Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life In the Minor Leagues of Baseball

( 9 )

Overview

From the acclaimed #1 bestselling author . . . a riveting journey through the world of minor-league baseball

“No one grows up playing baseball pretending that they’re pitching or hitting in Triple-A.” —Chris Schwinden, Triple-A pitcher

“If you don’t like it here, do a better job.” —Ron Johnson, Triple-A manager

John Feinstein gave readers an unprecedented view of the PGA Tour in A Good Walk Spoiled. He opened the door to an NCAA basketball locker room in his ...

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Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life In the Minor Leagues of Baseball

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Overview

From the acclaimed #1 bestselling author . . . a riveting journey through the world of minor-league baseball

“No one grows up playing baseball pretending that they’re pitching or hitting in Triple-A.” —Chris Schwinden, Triple-A pitcher

“If you don’t like it here, do a better job.” —Ron Johnson, Triple-A manager

John Feinstein gave readers an unprecedented view of the PGA Tour in A Good Walk Spoiled. He opened the door to an NCAA basketball locker room in his explosive bestseller A Season on the Brink. Now, turning his eye to our national pastime, sports journalist John Feinstein explores the colorful and mysterious world of minor-league baseball—a gateway through which all major-league players pass in their careers . . . hoping never to return.
     Baseball’s minor leagues are a paradox. For some players, the minors are a glorious launching pad toward years of fame and fortune; for others, a crash-landing pad when injury or poor play forces a big leaguer back to a life of obscure ballparks and cramped buses instead of Fenway Park and plush charter planes. Focusing exclusively on the Triple-A level, one step beneath Major League Baseball, Feinstein introduces readers to nine unique men: three pitchers, three position players, two managers, and an umpire. Through their compelling stories, Feinstein pulls back the veil on a league that is chock-full of gifted baseball players, managers, and umpires who are all one moment away from getting called up—or back—to the majors.
     The stories are hard to believe: a first-round draft pick and pitching ace who rocketed to major-league success before finding himself suddenly out of the game, hatching a presumptuous plan to get one more shot at the mound; a home run–hitting former World Series hero who lived the dream, then bounced among six teams before facing the prospects of an unceremonious end to his career; a big-league All-Star who, in the span of five months, went from being completely out of baseball to becoming a star in the ALDS, then signing a $10 million contract; and a well-liked designated hitter who toiled for eighteen seasons in the minors—a record he never wanted to set—before facing his final, highly emotional chance for a call-up to the big leagues.
     From Raleigh to Pawtucket, from Lehigh Valley to Indianapolis and beyond, Where Nobody Knows Your Name gives readers an intimate look at a baseball world not normally seen by the fans. John Feinstein gets to the heart of the human stories in a uniquely compelling way, crafting a masterful book that stands alongside his very best works.

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Editorial Reviews

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In his nonfiction books and teen novels, Washington Post and Sporting News columnist John Feinstein (A Good Walk Spoiled; A Season on the Brink) has again and again proven his ability to offer readers a human view of sports. Baseball's minor leagues, where many strive, but few succeed, seems tailor made for such a personal approach. Where Nobody Knows Your Name focuses on eight occupants of Triple-A, the highest rung before the majors, but also the arena where former stars make their last hurrah. Feinstein's subjects are not all players: Two are managers and one is an umpire; but the plights and promise of all these strivers strikes us as gripping.

Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-12
One of the doyens of the sportswriting world takes on the national pastime with a frenetic road trip to minor league clubhouses and fields where true baseball is played. Longtime sports journalist (Washington Post, Golf Digest, etc.) Feinstein (Foul Trouble, 2013, etc.) chronicles his tours of the farm clubs for a season to uncover real life in the old ballgame. It's where erstwhile pitchers get injured too much and agile outfielders can't bat much better than .200. All the participants—players, coaches, managers, broadcasters, umpires and groundskeepers—want to get sent up from the minors to the major league. Some may have been there before; all dream of being called up once or once more. There, the pay is much better—the lowest paycheck is about five times the highest in the minors—and life is good, as well, with decent hotel stays, better clubhouses and travel by charter planes instead of lengthy bus rides. That's nice, though clearly, the attraction is simply proof of superior ability to play the game. "The most poignant stories in sports are never about the multimillionaires who make their games look easy," writes the author, "but about the guys who love their games, even though they often fail while playing them." For most journeyman athletes, far more likely than making the jump to the big leagues is being sent down or released (baseball for "fired"). Feinstein focuses on the careers of two managers, two outfielders, two pitchers, a designated hitter and an umpire through the 2012 season in the International League, but his roster is crowded with many others who wear many different uniforms during the summer. Ultimately, the narrative loses some focus as the wandering athletes, in loving servitude to the game, come and go and come again in these pages. A kaleidoscopic insiders' story of baseball as played by the Durham Bulls, Buffalo Bisons, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Norfolk Tides and others like them.
Library Journal
04/15/2014
With firsthand interviews and an omniscient presence, Feinstein (Washington Post columnist; Season on the Brink) chronicles a diverse range of personalities experiencing the grind of a minor league season and sharing an ambition to reach the majors. The author believes poignant sporting narratives are not made by recounting the lives of immortal players or legendary events, but rather by portraying "the guys who love their games, even though they often fail while playing them." And it is these unheralded individuals Feinstein depicts. For highly touted prospects, the minors are a temporary initiation to the rigors of professional baseball before reaching the majors. Yet, for most, these leagues are an inescapable reality of brief call-ups and a constant revolving door between organizations. VERDICT Feinstein accomplishes more than revealing an aspect of baseball that many fans overlook or relegate to a subsidiary of the major leagues. He presents relatable characters whose dedication and sacrifice create empathy. While primarily recommended to baseball fans for its survey of a misunderstood aspect of the sport, all readers may gain inspiration from the perseverance of underdogs pursuing a lifelong passion.—Stephen Arougheti, Arizona State Univ., Phoenix
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385535939
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/25/2014
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 14,956
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

