Friday, April 30, 2010
Department of Book Reports: The Bullpen Gospels
Today, I'm taking a break from looking at the literature of the American paranoid style, and returning to the topic I hold very dear, indeed, Baseball.
I first learned of Dirk Hayhurst's new book, The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran (Kensington $14.95), last December when Keith Olbermann posted on his baseball blog, Baseball Nerd, that he, Keith, had read an advanced copy of the book and said it was the best baseball book in the past 30 years. High praise, indeed. So I was very excited to read it. I was not disappointed.
Written in much the same vein as Jim Bouton's Ball Four or Jim Brosnan's classic diaries of The Long Season and Pennant Race, Dirk Hayhurst chronicles his baseball year of 2007, playing in the San Diego Padre system. Beginning with his off-season workouts, sleeping on an air mattress at his crazy Grandmother (who I hope isn't reading this blog), moving onto Spring training and his disappointment at being assigned to Class A ball, in this, his 5th professional season, he moves onto the season at hand with its ups and downs. Dirk discusses his trials and tribulations, which include a promotion to Double A ball and the ultimate success of his team in winning the Texas League championship.
And what is playing in the minors like? There are long bus rides, with bus drivers getting lost, and not arriving at hotels till 7 A.M., just a few hours before game time. There are the BS sessions in the bullpen where such questions of whether or not gay sex is all right if the Taliban had a gun to your head. Some of the dialogue and the juvenile behavior between the players makes a fraternity party sound like it has the sophistication of New York literary cocktail scene. And what do you when you discover a tarantula in the bullpen? Then there are the clubhouse Kangaroo courts where fines are meted out for flatulence as well as referring to oneself in the third person. Or getting promoted to the Bigs and not taking along your teammates. Hayhurst is rich in anecdote and humor. I had many a belly laugh while reading.
It is also a journey of self-discovery. Dirk comes from a dysfunctional family with an angry and alcoholic brother and parents that can seem emotionally distant. He finally finds success when he realizes he has to stop worrying about failure, and that he cannot let baseball define his whole being. LIke all the great books about baseball, the book is not just all about baseball. It is about what matters in being a human being. Dirk Hayhurst is very human; he is also very humane. I really cannot say enough good things about The Bullpen Gospels. Read it, even if you are not a sports fan.
Dirk is currently on the 60-Day Dl on the Toronto Blue Jays and he has his own blog: and, if you are in the twittersphere, you can follow him. I hope to see him on the field soon.
The Bullpen Gospels is available at Jackson Street Books and at other fine independent bookstores.As always, books ordered by friends of the General get a freebie publisher's Advance Reader Copy included in the shipment.