Synopsis: After decades of abuse and spittle, Major League umpire Durwood Merrill strikes back with some pretty incisive, funny, and no-holds-barred anecdotes. When his book stays in the game, it’s a real hoot, light and folksy; how can you not laugh with a guy who can admit that “Folks around the American League say I’ve sent a few pitchers to the Hall of Fame before their time because my strike zone tends to swell like George Steinbrenner’s ego”? It’s his own ego, though, that has him swinging for the seats and coming up short; he’s not much of a memoirist. Thankfully, like a good umpire, he keeps his personal interference to a minimum and mostly sticks to business, offering some tough prescriptions for what ails the game, and some solid dissection of the intricacies of his craft. His thoughts on Pete Rose might lead you to believe that Charlie Hustle is the book’s title character.
Joe’s Remarks: When I first bought this book, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I had heard a few negative things about it, and kind of had a prejudice against it. Boy, was that wrong! I found this to be a very funny, lighthearted read (for the most part). There’s some really wonderful insights into what it takes to become a big league umpire – never quite realized all they went through in “Umpire boot camp” (my term). It’s not all fun and games, there’s a few stories about how an umpire friend of his was attacked and crippled on the streets of Dallas, and the latter part talks a lot about his charity works.
A great book – funny, light, and to be honest, something that surprised me in a very good way. What was personally annoying was that after I read this (during the last month of the 99 season), I wanted to watch Durwood, and then he up and retires during the playoffs. Damn. Really wanted to see him after reading his book. Oh well. Check it out, a good light read.
Synopsis: Assigned to cover the Texas Rangers for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in early 1973, gonzo sportswriter Mike Shropshire looked forward to the perks and padded expense account that went along with the job. He never dreamed he’d have to earn every penny–following arguably the worst team in baseball history. Full of wild games and wilder nights, and the exploits of some of the most extreme characters ever to play the game, this book is Shropshire’s irreverent, behind-the-scenes look at the hell a truly pitiful team can raise between games and innings.
Joe’s Remarks: I wasn’t quite sure what to think of this one either. I bought it because of the tagline on the front about it being funny. I admit to not knowing a whole lot about the very early years of the Rangers (I didn’t move here until 1992, and didn’t really follow ’em until 1995), and the thought about reading a book all about them didn’t thrill me.
However, I quickly found out that this was a hysterically funny book. Mike Shrophsire has a very funny wit, and isn’t afraid to let it fly when talking about the Rangers of this era. His recollection of events is awesome, and makes for very funny reading. If you’re a fan of the Rangers, or even if you’re not, GET THIS! It’s a very great read, although I don’t recommend it for very small kids, as there’s more than just one or two cuss words in there. Still, for adults, it’s well worth it.
As of now, it appears to be out of print (unfortunately) – but the link I provide by clicking on the cover will allow you to order it. If you can find it on a bookstore shelf, get it now while you still can.
UPDATE Sep 9 2016: It’s back in print. You can get for about $5 via Kindle (and other formats). Linkage: http://amzn.to/2ckL7WP
Synopsis: For more than half a century, Don Zimmer, baseball’s beloved gerbil, has been the Zelig of the national pastime, the character in the corner of so many interesting pictures. He may have been only–as he likes to remind us throughout Zim: A Baseball Life–a .235 hitter, but he was a .235 hitter who played with Jackie Robinson on the only Brooklyn team to win a World Series. A year later, he was there, on the bench, when Don Larsen threw his perfect game. More than just an original Met, Zim was the first player ever photographed in a Mets uniform. As the Red Sox third-base coach in 1975, it was Zim who waved Carlton Fisk home in the bottom of the 12th to end the greatest World Series game ever played. Three years later, it was Zim, now the Sox manager, who watched in despair as Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent sealed one of the greatest late-season collapses in the annals of the game when Dent’s pennant-winning homer settled into the net atop the Green Monster. Of course, it was Zim who led the Cubs, of all teams, to a rare postseason appearance, and, approaching 70 at the turn of the millennium, it was Zim who added four championship rings to his collection as Joe Torre’s bench coach in the Bronx.
Bridging the gap between the game’s early years of integration and the advent of the $200-million-plus contract, Zim hasn’t just witnessed the history of the second half of 20th-century baseball, he’s embodied it, and he remembers it with a genial charm and disarming honesty that turns Zim into one of the more spirited and beguiling baseball memoirs to step up in some time. “I’ve had a hell of a life,” he admits with an amazed cheerfulness that’s evident on every page. –Jeff Silverman
Joe’s Remarks: I never was a big Don Zimmer fan until I saw the event that led to the caption of this book. I watched the game where he got hit in the head with a ball, and then came back out in a pith helmet. From that moment on, I was a Zimmer fan (as I am a Torre fan, even if I’m not a “Yankee” fan). Anyway, this book is a good read – Of course, I skipped to the chapter on his year or so as a Texas Rangers manager, which was my primary interest in reading the book. However, it’s a lot more than that. If you get a chance, pick it up. It’s good stuff.
