Cheater’s Guide reviewed in the New York Times

DMZ · March 31, 2007 at 3:59 pm · Filed Under Book reviews 

Jim Bouton, of Ball Four fame, reviews the Cheater’s Guide to Baseball. It’s kind of a good review, and it’s also not really a review of the book, which he wants to get off his lawn. The whole thing’s a little baffling.

Like in the Billy Martin chapter, because Martin said that he’d play Hitler and Hirohito, I put together a baseball team of the worst people in history.

Why he has Mussolini on the mound, as opposed to Genghis Khan (SS), say, or Pol Pot (C), may be a good subject for blogging, another hobby of Zumsteg’s.

Zing! Blogging = not serious. Also, I did discuss how I assigned player/positions later, but whatever. Or the betting games, or… anyway.

Not only do you get the complete history of — and instructions for — bat corking, you get a step-by-step recipe for how to tamper with an aluminum bat: (1) Buy an industrial aluminum forge plant. (2) Hire new workers, as needed. (3) Retool plant. (4) Take existing bat to plant. (5) Melt bat down. Etc.

By this time you realize the book is less an examination of cheating and more a glimpse into the mind of a particular kind of sports addict. The kind who, when he’s not at a ballgame with his buddies, sits in front of the TV with the remote, checking the scores to see how much money he’s won or lost.

And I’m not sure why it’s so personal – I’ve met Bouton briefly at one of his Seattle book events, and he seemed like a good guy. I don’t remember ever slashing his tires.

In any event, if you’ve read it, you can speak as well about the difference between book-as-reviewed and the actual book as I can.

It’s really a huge thing to get reviewed – it means that the editors saw the book as good and interesting enough to assign, even if it didn’t get to someone who would have got the jokes, or seen past the jokes to the interesting serious content.


31 Responses to “Cheater’s Guide reviewed in the New York Times”

  1. Roger on March 31st, 2007 4:21 pm

    That’s too bad. I’ve never written professionally, as the quality of my comments makes clear, but I used to do pieces for local fish wrappers. I always had a ironic angle and every single piece I did would invariably lead to letters from readers whose lead-in was “Now, don’t think I haven’t a sense of humor…”

    My idea of hell is being in a room with a bunch of people who feel compelled to let me know they have a sense of humor before proving beyond a doubt they don’t.

  2. MedicineHat on March 31st, 2007 4:30 pm

    Well, for what it’s worth, I just took a flight from Seattle to San Jose for a Rotisserie Draft (literally, I mean I just got to my hotel room) & the book made the flight seem like a nothing at all. I got it in the mail a couple days ago and finished it off today. It was great.

    A couple editing errors (like in the groundskeeping section of Part I when you say “in the bottom of the 2nd, with the Home team up”…then about 6 or 7 paragraphs later you mention they hit a HR to take 3-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st) but that’s to be expected in any book.

    All in all I found it very entertaining, I got *most* the jokes & I will be taking it to my draft to let the other guys see what I’ve been reading and to let them know I’d do everything I can to win. Oh, and I’ll recommend the book as well….lol.

  3. David J. Corcoran I on March 31st, 2007 4:50 pm

    Besides your stating that AJ Pierzynski was a catcher for the Oakland A’s, I’ve found it delightful so far. I’m halfway through part 3 at this point, and I’ve loved almost every minute of it.

  4. carcinogen on March 31st, 2007 4:51 pm

    [grrr]..the Rikolta (sp?) effect postulates that Mr. Bouton could call your book the worst piece of garbage he’d ever had the misfortune to read, and as long as he spelled your name right, you’d sell a ton of copies from it being mentioned in a place where enough people see it.

    Seriously…the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ TIMES…you really should be psyched. Congratulations!

  5. David J. Corcoran I on March 31st, 2007 4:54 pm

    Yeah, even if Bouton thinks the book is crap, the very fact that it’s in the Times means lots of sales for you. So that’s good.

  6. msb on March 31st, 2007 4:55 pm

    Why he has Mussolini on the mound, as opposed to Genghis Khan (SS), say, or Pol Pot (C), may be a good subject for blogging

    tchaw. everyone knows that is a discussion for a bar. sheesh.

    Jim Bouton, well, if you read his book about trying to save the ballpark in Pittsfield, you know how he gets distracted. and sidetracked. often at the same time.

