Pete Rose: An American Dilemma

( 10 )

Overview

"Kennedy's book on the tarnished and enigmatic Rose is exceptional. Like the best writing about sport—Liebling, Angell—it qualifies as stirring literature. I'd read Kennedy no matter what he writes about." —Richard Ford

Pete Rose played baseball with a singular and headfirst abandon that endeared him to fans and peers, even as it riled others—a figure at once magnetic, beloved and polarizing. Rose has more base hits than anyone in history, yet...

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Overview

"Kennedy's book on the tarnished and enigmatic Rose is exceptional. Like the best writing about sport—Liebling, Angell—it qualifies as stirring literature. I'd read Kennedy no matter what he writes about." —Richard Ford

Pete Rose played baseball with a singular and headfirst abandon that endeared him to fans and peers, even as it riled others—a figure at once magnetic, beloved and polarizing. Rose has more base hits than anyone in history, yet he is not in the Hall of Fame. Twenty-five years ago he was banished from baseball for gambling, then ruled ineligible for Cooperstown; today, the question "Does Pete Rose belong in the Hall of Fame?" has evolved into perhaps the most provocative in sports, a layered, slippery and ever-relevant moral conundrum.

How do we evaluate the Hit King now, at a time when steroid cheats appear on the Hall of Fame ballot even as Rose is denied? What do we make of this happily unrepentant gambler, this shameless but beguiling showman whose postbaseball journey has led him to a curious reality show and to the streets of Cooperstown to hawk his signature, his story, himself?

Best-selling author Kostya Kennedy delivers an evocative answer in his fascinating re-examination of Pete Rose's life; from his cocky and charismatic early years through his storied playing career to his bitter war against baseball's hierarchy to the man we find today—still incorrigible, still adored by many. Where has his improbable saga landed him in the redefined, post-steroid world? Do we feel any differently about Pete Rose today? Should we?

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

They called him "Charlie Hustle." As a ballplayer, Pete Rose always gave it his all; running out even tame grounders and ready to slide headfirst into any base. When he retired as a player in 1986, his Hall of Fame credentials were ironclad, but less than three years later, the all-time hit leader watched them dissolve when an investigation exposed his gambling on major league teams, including his own. Since then, sports scandals have been rampant, making some wonder why Rose remains ostracized while others caught with more serious offenses have been forgiven. Award-winning author Kostya Kennedy (56; The Hockey Book) might have rescued one of the most exciting players of his time from oblivion. (P.S.: Of this book, novelist Richard Ford writes, "Like the best writing about sport—Liebling, Angell—it qualifies as stirring literature.")

Publishers Weekly
01/20/2014
One of the most controversial and defiant baseball personalities of all time receives a piercing scrutiny by Kennedy, assistant managing editor at Sports Illustrated, who tracks the firebrand from his Cincinnati childhood to his heralded rookie season of 1963 with the hometown Reds. Rose, according to Kennedy, emerges as a walking contradiction, a hard worker on the field with a singular goal of excellence, a consistent .300 hitter with dramatic headlong slides and acrobatic catches, but also a bad-boy with the press who occasionally got into trouble after hours. As a part of the “Big Red Machine,” Rose put up impressive statistics and holds the record of MLB all-time hits leader—alongside three World Series rings, two Gold Gloves, and three batting titles, during a playing career that ran from 1963 to 1986. However, Kennedy doesn’t shy away from the banished ex-player’s gambling addiction and the infamous Dowd report that eventually got him thrown out of the game, in the middle of the 1989 season when he was serving as the Cincinnati manager. Included are Rose’s poor career choices, his roving eye for the ladies despite marital obligations, and the beleaguered, unsuccessful quest to reach the baseball Hall of Fame. Piecing together the raging firestorm of disappointment, fraud, prison time, and hustling in Rose’s checkered life, Kennedy’s ambitious account is an anecdote-rich read. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"Even readers who know who Mr. Rose is will learn much from...this book's stacked roster of interviews and anecdotes [and] fascinating and well-chosen tangents....Kennedy covers the [Big Red Machine] period expertly." —Craig Fehrman, The Wall Street Journal