Synopsis: Former high school ballplayer Brett Mandel yearned to experience a year in the minor leagues, so he convinced the Ogden (Utah) Raptors, about to embark on their maiden season, to let him chronicle that season from the perspective of a uniformed player. They agreed. The resulting saga describes the long bus rides, the bad food, the frustrations, and hopes that are all a part of baseball dreaming with affectionate good humor. The book’s true life, though, steps up in the poignancy with which Mandel draws his teammates, young men destined for the most part to fall short of their great desire. As a player, Mandel went 0 for 5 on the year, proving that the pen, long deemed mightier than the sword, can be mightier than the bat, as well.
Joe’s Remarks: What a wonderful book! I picked this one up, and it stayed in my stack of books to read for about 6 months. That was a mistake – I should have read it first. This is a great book if you’re a fan of baseball, particularly if you’re a fan of minor league baseball. This tells the story of Brett’s year with the Ogden Raptors in 1994 from the start to the end of the season. Brett’s writing style is very easy to read. I tend to do most of my reading before going to bed at night, which usually means I can take several sessions to actually finish a book, as I did with this one. Most books suffer from when you pick them up again, it’s not that easy to jump right in where you left off. This one does not have that. For me, it lent itself great to reading it in chunks. Brett was on the Raptors for a whole year, and this book is his recollection of the travels, details, and behind the scenes things most people will never hear about. Check this out – this book has nothing to do with the Texas Rangers, but it’s a great GREAT baseball book!
As an added bonus, I met the author during the summer of 2000 when Lynn & I went to Baltimore to see the Rangers play there. Brett and some friends were coming back from Cooperstown for the HOF induction ceremony, and were in Baltimore to see the Orioles play. He himself told me about the book, and we had a few moments talking about the Phillies, as we’re both from there. I wish I would have already read the book at this point, but Brett was a great guy to meet in person, too!
Drinking Game v1.0 by Joe Siegler
With that out of the way, I’d like to offer my “Who Wants to be a Millionaire Drinking Game”. In sitting around one night watching this show, I realized that this show was ripe for a drinking game, as there’s several things that repeat themselves. I took a look around the net, and I couldn’t find one, so I figured I’d construct one of my own. It took me about a month to put this all together. I didn’t want to just slap something together, I wanted this to be well put together. I could have very easily picked a few things that happen all the time and you’d be drunk in two seconds flat, like anytime Regis says “Final Answer”, or any time those lights from the ceiling swoop down, and the “dramatic music” is played. Nah, I wanted some stuff that’s a bit more original than that, so without further adieu, here’s the game:
I’ve broken this down into a few sections. The first section are things that Regis does, the second section is things that aren’t Regis related (which are mostly player things), and the third are what I call “big things”.
Section One: Regis things
- Regis points into camera (x2 if he uses both hands)
- Regis drinks water (x2 if contestant drinks with him)
- Says “They’re all here” during explaining lifelines
- Regis holds up one of those fake checks for the camera to see (x2 if the contestant is holding it)
- Regis holds up some “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” crap for you to buy (game, shirt, etc).
- Regis asks the contestant’s audience friend a question, and then gives his fakey “That’s nice” answer. (x2 if it’s to the phone a friend)
- Regis asks “final” for any question under $1000 (x2 if person gets it wrong anyway)
Section Two: Non-Regis things
- If one of the announced contestants is from your home town.
- The audience is wrong on the poll the audience lifeline.
- Contestant complains that the 50-50 didn’t help them.
- The Phone a friend has absolutely no idea at all (x2 if they don’t even hazard a guess).
- If contestant uses two lifelines on one question (x2 if they use all three on a single question)
- Contestant walks away from game with less than $32,000.
- If one player hogs over half the episode by themselves. (x2 if they mention it on the air)
Section Three: “Big Things”
- Contestant’s final prize money is zero (x2)
- Your phone happens to ring at the same moment they’re calling the phone a friend (x3)
- You personally know one of the contestants (x4)
- Contestant wins $1 million! (x5)
That’s about it for the game – as I said, I didn’t do this easily, I could have very well come up with a bunch more things that happen all the time, but I wanted some things in here that happen a lot, but don’t happen every 5 minutes. A few notes – #3 in section 1 was the first one I ever came up with – I realize it’s kinda lame, but quite frankly, that makes me laugh for some reason.
Also, whenever one of these things happen, I yell “Veneer” when taking a drink. Why? If anyone watches Frasier, they had an episode this past season where Frasier, Niles, & Martin were all watching the Antiques Roadshow, and they had a drinking game for that – they had picked the word Veneer to drink to whenever someone said it. My wife and I thought that was insanely funny, so we just started saying Veneer for the Millionaire Drinking Game.
I hope this at least brought a smile to your face – then it was worth it. If you have any feedback or suggestions, drop me a line. (Thought about inserting some bad lifeline joke there, but naaah). Here’s some Millionaire links, as well as some drinking game links:
- Official Millionaire Site on ABC.com
- Buy the Millionaire Board Game
- Buy the Millionaire Book
- Yahoo’s List of Drinking Game Links