  7. MedicineHat on March 31st, 2007 4:56 pm

    With baseball season right here, right now, if you just had a “press release” advising you are available for on-air interviews you sent out to all the AM Sports Talk radio stations in baseball extended markets, I bet you get on the air in at least 6-12 baseball towns. Include Jeremy Schaap and others quotes in your PR piece and you’d be golden.

  8. terry on March 31st, 2007 5:00 pm

    I’ve read the Guide and think it well worth the read. Actually, it’s very likely that I’ll revisit parts of it again over time.

    Based upon Bouton’s review it’s fairly obvious that he didn’t take you seriously (of course he’s to be taken seriously because, well, Ball Four is a literary work of genius that still gets fawned over at SABR conventions). It’s even reasonable to wonder if he actually really read the book or if he thumbed through it while sitting in an airport. Whatever the case it’s clear, his review was not a thoughtful one. I think he phoned that one in… Maybe he had an early tee time? However, that he’d take shots at your sense of humor is strange especially since that’s pretty much his sticht.

    Anyway, I think you’re fighting two stereotypes separately and all at once: 1. never played the game/statwanker, 2. blogger/amateur..

    I don’t get either but the blogger one is especially puzzling. I’m not sure why two separate reviews have now mentioned that.

    Of course pointing out how lazy the media has been with their steroids coverage as well as how lazy fans have been by swallowing it hook line and sinker is counter intuitive and perhaps either a hard sell or hits a little too close to home for some…

  9. James T on March 31st, 2007 5:02 pm

    You missed at least one fairly notorious spitball thrower in Bob Stanley of the 70’s and 80’s Red Sox. He’s been fairly open at times about the fact that he was throwing it. He once remarked that Cralton Fisk killed him when he went over to the White Sox because he couldn’t throw spitters to Fisk. Fisk would know that he’d done it and would get him in trouble.

  10. DMZ on March 31st, 2007 5:06 pm

    I promise I’ll bump Bob Stanely up in the queue for Cheater’s Guide blog entries and talk about why he’s not in there. There’s so much stuff that didn’t get in the book.

  11. James T on March 31st, 2007 5:06 pm

    And thanks to the fantastic ability to check pitcher versus hitter histories, I find that Fisk (Carlton, not Cralton!) smacked a couple homers and slugged .556 against him but only averaged just over .200.

    Well, the point was that Stanley was open about his use of the spitter even if his recollections of batter histories against him may be a little off.

  12. Boss! Boss! LaHair! LaHair! on March 31st, 2007 5:07 pm

    Yankees Suck!

  13. S-Mac on March 31st, 2007 5:20 pm

    Derek critiquing a critique of his own book. We have entered the 4th dimension.

  14. Derek on March 31st, 2007 5:48 pm

    Some of the review comes off negative, but mostly I think he’s just describing the content of the book. I think what’s more important is to recognize that you just got reviewed by the world’s most famous baseball author in the world’s most famous newspaper. Congrats on that.

    I’m looking forward to reading it, in any case. 13 of 17 holds on 0 copy, c’mon KCLS!

  15. gwangung on March 31st, 2007 7:22 pm

    Derek critiquing a critique of his own book. We have entered the 4th dimension.

    Oh, no…that’s just NATURAL.

    Waddya think artists, writers, etc. do after they read the papers the day after Opening Night???

  16. Churchill on March 31st, 2007 8:26 pm

    Anyone that rips a book so original and full of personality, humor and sports character is just writing a not-so-great review, even if just in part, for the sake of doing so.

    None of that review that wasn’t positive is based on anything that isn’t personal to the critic, which is irresponsible critiquing if you ask me.

    Unless, that is, the critic is reviewing the book on his own personal blog for his own personal entertainment or benefit. Ha!

    Either way, reviews as such don’t belong being released to the public, as it serves not the public, but to one personal specifically.

    The book is good, Derek.

    It just is.

  17. Gomez on March 31st, 2007 9:44 pm

    I’m about 60 pages into the book, and it’s FABULOUS. Seriously, Derek, I’d have to put it on my Top 5 Favorite Baseball Books list RIGHT NOW, and I’m not even 1/4 through.

    As for Bouton, while he is to some degree a bitter man, it’s not like he doesn’t have a few reasons why he has become so. I loved Ball Four but I know nothing about the guy, and I’m not surprised to see that he’s a bit of a jerk. There aren’t a lot of nice guys in baseball.

  18. Dave Clapper on March 31st, 2007 11:40 pm

    Does this mean it’s time to pound that Budweiser?