"Will absorb you immediately...a fascinating study of one of America's most enduringly fascinating athletes. Masterful." —Mike Vaccaro, New York Post

"An exceptionally well-written book that lays out both sides of what remains a highly-charged issue." —Paul Hagen, MLB.com

"Kennedy takes that familiar story and delves deeper, presenting an artful portrait....With writing of such quality and a subject of such complexity, it deserves to be read by anyone who appreciates good biography." John C. Williams, BookPage

"Kennedy's book on the tarnished and enigmatic Rose is exceptional. Like the best writing about sport—Liebling, Angell—it qualifies as stirring literature. I'd read Kennedy no matter what he writes about." —Richard Ford

"Kostya Kennedy has given us the real Pete Rose at last. Perhaps Pete does not deserve him, but baseball fans and readers who appreciate superb and subtle writing will be grateful." David Maraniss

"This is a wonderful,
clearly written book about a dark and complicated tragedy that continues to beset the purity of our national pastime. The whole story is here: the deeply talented, passionate ball player, 'Charlie Hustle,' and the deeply morally challenged hustler who bestrides essential questions about our national game." —Ken Burns

"Pete Rose is too rich a character to fit on a bronze plaque. He requires a good, trenchant, poignant
(ah, Petey) book, and this is it." —Roy Blount Jr.

"Better than any previous account. Kennedy leaves no doubt about Rose's greatness as a player or his guilt as a gambler." —Allen Barra, The Boston Globe

"A remarkable book about a fascinating, vexing figure." —Kirkus (starred review)

"Kennedy's ambitious account is an anecdote-rich read." Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
02/15/2014
How do you solve a problem like Pete Rose? Baseball's still-reigning hit king, "Charlie Hustle," never ceases to be a divisive figure. Kennedy (56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports) takes a fresh look at him. While the book contains a fair amount of biographical material, it's more of a consideration of Rose's place in baseball history 25 years after his ban from Major League Baseball (MLB) and from Hall of Fame consideration because he bet on baseball games. The narrative shifts between Rose's past—with anecdotes from family, friends, and former teammates—to his present life working the autograph circuit and filming a reality show with his young fiancée. The big question that has dogged him in the last quarter century—whether or not he has a right to a plaque in Cooperstown—hangs over the story and is newly scrutinized in light of recent steroid scandals. VERDICT While Rose may be handled a little too lightly here in some readers' opinions, this will find an audience among baseball fans.—BR
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-01-12
A reflection on the meaning of legendary baseball player Pete Rose. Rose is Major League Baseball's all-time hits leader, as well as the leader in games played and at-bats. He holds nearly 20 records and was one of the hardest working and most beloved players during his playing days. Yet, due to the fact that he gambled on baseball while he was a manager with his former team, the Cincinnati Reds, he is officially banned from baseball and is not enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. "Even now," writes Sports Illustrated assistant managing editor Kennedy (56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports, 2011, etc.), "25 years into his exile, he remains a figure who stirs uncommon passion, righteousness, indignation." Were this book just a biography of "Charlie Hustle," it would be a fine one. But more importantly, Kennedy explores not only Rose's life and career and his ignominious fall from glory, but also the complexities and conundrums surrounding his ineligibility and his character. Rose's detractors and supporters alike will find evidence here to both confirm and challenge their biases. Kennedy is a graceful writer who interweaves traditional biography with myriad explorations of the puzzle that is Rose: his affinity for gambling and his waywardness with money, his up-and-down relationships with women and his children from his marriages, and his sometimes-tawdry post-baseball life. Kennedy tends toward discursive divergences that usually build a larger picture, though occasionally he is like an interesting man at a party who tells wonderful stories but interrupts himself to tell an even better tale. Nonetheless, most of the time, he weaves magic in these pages. Rose may not deserve as nuanced a biographer as Kennedy, but baseball fans certainly do. A remarkable book about a fascinating, vexing figure.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781618930965
  • Publisher: Time Home Entertainment, Inc
  • Publication date: 3/11/2014
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 24,910
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Kostya Kennedy

Kostya Kennedy is an assistant managing editor at Sports Illustrated and the New York Times bestselling author of 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports, winner of the 2011 Casey Award and runner-up for the 2012 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing. He lives with his wife and children in Westchester County, N.Y. To learn more, visit kostyakennedy.com.

