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home : columns : dave fjeld
October 31, 2020

9/30/2020 11:03:00 AM
A couple more reads
I've got a couple of more books to share with you - baseball, of course.
And, to read one of the two books, I went against my long-standing vow of never reading a book that has anything to do with the New York Yankees. Yes, I fall on the "hate 'em" side of the love 'em/hate 'em debate. So, you may ask, what prompted me to go against my long-held tenet?
The person.
Over the years there have been a number of great Yankees players - and quality individuals, too. Someday I would like to read a biography on Lou Gehrig for instance; probably Babe Ruth, too; maybe even Derek Jeter.
But this is a player who retired in 2013 and when I went to the sports stacks at Barnes & Noble, this book continually caught my eye, mostly because of the strong Christian man that he is.
My daughter finally bought the paperback and gave it to me for Father's Day and I sat down earlier this month and read it - "The Closer: My Story" by Mariano Rivera with Wayne Coffey.
This guy had been a thorn in the Minnesota Twins' side throughout most of his entire career - and a thorn in the side of many other American League teams. So, I just had to learn more about him and how he developed his devastating cutter that baffled teams for most of his 19-year career.
Rivera is a very humble man and deeply appreciative of all the success and fortune that has come his way. Having grown up in Panama, and not far from the canal, Rivera came from very humble means. Interestingly, his talent as a pitcher caught the eye of a longtime Yankees scout in his home country when Rivera just happened to fill in as a pitcher in one of his amateur league team's games. Typically he doesn't pitch, but he did that night and it launched his career.
As for that cutter that tore up the majors for years?
Well, one day during a bullpen session, he happened to suddenly start throwing it - yes, quite by accident. It caught his catcher by surprise and he told Rivera to let him know when he was going to throw it.
Rivera, on the other hand, had no idea that he did anything different, but the pitch stuck. Of course, over time he began working with the pitch and mastered it. The rest, as they say, is history.
At just 262 pages, it's a quick and enjoyable read.
I picked up Book No. 2 less than a month ago and couldn't wait to dive in. "Billy Ball: Billy Martin and the Resurrection of the Oakland A's" by Dale Tafoya is essentially a baseball history book.
I'm not an A's fan, but I was enthralled with "Billy Ball" during the 1980 and '81 seasons. You may remember that Billy Martin was with the A's a very short time, 1980 to 1982, but he transformed the A's, who were 54-108 in 1979, the year before he arrived, into winners. With essentially the same team, the club went 83-79 in 1980, then went 64-45 in a strike-shortened 1981.
How he did it was by putting the ball in play with bunts, squeeze bunts, stolen bases (even stealing home) and hit-and-run - excitement the game hadn't seen or experienced in years, if ever.
Meanwhile, Oakland's starters threw a whopping 94 complete games in 1980.
Billy Ball was filling the stands and capturing headlines.
The story is interesting and at just 220 pages, it's a quick and fun read about a unique time in baseball history.

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