  19. Bad Moon on March 31st, 2007 11:47 pm

    I was in the break room at my job today, leafing through a copy of March 23rds Entertainment Weekly, and sure enough in the book review section was a paragraph blurb reviewing Cheater’s Guide to Baseball.

  20. Arkinese on April 1st, 2007 1:44 am

    I have been very busy and haven’t been dutifully checking USS Mariner like I should (considering that it is now officially April). But I got my NYTimes Books Update email this morning and also got the pleasant surprise in seeing the blurb for Jim Bouton reviewing your book. In the New York Times! As a freelance writer, I am extremely envious.

    The review itself…is exactly what I would expect Bouton to write. The NYTimes always puzzled me in the way they’ve chosen to delegate book reviews—like the publishers told them they only had enough money to pay the salaries of two of three arts media (“We can’t afford to pay film, book and theatre critics, people.”). So the paper decided to keep theatre and film reviewers on staff and strike up bargains with various authors to fill up their Sunday book section: “You write the review of this book now and then we’ll get some author you’ve vaguely heard of to write a review of your next book. What do you mean ‘no’? We’re The New York Times.”

    As a baseball fan, though, even if I hadn’t known who you were/about your website, I would have been intrigued to read your book based on what parts of the book Bouton reviewed because I like baseball and I like baseball history and I like baseball humor. With the lede he used (the dialogue and then the Billy Martin team), I think Bouton will spark the interest of your intended audience.

    I’d be interested to know what, if anything, you plan to say to Bouton about the review if you ever see him again.

  21. David J. Corcoran I on April 1st, 2007 1:52 am

    I just finished it. Wow. The various “conversations with Pete Rose if he hit your car while you were standing outside of it and caught it on tape” is comedy gold, as is the conversation with Fulbright Scholar Jeff Shaw. Likewise with Gomez, definitely in my top 5 of all time. Maybe even top 3.

  22. DMZ on April 1st, 2007 2:08 am

    Sweet, I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it. And, as always, it’d be nice if you’d do me a good turn and head on over to Amazon and write a review up.

  23. David J. Corcoran I on April 1st, 2007 2:18 am

    I’ll get on it in the morning.

  24. msb on April 1st, 2007 8:21 am

    why, look! another review!

  25. msb on April 1st, 2007 8:27 am

    and a recommendation

  26. the other benno on April 1st, 2007 9:11 am

    Just a quick anecdote about reviews in the NYT –

    The NYT reviewer of one of my father’s last novels spent a fairly long paragraph criticizing the fact that my father had several characters who spoke German and he would follow up dialogue written in German with an English translation. This confused (and pissed off) my father tremendously, as this is a fairly common convention. It turns out that the reviewer had never reviewed a novel before, only non-fiction. And, in fact, rarely read fiction. Another review was run shortly after by someone who understood fiction.

    The fact that it is reviewed in the NYT does not guarantee that your reviewer is actually a good reviewer.

    Congrats to DMZ for getting a review in the NYT, and some commisseration that the reviewer did not seem to be actually reviewing the book at hand.

  27. DMZ on April 1st, 2007 10:00 am

    That’s horrible!

    And thanks to Churchill and everyone with the kind words – it’s good to read.

  28. Orlandu on April 1st, 2007 10:23 am

    I got that book yesterday and it’s really good from what I’ve read of it. Once I finish it today, I’ll be sure to write a quick review recommending it on sometime soon.

  29. Karen on April 1st, 2007 10:56 am

    I was notified last week that Amazon was sending my copy. I guess they’re sending it by pony express on deer trails out here to the Oregon coast. Still haven’t got it.

  30. carcinogen on April 1st, 2007 12:27 pm

    Unwritten rule of USSM #43: Thou shall not use nicknames for Derek that have not been previously approved by site managers.

  31. f2aler on April 1st, 2007 1:00 pm

    Since we are at it:

    Util Infielder: Slobodan Milosevic, lots of versatility in losing three conflicts, ultimately destroying his country and committing numerous war crimes in the process. The Willie Bloomquist of Eastern European strongmen.

    General Manager: Nicolae Ceaucescu, Romanian communist era dictator. The reaction of the crowd in his infamous speech immediately prior to his deposal, is similar to this blog’s reaction to the Vidro trade. He also got executed on TV, which if a possible remedy in baseball could prevent future trades involving Ramon Santiago.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.