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Interviews & Essays

Barnes & Noble Review Interview with Kostya Kennedy

Twenty-five years have rolled by since Pete Rose was banned from baseball for gambling on the game while serving as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. It's been only ten since Rose, after years of strong denials, finally admitted to it, though he made sure to make cash from his admission, putting it in the pages of his 2004 book, My Prison Without Bars. Rose doesn't excel at contrition. That weakness has helped leave him on the outside looking in when Hall of Fame induction time comes around each year. If there were a soft touch among baseball commissioners who even mildly considered letting Rose back in, the seventy-two-year-old's continued arrogance and obnoxiousness haven't helped him convince anybody that his case should be reconsidered. Rose remains ineligible to be inducted at Cooperstown even as the names of known performance-enhancing drug users such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens appear on the ballot for consideration.

This is a conundrum author Kostya Kennedy touches on in Pete Rose: An American Dilemma. Kennedy, an assistant managing editor at Sports Illustrated who scored a big hit with his first book, 2011's New York Times bestseller 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports, spends most of the captivating Dilemma, though, artfully deconstructing Rose's car crash of a life and the effects its had on others, particularly his brother Dave, a Vietnam vet whose pro baseball hopes were cut short by a motorcycle accident, and his son, Petey, who spent eleven games with the Cincinnati Reds and more than twenty years banging around the minors.

Kennedy's detail-rich book makes clear that Rose isn't winning any Father or Husband of the Year awards and self- reflection for him is only done in a mirror. He's still an unapologetic gambler and makes most of his money signing his name endlessly on pretty much whatever is put in front of him. What isn't likely to be put in front of him is the thing that he most covets: a Hall of Fame plaque. Kennedy recently shared his thoughts via email about Rose's chances of eventually getting into the Hall, the art of storytelling, and how men communicate. —Mark J. Miller

The Barnes & Noble Review: You wrote a chapter about Rose and his forty-four-game hitting streak in 56. What made you want to sink your teeth into this one right here and right now?

Kostya Kennedy: Spending a day with Rose a few years ago at one of his extended autograph sessions in Las Vegas made a real impression. There was something unresolved about him, and something unresolved as well in the way people (customers) interacted with him. This wasn't clean or simple, the way an encounter often is when a fan meets an athlete. Seeing this made me realize that the Rose story, the layers of it, offered a real chance to explore. And that it is alive and charged. Rose himself is different now; his story has taken new turns and there is clearly new context, a changed landscape. Today's ethics around sports, and baseball in particular, have been shaped in part by the Steroid Era. All in all Rose, here in his evensong, provided rich character and rich story with which to work. And in many ways the things that define him — the ideal of the way that he played and the seriousness of his sin as a gambler, are more trenchant now than ever.

BNR: So much of the book centers on the relationships of families, particularly fathers and sons as well as brothers, and the family of pro baseball. The players look out for one another, squabble with one another, and are stuck with one another — for good and for bad — just like siblings. While reporting this book, what stuck out to you most about the way men communicate with and about one another?

KK: Anything here is an absolute generalization of course, but a couple of things come to mind. Men, that is, these men, in this context, tend to joke with one another when they communicate, tend to poke fun at themselves or one another or a situation. The idea, conscious or not, seems to be to keep the interactions unencumbered — often because they are unencumbered but also when the relationship or interaction is in fact weighed down. There's also a strong tendency for men to judge other men on their ability and talent. Men regard a man differently if they feel that he's good at the thing he does. It doesn't have to be a "big" thing or an "important" thing. Being good at a small or simple thing can win huge respect among other men. So, in the case of athletes it does not mean that respect is conferred only on the stars. Not at all. It means that if a man has a particular role or duty or specialized skill and does it well, other men treat him with a level of respect. In the case of this family being good at something — Dave Rose's winning one of Pete's golf tournaments, for example — assumes an outsized level of significance.

