Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Pitch for “Sixty Feet, Six Inches”

Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media

That most wonderful time of year is upon us again. Yes, Major League Baseball playoff fever - the nights when the grass, illuminated by stadium lighting, looks just a little greener, the stripes down the first and third baselines glow just a wee bit whiter, and somehow the temperature both chills and burns while everything seems to hang in the balance (that is if your team is still in the thick of it) - is back.

If visions of baseballs and golden trophies skip through your head again and again while you are away from the TV, why not crack open a book that is packed with baseball brilliance?

The other night on The Charlie Rose Show, Hall of Fame Cardinals hurler Bob Gibson recalled how his collaborative book with Yankees legend Reggie Jackson came together.

Doubleday, the book’s publisher, told Gibson it wanted to do a book by a pitcher and a hitter. After dismissing several possibilities, Gibson tossed out Jackson for consideration.

Skeptical, the publishers dared Gibson to do his best. His response sounded much like his persona on the mound. “Try me.” Jackson immediately agreed.

With playoffs in the air, who better to lend an ear to than to two of the fall’s most revered figures, as the pair divulges perspective gained from seven World Series trophies between them?

Read “Sixty Feet, Six Inches” because:

1. Bob Gibson clears the air

From his playing days until recently, many knew (or so they thought they knew) Gibson to be taut and brusque like his tight fastballs. Oh, how misunderstood, Gibson said on the show. “The last thing I was trying to do was intimidate people. I look like I look.”

Years later, Gibson has no idea where the misconception came from. Who knows what he could have done if he had known that arrow of intimidation lurked in his quiver along with his other arsenal.

“Sixty Feet, Six Inches” is a colorful discussion between two of baseball’s greats, arranged topically with room for introspection.

2. Discover what motivates two of the greats

“We weren’t like the Yankees,” Gibson said. “There was plenty of tradition in the Cardinal organization – but that wasn’t what we played for. We played for us. (Sixty, 132).

“A lot of people have speculated that my spat with (Manager Billy Martin) was what motivated me in (the 1977 World Series in which he hit five home runs),” Jackson said. “But to get amped for a World Series, I didn’t need coffee, bennies, amphetamines, or disrespect from Billy Martin…” Jackson lived for the moment. (Sixty, 130)

3. Go on the inside to unearth some of the duo’s tricks, including the scouting

Gibson says that scouts were so blown away by his masterful fastball that they forgot he threw anything else. Enter the slider. “…In the World Series, the batters didn’t know me nearly as well as they thought they did by reading my friend, the scouting report.”

Jackson continues, “I had the same experience. The scouting report was the best thing I had going for me in the postseason. They had a book on how to pitch Reggie, and the book said to go inside. That was all well and good, but teams like the Dodgers were so hung up on the scouting report that they couldn’t see what was going on in front of their eyes.” (Sixty, 140)

Whether you’re a pitcher or a hitter or simply a fan, you’ll find just the offering you are looking for in “Sixty Feet, Six Inches.”

Sam Miller/Free Keon

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