The book: “The Immaculate Inning: Unassisted Triple Plays, 40/40 Seasons, and the Stories Behind Baseball’s Rarest Feats”
The author: Joe Cox
How to find it: Lyons Press, $27.95, 304 pages, released Feb. 1.
The links: At Amazon.com, at the publishers website.
A review in 90-feet or less: “Almost Perfect: The Heartbreaking Pursuit of Pitching’s Holy Grail,” is a book that Cox, a SABR member living in Kentucky, put out there in February, 2017.
With “Immaculate Inning,” Cox again is almost perfect in taking a stupendous subject idea and making it about as stupefying pedestrian and disappointingly average as possible.
If all it took was a Google search and Wikipedia rewrite, so many more books with hardbound covers could be expected to be covered up by a neat look cover.
Touching on 30 rare feats in the game, some of which were so rare we didn’t even know they mattered, Cox goes past unassisted triple plays in Chapter 1 before getting right into the heart of the title without as much as explaining who came up with the phrase and why.
For the record, it’s been done 89 times, eight times alone in the last season. Rare?
Uh … doesn’t really seem that way if you get down to it.
For the record: It’s an inning where a pitcher strikes out three batters on nine pitches, all strikes. Cox says that while a perfect game (27 batters up, 27 down) is often seen as baseball rarity, the immaculate inning is a “purer feat.”
“Not only does the pitcher set down three hitters, but he does it without wasting a single pitch,” Cox writes. “That is perfect.”
Hmmm. Setting down three hitters on three pitches is really the definition of not wasting any tosses, isn’t it?
(Editor’s note: I once sat at Dodger game where a young couple was behind me, the boy obviously trying to explain what the girl was witnessing and trying to sound smart. “What’s a perfect game again?” she asked. “That’s when the pitcher strikes everyone out for all nine innings,” he said, incorrectly. But then again, he may have had a point. That is about as perfect as a pitcher can get, right? Maybe we’ve loosened up the definition of “perfect” to fit the needs of a way of describing something that, well, isn’t really perfect. Proceed …)
The editing, from there, lacks tightening in the stories regurgitated, as again displayed in the same chapter where Sandy Koufax is considered the “king” of this feat, having done it three times, including during his 1962 no-hitter against the Mets.
“Koufax’s first immaculate inning was the first inning of his first career no-hitter as he held New York hitless …” Got it?
Cox also explains in the intro to each feat how common he guesses it could happen again.
Such as a pitcher winning 30 games in a season: “It’s almost literally impossible,” he surmises, based on the five-man rotations now.
On a chapter about players who have had 10 RBIs in a game, he mentioned Nomar Garciaparra doing it while with Boston in 1999. It was the result of a three-homer game that had two grand slams. Nomar is quoted: “I’ve never hit three home runs in a game before – not in Little League, college, no where. I’m glad I waited until the big leagues to do it.” Cox adds: “Presumably, he hadn’t knocked in 10 runs either.” Maybe someone who’s writing a book about this could ask Nomar?
Cox does manage to reach out to do eight interviews that are included, conducted between July and September of 2017. But none are essential to the chapters, just a nice thing to sprinkle in and make it appear to be further researched.
Considering that Jessica Mendoza did the foreword, and the back cover includes endorsements by Jason Turnbow, Tim Wendel and Dan Epstein, we expected more.
Nothing rare. Not even particularly well done.
But at least medium would have sufficed.
How this goes down in the scorebook: E-mmaculate. Capital “E” preferred.