BNR: It's nice to see that Petey Rose actually has a relationship with his dad now. I've forever been affected by Pat Jordan's "War of the Roses" article that showed just how absent Pete Rose was during Petey's childhood. Watching Petey with his father and with his son, what struck you about what is being passed down through these generations and what isn't?

KK: What's being passed down is a belief in Pete Rose and a belief in baseball. Pete Jr. abides by a lot of his father's tenets when it comes to baseball; he sees and approaches the game similarly. There is also an openness to both of them, a similarity of style in conversation and interaction. But Pete Jr. is softer than Pete, without the edge. He is more thoughtful and more vulnerable. Recent years (and the grandkids) have helped bring them together, but so much of that comes from Pete Jr., because of his love, his unflinchingly loyal and unconditional love, for his father. That drives this relationship.

BNR: It is fascinating how in the '60s, Rose was, as you write, "a uniting figure in fractious times," a guy both hippies and bankers could love in Cincinnati. Now he is just a completely fractious figure. He's not an easy guy to love, though plenty of folks across the globe are devoted to the ideal of him. What do you make of that dichotomy?

KK: In the 1960s Rose was in his element, and the best parts of him were on display. It was almost impossible not to admire someone who tried as hard as he did, who gave everything to the game and performed with such ebullience and skill. The outside world could appropriate him however it wanted: On one hand he was a company man, loyal and devoted to his job and his team. On the other he was a rebel, racing down to first base after a walk, barreling into opponents, meeting fans on their own level. But that element — meaning, that is, baseball — no longer surrounds Rose. When he was a player, he was all about the game. Yes he wanted to make his money. Yes he sometimes did things for personal statistics, but the game came first and people of various leanings respected that. Now the thing that comes first for Pete, for better and worse, is Pete.

BNR: When reporting on a celeb, there is often a certain remove on the part of the person being profiled, a certain decorum that they (and their PR people) like to project in order to create whatever image they are seeking. Pete is clearly as unfiltered as they come. What was the moment for you when you realized just how unfiltered he was?

KK: [It was] at his signing table at a memorabilia shop in Las Vegas. It was a five-hour afternoon session, and Pete had had the guys at the shop set up a small television beside him so that he could keep an eye on the thoroughbred races at Hollywood Park while he signed. He made a call or two on his phone — he told me it was to a trainer at Hollywood Park — and then he reached into his front pocket and pulled out an enormous ball of cash. He peeled off a few hundred-dollar bills, called over a store employee and asked him to go to a nearby betting window and play a race for him. Despite Rose's history as a gambler and the trouble it had gotten him into, he had no problem doing this in front of me, a working journalist with a notebook in by hand, nor in front of the other people around him in the shop. That and his unrepentant public use of certain, might we say, colorful language, made it clear that his filter is not like most.

BNR: In addition to capturing Rose's saltiness, you also have a great eye for the details — the ads on the fence at Petey Rose's minor-league ballpark, the perfect street names near Rose's house on Indian Hill, all the great ways Rose signs baseballs: "I'm sorry I screwed up the economy." "I'm sorry I broke up the Beatles." When did that skill develop? What were a few of the most curious details you discovered during the course of writing this book?

KK: I'm honestly not sure. I suppose I think about the details that mean the most to me and those are the ones that come to the surface. There were so many memorable details and nuances that came out while reporting and writing this book — one of my favorites that I never quite got in was how Pete, now in his seventies and invariably beneath a fedora, wears these nice dress shirts with "Charlie Hustle" monogrammed into the collar.

BNR: Something you share with Rose is the ability to tell a good anecdote. What do you think are the essential elements of a good story?

