous oral history volumes, "It's What's Inside the Lines That Counts" isn't just welcome baseball reading--it's essential."
--Allen Barra, "Chicago Tribune"
About the Author
Fay Vincent is a former entertainment and business executive who served as the commissioner of baseball from 1989 to 1992. This volume is the third in a series drawn from his Baseball Oral History Project. The previous two volumes, The Only Game in Town and We Would Have Played for Nothing, include ballplayers’ reminiscences of the 1930s and 1940s, and the 1950s and 1960s, respectively.
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This book could have been improved simply by having a Q&A format that would keep the interviewee somewhat on track, instead of having them jump all over the place. Without any kind of pointed or challenging questions, there's no need for these greats to really provide any meaty thoughts. We never get to learn about hardships, controversies during their careers, or thoughts on problems with the game. I have nothing against positivity, but without challenging those being interviewed it's tough to break any new ground.
There are a few moments of insight, like Cal Ripken talking about his dad's absences from home during the season or Earl Weaver discussing some of his groundbreaking strategies, but too often it's just a guy saying things like, "he was great," about half the players they played with/against. If you're not going to do any research - which I understand isn't the point of this project - then you at least need to make the interviews interesting, and Vincent doesn't do that.
If you want to know more about baseball during the 1970s, check out Dan Epstein's Big Hair and Plastic Grass or even Phil Pepe's older oral history of that decade. Both are preferable to this title, which proved extremely disappointing.
The chapter subjects are Willie McCovey (Hall of Fame player)... Juan Marichal (Hall of Fame player)... Dick Williams (mediocre player, Hall of Fame manager)... Earl Weaver (Hall of Fame manager)... Tom Seaver (Hall of Fame player)... Don Baylor (player)... Ozzie Smith (Hall of Fame player)... Cal Ripken Jr. (Hall of Fame player)... Bruce Froemming (umpire)... Marvin Miller (union organizer). While it's impossible not to include a lot of interesting and inside stories... the writing/transcription is at times rambling and meandering. At other times the statements contradict themselves or seem to disconnect with no connecting point. Some examples: Willie McCovey states that in 1969 he "batted 320 fifth in the league"... and later in the same paragraph he states: "the only guy that had a higher batting average, I think, was Pete Rose." Juan Marichal says: "The guys you didn't want to see come to home plate were Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose, Billy Williams, Willie Stargell, Tony Davis-I don't know if you remember Tony Davis before he broke his ankle. Man, he was awesome, what a hitter." REVIEWER'S CORRECTION: It wasn't Tony Davis... it was TOMMY DAVIS of the Los Angeles Dodgers who led the National League in hitting in 1962 and 1963. One minute Dick Williams is telling you how he "went to elementary school, about three blocks from Sportsman's Park in St. Louis"... and went to so many games... and then half-a-page later he says out of nowhere that he "graduated in 1947 and our commencement exercises were in the Rose Bowl." I must have re-read that half-page or so three times trying to figure out if I missed something or there was a different Rose Bowl than the one in Pasadena, California. Pages later he mentions he moved to California. In numerous other examples the editor's allowed the words to be transcribed as they must have been said... which does not shine brightly on the speakers... nor do justice to the reader.
If a potential reader is an old-school baseball fan and has accepted the shortcomings, there are tasty gems to be had. It's always enlightening and enjoyable to read about who the hero's of the hero's were... McCovey's was Jackie Robinson... Dick Williams's was Ducky Medwick (my Mom's favorite also)... Tom Seaver's was Sandy Koufax and Henry Aaron... Ozzie Smith's was Roberto Clemente... Cal Ripken's was Brooks Robinson. The common thread between all the ballplayers was their dedication to putting the work in that was necessary to achieve success. It's also interesting to know... to what... and to whom... they credit their eventual success to. Tom Seaver credits the United States Marines and Gil Hodges. Cal Ripken salutes the "Oriole Way" among other things.
Has the grand old game of baseball changed with each decade? I'll say! The two managers in this book Dick Williams and Earl Weaver both say they couldn't manage the way the game is today.
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Fay Vincent, the former baseball commissioner, has been part of an oral history project in association with the Baseball...Read more