Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Who's on Worst: The Lousiest Players, Biggest Cheaters, Saddest Goats and Other Antiheroes in Baseball History by Filip Bondy
As Filip Bondy says in his introduction to Who's on Worst: The Lousiest Players, Biggest Cheaters, Saddest Goats and Other Antiheroes in Baseball History, it is unfair to categorize anyone who makes it to the major leagues as truly untalented. So few aspirants make it. They have all been very, very good at some level. Even the hapless Marv Throneberry of the 1962 New York Mets was an accomplished hitter in triple A minor league baseball. That said, Bondy goes forward with some humor and a bit of indignation to name players, managers, and other baseball people to a sort of hall of shame.
Take Bill Buckner. He enjoyed a great baseball career, but he was embarrassed by an error at a key moment in a world series. His missing of what should have been an easy play is what many people remember about him today. Totally unfair. To his credit, Bondy lets you know how good Buckner was and how he's coped with the aftermath of the error.
Humor prevails in the profile of spitball pitching Gaylord Perry. Bondy recounts how Perry learned and perfected the illegal pitch. In his case, the rumor of the pitch was almost as effective as the pitch itself. Only near the end of his career did the pitcher get caught and ejected from a game.
The heaviest doses of indignation concentrate in the chapters "Most Overpaid Yankees" and "Most Overpaid Outside the Bronx." In these chapter, Bondy exposes not only players who performed pitifully after accepting millions of dollars but also the baseball executives who foolishly hired them when there were plenty of indicators signalling probable failure (age, prior injuries, inconsistent performance, etc.)
I particularly enjoyed the chapter about the worst players who turned into the most accomplished managers, as the author tells well the stories of Tony LaRussa, Sparky Anderson, and Tommy Lasorda, men who entertained fans for years. For sports fans looking for a light read that can be dipped into a little at a time, Who's on Worst is an entertaining book in print or audio read ably by Scott Brick.
Bondy, Filip. Who's on Worst: The Lousiest Players, Biggest Cheaters, Saddest Goats and Other Antiheroes in Baseball History. Doubleday, 2013. 252 p. ISBN 9780385536127.
Audiobook: Books on Tape, 2013. 7 compact discs. ISBN 9780385362603.