KK: Clarity, precision, and rhythm. And the things you leave out are as important as the things you put in.

BNR: How much of the book do you think will be news to Pete? Do you think he knows the things people have done for him? Do you think he knows who turned in what info on him? Does he have an understanding of how painful life could be for Petey Rose?

KK: I'm sure there are events and incidents in the book that would be new to him, though I can't say specifically which ones. In the larger sense, is he aware of the impact of his life on the people close to him — such as his brother Dave and, significantly, his son Pete Jr.? Rose has some awareness; he knows, of course, that Petey has gone through a lot. But it is not something that he appears to be concerned with; it's not a situation that he traces, beyond surface level, to his own behavior. It's not something that would lead him to modify himself to try to change.

BNR: As you write, Rose chose his life of exile, but do you think he sees it that way? The piece of baseball history you bring up in the book that most folks don't know or tend to not remember is that the Hall rules were changed specifically to keep him out. Has he become self-aware in the slightest? Do you think he actually has regrets, if not about the gambling then at least about how he handled himself once his gambling was discovered?

KK: Rose knows he has made mistakes; it's a kind of inescapable conclusion as he looks around at his life now, and he shows that, in glimpses. Whether he sees how imprisoned he is (and has been) by himself, whether he is clear that he chose his exile, well, I doubt that. He's still full of blame, still believes he is owed something. But well inside Pete — and this can emerge when he is engaged in the matter — he knows that his father, his idol, would not be proud of him, and that his father would have wanted there to be a punishment for the things that he did. Pete has lived his post-baseball life ensuring that that punishment would go on.

BNR: The conundrum with the Hall, as you point out, is that known steroid users are now appearing on the ballot yet Pete Rose, the man who has more hits than anyone else in the game, is sitting on the sidelines. Do you think it is safe to say that Rose will get into the Hall, perhaps after he dies or after former commissioner Fay Vincent or current commissioner Bud Selig dies? He seems ripe for a veteran's committee pick down the road if and when his ban is lifted. Of course, as you also point out in the book, Rose is a lot more interesting (and marketable) as a guy who isn't in the Hall.

KK: It's surely possible, even likely, that a veteran's committee would one day put Rose in the Hall of Fame posthumously. You're right that he could be a ripe case. But it might not happen as well. The Rose case is unlike any in baseball history, unique, and it's still unfolding. There's so much cold principle attached to this, mixed right in with warmer emotional perspectives.

BNR: And, finally, because it has to be asked, do you personally think he actually deserves to be in the Hall of Fame?

KK: I'm agnostic on this one.

March 18, 2014

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2014

    The Pete Rose controversy has been on my agenda since the first

    The Pete Rose controversy has been on my agenda since the first drug wave went through the major baseball.

    If
    anyone who feels they are an "expert" in the game would take a moment and think. How is gambling as severe as consuming, purchasing, selling, distrubing drugs to enhance ones performance while destroying over the course of time one's body? All for the sake of a temporary job and a statistic that will eventually be broken?
    Let's be real here everyone. A Rod is just getting banded for one season and look at all that he did and didn't do. How does Pete Rose's situation worse than that? Mr. Kennedy takes a look at the entire Pete Rose the baseball player. His talent is real, not drug enhanced, but personally given and developed. His mistake was self developed and self realized. Mr Kennedy looks behind the scenes to see what makes Pete Rose, Pete Rose. Perhaps if all of the hierarchy of baseball would take time and red this book with an open mind they will see he has long paid his duty to the game and the fans.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Rating:   5 of 5 stars (outstanding) Review: Pete Rose has b

    Rating:  
    5 of 5 stars (outstanding)




    Review:
    Pete Rose has been one of the most polarizing figures in baseball for the last 25 years.  In that time, he signed an agreement that permanently banned him from associating with Major League Baseball, has admitted in a tell-all book that he bet on baseball after denying so for over 15 years, spent time in prison for tax evasion, hawked as much memorabilia and as many autographs as he could and yet still have a lot of support to win reinstatement and enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame.   All of these topics and more are covered in Kostya Kennedy’s outstanding book on Rose.




