Jim's Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club: Vol. XVIII.
Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager -- Buzz Bissinger
OK, sports fans, it's time to sit down, pop a brewski, and manage the Cards/Cubs/White Sox game from the couch. After all, baseball is a simple game, and everyone knows it's easy to run a team. An idiot can do it. Indeed, they often do, to hear fans tell it.
Well, not so fast. There's a lot happening on the diamond, and managers have much to think about [–] everything from pouting players and injuries to individual pitcher/hitter matchups and when to call the hit-and-run. It may appear easy on the surface. But it's a science to those who devote their lives to it, and no manager is more devoted to studying the intricacies of the game than current St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa.
Wanting to offer fans a deeper look inside baseball, LaRussa invited author Buzz Bissinger to spend a season with his team and chronicle life on the road and in the dugout. The result is "Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager," in my view one of the best books ever written about sports.
Bissinger builds his story around a crucial three-game series in August 2003, when the Cardinals hosted their most-hated rivals, the Chicago Cubs. Describing the games, sometime pitch by pitch, he lays out the strategy, options and the anguish that confront the managers LaRussa and Dusty Baker as the innings pass.
But the book is more than just an account of stiff competition. Baseball is played by people, and Bissinger moves back and forth from the game to the people who play it. He provides full portraits of stars like Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, whose workmanlike habits and selflessness make him the consummate professional, and Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood, sometimes fierce and dominating and sometimes wild and ineffective.
But the book does not focus solely on the headliners. As unlikely as it may seem, the story of Cardinals pitcher Cal Eldred, Gold Glove catcher Mike Matheny and resentful rookie Kerry Robinson are compelling. Most moving is Bissinger's account of the personal loss Cardinal players felt after the sudden death of teammate Darrel Kile.
"Three Nights in August" is fun, interesting and educational. More than a home run, it's a grand slam.
Here are previous recommendations from Jim's Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club:
[– ] "Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission" by Hampton Sides.
[– ] "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris.
[– ] "A Night to Remember" by Walter Lord.
[– ] "April 1865: The Month That Saved America" by Jay Winik.
[– ] "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" by Laura Hillenbrand.
[– ] "Lindbergh" by A. Scott Berg.
[– ] "The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963" by Laurence Leamer.
[– ] "The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case" by Sam Roberts.
[– ] "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" by Jane Leavy.
[– ] "Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions" by Ben Mezrich.
[– ] "Harry & Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Post-War World" by Steve Neal.
[– ] "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis.
[– ] "Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone" by Martin Dugard.
[– ] "In Harms Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors" by Doug Stanton.
[– ] "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34." by Bryan Burrough.
[– ] "Flags of our Fathers," by James Bradley.
[–] "Cary Grant: A Biography" by Marc Elliot.