“A Damn Near Perfect Game:
Reclaiming America’s Pastime”
With Rob Bradford
The publishing info:
288 pages; $28.99
Released Feb. 28, 2023
The publishers website
The review in 90 feet or less
Back in the summer of 2019, when we seized space in the L.A. Times as part of a give-and-take of ideas and freelance paychecks, we thought we were doing a public service to Dodgers fans by helping them rid the nasty aftertaste of Joe Kelly.
It was mid-June, and the Dodgers had an upcoming Joe Kelly Bobblehead Night giveaway.
Say it ain’t so, everyone.
Kelly had not only posted some awful numbers in his first year in L.A., but it was even more anguishing since he was fresh off helping the Red Sox beat the Dodgers in the ’18 World Series, and somehow earning a three-year, $25 million contract for his past performance. His 7.59 ERA, a 1-3 record and three blown saves in 22 appearances didn’t endear the 31-year-old from Corona High and UC Riverside.
There were many on social media advocating for fans, upon receiving the give-away trinket, to toss it in the trash. Or even worse. Even without considering that the face value of the ticket was increased as to make this “special” day have added value.
We recruited the opinion of Phil Sklar, CEO and co-founder of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame in Milwaukee, to chime in.
“If Kelly turns things around and ends up helping the Dodgers win the World Series, I would expect this one to rise in value,” said Sklar. “If he doesn’t turn things around, I would expect to see a lot of them at garage sales or thrift stores in the L.A. area for very low prices. Hopefully, Dodgers fans won’t litter the field with bobbleheads, especially if he has a bad outing.”
By the end of the season, Kelly was 5-4, his ERA a bit more stable at 4.56 in 55 appearances (with 13 games finished) and one save and a career-best 10.9 strike outs per nine innings.
In 2020, Kelly and the Dodgers did claim the truncated World Series title. During the COVID downtime, he even threw a baseball through his house window and became an internet legend.
By 2021, Kelly endeared himself to Dodgers fans still upset about the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal by taunting the start shortstop Carlos Correa in a inning-ending staredown. Complete with pouty face.
It drew an eight-game suspension and a fine. And a fine-looking meme.
As well as a famous mural on the side of a building in Silverlake. Where fans can stop and check it out on the way to Dodger Stadium.
“Right now, he’s like the most popular guy in town,” said local radio sports-talk host Steve Mason, quoted in USA Today.
As in: How do you like my bobblehead now?
After Kelly’s performance, the pitcher’s Wikipedia page included this addition: “He is also the father of Carlos Correa.’’
Yet by the start of 2022, Kelly was free to leave. He did so, gravitating to the Chicago White Sox, where went 1-3 with 6.08 ERA in 43 games last season – with one start, and one save. He still holds a roster spot and, after the first few games of 2023, No. 17 took the loss on April Fool’s Day by giving up the go-ahead run to the Astros in the bottom of the seventh, and sports that 0-1 mark with a 9.00 ERA, unused since then.
But it was all during the delay in the 2022 season — another labor skirmish pushed back spring training and the start of the season — where Kelly was having angst as well.
He wrote up an essay that the Los Angeles Times published (was this some kind of payback?):
The next step in that mission: Write this book.
Rob Bradford, host of The Bradfo Sho via his job writing for the WEEI.com, had Kelly on as a guest and appreciated how Kelly spoke his mind. He proposed a book after Kelly’s career was over. It came much sooner, as Kelly was moping around during COVID, and then the lockout, wondering when MLB would get its act together. That’s when he wrote the L.A. Times piece. The book idea accelerated.
But what made this book become a book was Kelly stepping out of his comfort zone and pinning down MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on some pointed subjects. “Chapter 7: The Commissioner Speaks” explains it all.
Kelly explained as much to David Vassegh during a January, 2023 episode of off-season “Dodger Talk” on KLAC-AM (570):
“It was one of the things where, with the lockout, Manfred and the players weren’t on the same page the whole time. There was a lot of animosity. He went around to camps to talk to teams. I had a great conversation and a telephone number. I said if you’re going to change the rules talk to the players first. That opened my eyes to him. I had a past history with him with the suspensions and stuff, but we started texting and he said he appreciated what I said. He’s a human being. He’s in a tough spot working for the owners and trying to protect the players. He can be the odd-man out. I just asked; I’m writing a book, would you mind if we sat down and had a conversation? I didn’t expect a whole chapter, but the conversation turned into one pretty good and deep. We talk about roles and ideas … there’s a lot about how the game is blacked out to some. Charter may not like it, but ultimately I think it’s the biggest thing that stops people from coming in. Cable networks have big-time deals and blacking games out on the MLB app. He was willing to be in the book and have the conversation recorded. I know it’s the first time a one on one deep conversation with a player.
