May 30, 2006


May Book Review

...Doing book reviews was something that I figured might be a nice filler for Faint Expectations, possibly as a way of giving an occasional positive to an otherwise weekly dose of negatives. My last review was in February, but I knew that reviews wouldn’t be a regular monthly thing.
...A few days ago I finished Buzz Bissinger’s 3 Nights in August, which follows a three-game series between the St. Louis Cardinals and their historic rivals the Chicago Cubs. The series took place during the 2003 season, and Bissinger takes the reader down several paths, from game action to behind-the-scenes occurrences to analysis of individual players.
...Bissinger’s name might be known among football fans, having been the author of Friday Night Lights which eventually found its way onto the big screen. Whether 3 Nights in August becomes a feature film or not doesn’t matter; the book version is good enough to stand alone.
...For those of us who are baseball geeks (when I use that term I’m referring to those of us who go beyond watching the occasional televised game or checking the game box scores; we do daily checks of transactions and can name almost every player on our favorite team’s triple-A roster and even a few names on the double-A and single-A rosters), Bissinger gives us insight into things that were visible to him after having gained an all-access pass to the Cardinals’ clubhouse and more notably, manager Tony La Russa’s office.
...From former St. Louis farmhand Bo Hart’s struggles with hitting curveballs and outfielder Kerry Robinson’s unwillingness to follow managerial instruction to then-pitcher Rick Ankiel’s mechanical breakdown and Darryl Kile’s death, Bissinger describes in detail the goings-on of a Major League Baseball team experiencing the ups and downs of both three games against a heated rival and the 162-game season in which the series lies.
...It should be mentioned that there are a few pages every so often that seem to have been added in an effort to stretch the book by a few pages. Paragraphs that describe single pitches in too much detail could have removed and the book would have still retained its addictive essence—and in all honesty it might have helped the overall flow.
...Regardless of such a minor complaint, 3 Nights in August is worth reading if you’re a baseball fan in general. If you’re a Chicago Cubs fan it’s worth adding to your book collection; if you haven’t purchased it yet, add it to your “to buy” list. If you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, it’s a must-have.
...As a bit of a warning, if you’re a devout follower of the concepts found in the controversial book Moneyball, which over-emphasizes the importance of statistics, statistics, and more statistics—basically removing all aspects of nuance and humanity from the game of baseball—this book probably won’t interest you. If you find yourself fascinated more with crunching numbers and studying on-base percentage, home-runs numbers, and WHIP statistics as opposed to how the game breathes, don’t bother buying 3 Nights. Bissinger is more interested in the human qualities that can be found in the game, whether those qualities are good or bad. The premise is that it is those qualities which make baseball what it is—the numbers just come along for the ride.
...After all, similar to La Russa’s philosophy, you can’t quantify desire.


Blogger amy said...

What a great recommendation and review, JP. I'm not a Cardinals nor Cubs fan, but I greatly respect LaRussa, and so it seems I would enjoy this! Thanks!

May 30, 2006  

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