Saturday, April 19, 2008

Book Club: Facing Clemens

If you're like me, you probably read voraciously as a kid; now, you spend hours a week reading the internet and much less time reading print materials for fun. Since this blog is about baseball, and specifically our Braves, I thought I'd begin sharing some of the baseball books on my shelf. Let's begin with "Facing Clemens: Hitters on Confronting Baseball's Most Intimidating Pitcher".

I received a very kind email from Jonathan Mayo, the author of the book, and he thought you, dear reader, would be interested in the subject matter. In his own words:

It was written before the Mitchell Report came out, so it’s not about steroids and congressional hearings. Instead, it’s about what hitters had to do to try and hit off of the Rocket throughout his career. Think of it as a nice, pure baseball book from a “simpler” time. You can check out more information on the book at my site.

At any rate, the chapter I thought would be of interest to you – and your readers – is the one on Chipper Jones. It centers around the 1999 World Series, but also covers every time they’ve faced each other, starting with when Clemens was rehabbing for Pawtucket and Chipper was a young up-and-comer in Richmond.

There is also a link to his audio interview with Chipper on his website. Chipper shows off his ability to remember nearly every pitch of every at-bat. Some major leaguers have incredible memories and incredible focus on the game, and I think that's why Chipper has been so successful on the field for many years. Lackadaisical kids don't have the kind of career Chipper's had -- you can tell he's put his all into the game.

I picked up Jonathan's book in the bookstore and thumbed through it, getting more excited to read it with every hitter's name I saw: Dave Magadan, Julio Franco (Juuuuuulio!), Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., Luis Gonzales (Gonzo!), Juan Pierre, Torii Hunter, and Chipper, of course, among others. There's even a chapter on Roger Clemens' son, Koby, where Koby tells the story of being brushed off the plate by Dad. (Not surprising, kiddo.)

So I started reading...just standing there in front of the baseball shelves of my local bookstore, I read the foreword by Clemens himself, the introduction, and started skimming a few of the chapters. I don't just *buy* random books, but this was definitely a keeper. Half an hour later, I was devouring it at home. I love hearing stories directly from the players' mouths, and this book delivers.

It's an excellent read. Pick up a copy today, and please post in the comments when you have an opinion to share. :)

PS -- Thanks to Jeff for telling me about this book a couple of weeks ago. Sorry I didn't listen to you then!

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