    This isn’t a typical biography in which the story of the subject is told from birth to present day.  Oh, sure, there are pages about Rose’s youth, his relationship with his father and his climb from the minor leagues to the Cincinnati Reds.  However, the focus of the book is on Rose and the manner in which he handles himself with the ban from baseball.  




    There are several chapters interspersed throughout the book on his presence in Cooperstown, New York during the weekend in 2012 when two players were inducted into the Hall of Fame.  These stories of Rose and his presence in the hamlet selling anything he can while at the same time being banned from enshrinement in the museum less than a mile away on Main Street smacks of part irony, part melancholy.  Kennedy makes the reader feel like he or she is experiencing induction weekend in Cooperstown during these chapters.  When Barry Larkin, one of the players inducted that year, mentions Rose during his acceptance speech, the reader cannot help but feel Rose is there, thanks to the prose of Kennedy.




    Other topics which are captured and vividly described by Kennedy are Rose’s relationship with his oldest son, Pete Jr.  Here another emotional event is illustrated well when Pete Jr. makes his major league debut with the Reds in 1997, but cannot enjoy the moment with his father in the clubhouse because of the ban.  




    However, my favorite chapter in the book was chapter 17, simply titled “Gate Keepers.”  The first paragraph in this chapter is all you need to know in order to understand the title.  It ends with the phrase “Keep Pete Rose out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.”   This was the meeting in 1991 when a special committee met and drafted the rule that became known as the Pete Rose rule – simply that a person on baseball’s ineligible list shall not be eligible to be elected to the Hall of Fame.  Kennedy can barely hide the contempt for this rule, calling it “the greatest disservice to be inflicted upon the Hall of Fame induction process…”  and further stating that nothing else “has so deeply stained the procedure, nor delivered such a blow to the integrity of the process as a whole.”   This shows that not only has Kennedy done his research, but that he has a deep passion for the topic.  His writing is a reflection of that passion. 




    No matter how the reader feels about Rose and whether or not he belongs in the Hall of Fame, this outstanding book should be read by every baseball fan. The stories are rich, the research through, the interviews with other players and Rose’s family members riveting and the entire book is a fine work by Kennedy. 




    Did I skim?
    No.  




    Pace of the book:  
    Excellent.  Kennedy’s writing keeps the reader engrossed and the pages turning, whether the topic is Rose hustling to third base on a hit, the gambling investigation, Pete Jr. or the latest sale of Rose merchandise in Cooperstown. 




    Do I recommend?  
    This is a must read book for any baseball fan.  It doesn’t matter whether you like Rose or not, nor does it matter how the reader feels about whether or not Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame, this book will keep the reader riveted.




    Book Format Read:
    e-book (Nook)

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2014

    If Pete Rose is not in the Hall of Fame, it's not really a Hall

    If Pete Rose is not in the Hall of Fame, it's not really a Hall of Fame then. D.D.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 11, 2014

    Interesting account of a player, who if I was choosing my all ti

    Interesting account of a player, who if I was choosing my all time team, he would certainly be in the top five. 
    So why isn't he in the Hall of Fame. It's because his IQ must be about one fifth of his lifetime batting average. 
    Pete say you are sorry, quit gambling, and you may get in before you are dead.

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  • Posted May 9, 2014

    If you're serious about the Pete Rose dilemma, read this.

    Whether Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame or not has to do with your idea of whether the Hall commemorates achievement or character/achievement. This book sup pies the reader with abundant evidence that if the operative criterion is the latter, Rose should be banned. But then probably so should a number of others who are now safely ensconced in the HOF. The book is uneven in its apparent bias on any given page, but whether you are a baseball fan or just fascinated by the human condition, it is well worth your reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2014

    O

    V v v vvvv

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2014

    Tyler

    Hey babe

    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2014

    To NRM

    What about the phoenix one? When are gonna start that one?

    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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