“NBA fans like (commissioner Adam) Silver. (NFL Commissioner Roger) Goodell isn’t liked much. As a player usually you see Manfred and feel kind of out of touch with what he’s saying. It was authentic by him. I didn’t add anything. It’ll shine light on a guy with a title and he’s doing the best of his ability. Legally he could put in any rules he wants but he was starting in the minor leagues and started talking about it. That shows the mutual respect he has for the game. He said he would never put a rule in without putting in ideas of the players.”
In 10 chapters, Kelly has his say, on “The Power of the Pout,” some insights into what happens in the locker room, and all sorts of his otherwise amusing musings.
And as long as he goes on sports-talk radio to promote it — along with the F-bombs — it will get attention.
And when the Chicago White Sox make their one appearance this season against the Dodgers — everyone plays everyone, remember? — it’ll be at Dodger Stadium for three games from June 13-15.
Expect cheers and toasts to JK. Especially if by then the White Sox release him and the Dodgers pick him back up.
How it goes in the scorebook
Give Kelly damn-near credit for a win, a hold and a save, after making the gutsy pitch to Manfred.
The title may not be fully justified by the content, but it’s as large a lead as we’ve seen with a current (or former) player who has the chops to chop it up with those who make the rules.
Next stop was having the moment in time to pull the book together (and getting the publisher to use the classic ’60s “googie” style).
And how about getting his supporters together to endorse it?
One of the interesting aspects of selling this book is having blurbs done by people who you hope has read it and will vouch for it. Before it was even published, Amazon.com listed blurbs by Hall of Famer David Ortiz (one of them, on the cover), the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts, Dodgers broadcaster Joe Davis, and actor Rob Lowe.
But then there was this (along with the parenthetical explanation):
Further testimonies by…
Andy Cohen (Television Personality)
Jon Hamm (Actor)
Dennis Eckersley (Hall-of-famer)
Torey Krug (Professional Hockey Player)
Nestor Cortes (All-Star Pitcher)
Mark Hoppus (Musician)
Rob Friedman (“Pitching Ninja”)
David Ross (Manager)
Bo Bichette (All-Star Shortstop)
Alex Cora (Manager)
Adam Wainwright (All-Star Pitcher)
Kurt Busch (NASCAR Driver)
Dylan Cease (Pitcher)
David Price (All-Star Pitcher)
Matt Strahm (Pitcher)
Julio Rodriguez (All-Star Outfielder)
J.D. Martinez (All-Star Designated Hitter)
Travis d’Arnaud (All-Star Catcher)
Kyle Schwarber (All-Star Designated Hitter)
Joe Mantiply (All-Star Pitcher)
Corey Seager (All-Star Shortstop)
Ken Griffey Jr. (Hall of Famer)
Ian Happ (All-Star Outfielder)
Liam Hendriks (All-Star Pitcher)
Ty France (All-Star First Baseman)
Paul Blackburn (All-Star Pitcher)
Paul Goldschmidt (All-Star First Baseman)
Max Fried (All-Star Pitcher)
Austin Riley (All-Star Outfielder)
David Bednar (All-Star Pitcher)
Shawn Green (Former All-Star Outfielder)
CC Sabathia (Former All-Star Outfielder)
Anthony Volpe (Top Infield Prospect)
Tai Bradley (Top Pitching Prospect)
Mike Burrows (Top Pitching Prospect)
Terry Francona (Manager)
It’s as if Kelly decided to host his own TV holiday special and have all these special guest cameos by people who, more or less, we consider able to read and comment. But without the comments.
Not even from Carlos Correa?
You can look it up: More to ponder
== And, of course, someone has made “Pouty Joe Kelly” a new bobblehead. It originally sold for $50 and was limited to 2,020 editions. We’ve seen it listed now on eBay.com for $250. That originaly 2019 Dodger Stadium “collector’s edition” giveaway? It’s about $20.
== The New York Times found it compelling that Kelly and Manfred connected and posted this prior to the ’23 baseball season.
== An excerpt of Chapter 5: Giving Baseball the Business, via Deadspin.com.
== Remember when Kelly was pitching at UC Riverside and told the school’s sports information department that he was a distance relative to gangster George “Machine Gun” Kelly? He eventually admitted he made the whole thing up.
1 thought on “Day 3 of 2023 baseball books: You better not pout, Joe Kelly’s telling you why (in full mariachi jacket)”
I love Joe Kelly very much.
On Tue, Apr 4, 2023 at 12:07 PM Tom Hoffarth’s The Drill: More Farther Off