Why I Love Baseball by Larry King
Rating: • (Read only if your interest is strong)
Click on title or picture to buy from amazon.com
Unless your love of baseball or Larry King is enormous, take a pass on his new book, Why I Love Baseball. In a rambling, repetitive narrative, King patches together pages of song lyrics, quotes from players and managers, and his own inane memories and name dropping to produce a (happily) short and (unfortunately) annoying book. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of Chapter 2, pp. 21-27:
At this point, readers, it should be
emphasized that I am no longer a Dodgers’ fan. They left
That same year, I went down to
I also have a strong interest in the
doings of the New York Mets. Freddie Wilpon, their
owner, and I went to school together in
Come to think of it, baseball is a game that’s full of idiosyncracies. Why, for instance, four balls and three strikes? Why not four and four, or three and three? You can’t really succeed as a hitter. No one has ever hit .500, meaning, as Ted Williams once said, “I failed to do what I was paid to do, six and a half out of every ten times I came to bat.” How do you take a round bat and hit a round ball straight ahead? How do you hit at all with a man sitting behind you signaling what to throw to a man sixty feet, six inches away, who will fire it at you at ninety plus miles an hour while seven other people are trolling the field, ready to catch whatever you hit? How in the world do they do it? How do they hit it over the outfielders, or between them?
And you’re on your own when you step to
the plate. But if you’re a good hitter, you will make it, no matter where you
are, what your living condition is, where you grew up—because you are not
dependent on others. You could be a good quarterback in high school and have
lousy wide receivers. A good basketball player is not noticed until someone
throws him the ball. You could be a good hockey player with no one to get you
the puck. Ah, but if you can hit a baseball. . . that will get you a tryout with a
major league team, and you can be on that team. It does not require politics.
If you can do it, you will do it. There is no great player living on a farm
Another thing I love about baseball is
that it has no clock. When I say I’m going to the game, I cannot tell you
when I’ll be back. Every other game has a definitive end time. Baseball does
not. Lovers don’t like end times. I’m getting a bit wistful here. I remember
when the Boston Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the first game
of a doubleheader 22—4. In the second game the Red Sox led the hapless Devil
Rays 4—0 in the ninth inning at
As any baseball fan knows, the slowness of the game is part of its great charm. In fact, it’s only non-fans who complain that baseball is a slow game in the first place. I wouldn’t want to speed it up at all. I love its pace and its rhythm. Who wants to spend an hour and a half at a ball game? That’s crazy. Two hours forty-five minutes is fine by me. Extra innings are fine by me. Double headers are swell. I can’t get enough.
Beyond the game itself, it’s the little things about baseball that resonate with me. I like the dugouts, where they talk about the game all throughout the game. I like the bullpen, where the relief pitchers congregate and observe, and wonder when and if they will get in. I like to watch the way outfielders move, depending on who’s coming up to bat. I like the way infielders talk to each other while holding their gloves in front of their mouths. I like conferences at the mound. I love arguments, when managers come storming out, throw some dirt.
I have some great manager stories. The
aforementioned Leo Durocher was one of my
favorites as a kid when he managed the Dodgers. He wore number 2, so I wore
number 2. I wasn’t a good athlete, but I thought I could have been a manager.
I still think I could be a manager. Anyway, I loved Leo, before he went over
to the Giants. He was one of my heroes. Now, I’m at my first job in
The sports director at my radio station
said, “Do you want to go and interview someone today before the game?” I
said, “Oh, boy, would I love to talk to Leo Durocher,
my hero.” So I knew the Dodgers were still up in
Though I’d never made contact with him, I took my tape recorder and went out to the stadium. Leo was standing at home plate hitting ground balls. There were about three thousand people in the stands. It was about an hour before the game.
I trudged toward home plate and there he stood, my hero, Leo Durocher. The man I’d called five times and missed every time, who’d returned all my calls and missed me. My hero. I approached him and said, “Mr. Durocher?” And he said, “What do you want, kid?” And I said, “I’m Larry King.” And he said, screaming, “What the FUCK do you want?” Everyone in the ballpark heard it. I must have jumped back ten feet. Then he really started screaming. “Who the hell are you? Why am I calling you back? Why are you calling me?” Oh, my gosh. I was never so embarrassed and chagrined, but that was Leo. He said, “Your name sounds like someone I should know. But I don’t know you.” Finally I calmed him down, and he proceeded to come to the dugout and sit for an interview.
In later years, just before he died, I
interviewed him on my national radio show in
before he became famous as the Yankee manager, was laughed at when he
managed the then Boston Braves and Dodgers in
Casey once testified when Congress held antitrust hearings on the sport of baseball. He followed the Commissioner, who gave long, eloquent answers to deeply philosophical questions. When it was his turn, Casey sat down and said, “Whatever he said, goes for me double.”
As anyone who knows baseball knows,
Casey could talk forever. I was working in
One of Casey’s many great quotes concerned the inept Mets of the early sixties, when he said, “Can’t anybody here play this game?”
If that excerpt captivates you, be sure to read Why I Love Baseball. If it makes you balk, take a pass.
Steve Hopkins, July 26, 2004
ã 2004 Hopkins and Company, LLC
The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the August 2004 issue of Executive Times
URL for this review: http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/Books/Why I Love Baseball.htm
For Reprint Permission, Contact:
Hopkins & Company, LLC •