Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Review of

The Last Nine Innings

by Charles Euchner

First of all, let me say that I truly enjoyed this book. Euchner does a great job covering many different baseball topics - sometimes I think he bites off a little more than he can chew, but more on that later.

The book is roughly based on the format of John McPhee's tennis classic, "Levels of the Game", in which McPhee uses a single tennis match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner as an excuse to delve deep into both men's pasts, tennis, life, philosophy, and whatever else he can think of. It's an awesome book, and Euchner says as much in his introduction. His idea is to write a baseball book centered around Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, in which the Diamondbacks and the Yankees play one of the greatest baseball games of modern times.

During the 300 pages of the book, only about 50 will be devoted to on-field action - Euchner likes to take select ideas and run with them, whether it's the history of baseball, the art of pitching, the stats vs. scouts debate, the rise in foreign-born MLB players, etc, etc.

One minor complaint I have at this point is Euchner devotes much of the game's coverage to a few select players: Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson, Derek Jeter, Luis Gonzalez, Mariano Rivera. These guys are fascinating characters, no doubt, but I'd be equally interested in the bench players / rookies who aren't stars. Then again, that kind of book might not be as interesting to the casual fan.

My favorite section from the book come from the stats vs. scouts chapter, which Euchner neatly summarizes in an argument over Derek Jeter's fielding. I also especially enjoyed a short chapter on batting stances, from the strangeness of Craig Counsell's stance ("He looks like he was trying to knock a spider off the ceiling with a broom"..."He's beautiful.") to the open stance of Luis Gonzalez.

I could go into more detail, but if you want to learn more about a few of the hot topics in baseball or you're a fan of baseball in general or you remember the 2001 World Series fondly, I have one recommendation: Check out this book!

I'll write more about the book later; I have to run.


Scott Barzilla said...


Did you get a promotional copy of this book as well or did you purchase it? I got a free copy and am working my way through it now. It looks pretty good so far although I've never been much into books that take one single event (a game) and break it down to that level.

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