“They Played The Game: Memories from 47 Major Leaguers”
Norman L. Macht
The publishing info:
University of Nebraska Press, $29.95, 328 pages, to be released June 1.
The review in 90 feet or less
We’re not only grateful Macht transcribed his interviews over the years, spanning the early 1980s all the way to just a couple years ago. But he also kept them in a safe place until this point to where we now can read some wonderful exchanges come to light that otherwise might just be in someone’s file drawer.
In the process of writing his epic three-volume biography of Connie Mack for Nebraska Press that came out between 2007 and ’15, Macht logged dozens of interviews with players who first-hand accounts of the Hall of Fame manager and owner. But he also had many more encounters with former MLB players to where, as Macht says:
“We hear truths that resided in their minds when they talked with me in their later years. If you wish to do the research to verify or question their facts or versions of events, do so. I didn’t … What you read is what they said.”
Such as Mike Marshall.
The Dodgers’ record-obliterating 1976 Cy Young Award winning relief pitcher talked plenty during his 14-year career from 1967-’81, spanning nine teams — including the short-lived Seattle Pilots (again, read “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton).
We realize after this Marshall encounter with Macht in Zephyrhills, Fla., in March of 2003, there was a lot more revealed in 11 pages that kept us fascinated.
== Marshall admitting Gene Mauch, his manager in Montreal, deserves “every credit for the success I had in baseball.” Add to that, the Dodgers’ Walter Alston, when compared to Mauch, was “a better manager and person. He understood more about people and how to get the most out of them.
There was nothing duplicitous about the man.” Then again, Marshall admonished then-Dodgers third base coach and defensive alignment man Tommy Lasorda for refusing to adjust the defense as he would request while on the mound. He also calls out catcher Steve Yeager for trying to call his pitches when he decided he would be the one to decide.
== Often the players’ union rep on every team, Marshall explains how he schemed with Andy Messersmith how to challenge the reserve clause and test free agency. The plan was to have both Marshall and Messersmith be the guinea pigs for this move that changed the entire future of the game. It would happen the Dodgers’ post-1974 World Series appearance. But because of a verbal promise Marshall made with the Dodgers, he couldn’t go through with it, sending Messersmith ahead to challenge the reserve clause and open the floodgates.
Then there’s Johnny Roseboro.
Mach found the former Dodgers catcher in a Pittsburgh hotel in 1990 prior to an Old-Timers game. We find out more about how, as an Angels coach, he continued to get demoted instead of promoted during Dick Williams’ regime.
“Do you want to manage?” Macht asks.
“Like I need air,” says Roseboro, who died in 2002 without ever getting a manager’s job. “Offering me a minor league managing job is like – what’s the word – a pacifier. I have more experience and success at what I did than 90 percent of the managers in the major leagues, and they go out and hire these guys that continually lose year after year, and they keep putting them on the clock. …A lot of people in baseball now are business majors, corporate people not into the talent side of it. You call the Dodgers office now, you get a computer. You don’t talk to people any more.”
Again this was 30 years ago.
A joyous romp with Ted Williams is also included. So are enlightening words from the likes of Ferris Fain to Dave “Boo” Ferriss, from Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell to George “High Pockets” Kelly to Ralph “Putsy” Caballero, with former Babe Ruth teammate Mark Koenig sprinkled in.
If only there was audio to go with it. But again, be thankful for what’s here.
How it goes down in the scorebook
Of all the books this month we find as the most joyous of surprises, this is probably it. The stuff the Baseball Hall of Fame needs stuffed in its files, for everyone’s permanent record. SABR, and the game, should be indebted for this collection from Macht, who turns 90 this August.