John Feinstein is a columnist for The Washington Post, Golf World and Golf Digest. He also hosts a daily radio show on the CBS Sports Radio Network, is a contributor to the Golf Channel, and is an essayist for CBS Sports Television.

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Read an Excerpt

1

Scott Elarton

Starting Over

There is no aspect of baseball that has changed more in recent years than spring training. Or, more specifically, spring training facilities.

Once, the winter homes of most baseball teams were old, dank, and cramped--minor-league facilities that served for six weeks each year as the headquarters for an entire baseball organization. The ballparks were older too, havens for fans who wanted to get close to players, but often creaking from age with outfield fences that looked as if they had been constructed shortly after Abner Doubleday invented the game.

Even in Vero Beach, where in 1947 the Brooklyn Dodgers set up what was then the model for a spring training facility--Holman Stadium and the facilities around it became known as Dodgertown--there was the feeling of being in a time warp. The dugouts never even had roofs. They were just open-air cutouts along the baselines where players either sunbathed or baked--depending on one's point of view--during games.

Through the years, almost all the older facilities have disappeared. Dodgertown sits empty now during the spring, used on occasion by local high school teams while the Dodgers train in a brand-new multimillion-dollar headquarters built for them in Arizona. Because spring training has become a big business, local governments in both Florida and Arizona have lined up to build modern baseball palaces for teams, complete with every possible amenity players could ask for--from massive weight-training areas to sparkling training fields to sun-drenched stadiums that look like miniature versions of the big-league parks the teams play in once the season begins.

There is no better example of the modern spring training facility than Bright House Field, which has been the spring home of the Philadelphia Phillies since 2004, when it was built for $28 million to replace Jack Russell Memorial Stadium, which had been the Phillies winter home since 1955. Jack Russell, as it was known in the Clearwater area, was the classic old spring training spot: the stadium was made of wood, and the paint was peeling in every corner of the old place when the Phillies moved out.

The old spring training clubhouses--in baseball no one talks about locker rooms, they are clubhouses--were cramped and crowded with players practically on top of one another, especially at the start of camp, when between fifty and sixty players might be in a room designed to hold no more than thirty to thirty-five lockers.

Jack Russell was one of those dingy old clubhouses. The Phillies' clubhouse at Bright House Field could not be more different. It is spread out and spacious with room--easily--for fifty lockers. There are several rooms off the main area that are strictly off-limits to anyone but Phillies personnel, meaning players can rest or eat their post-workout or postgame meals in complete privacy without tripping over unwanted media members or anyone else who might have access to the main clubhouse area.

Even though he had been out of baseball for most of four years, Scott Elarton felt completely comfortable walking into the Phillies' clubhouse in February 2012. Many of the players had no idea who he was because professional athletes' memories rarely extend back more than about fifteen minutes. In baseball world 2012, Cal Ripken Jr.--who retired in 2001--was an old-timer who played in a lot of games, Willie Mays is a distant memory, and Babe Ruth is the name of a league for teenage players.

Elarton had won fifty-six games as a major-league pitcher in spite of numerous injuries, including seventeen for a bad Houston Astros team in 2000. But he hadn't been in a...

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 9, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Rating:   5 of 5 stars (outstanding) Review: Triple-A baseba

    Rating:  
    5 of 5 stars (outstanding)




    Review:
    Triple-A baseball, one step below the major leagues, has its own unique culture and lifestyle.  John Feinstein’s book “Where Nobody Knows Your Name” describes this through the eyes and stories of nine men: three position players (Scott Posednik, Nate McClouth, John Lindsey), three pitchers (Scott Elarton, Brett Tomko, Chris Schwinden), two managers (Charlie Montoyo, Ron Johnson) and one umpire (Mark Lollo). Their experience ranges from a young man hoping for that shot at the majors (Schwinden, Lollo) to a former World Series hero trying to get back to the big time (Posednik, who hit a walk-off homer in game 2 of the 2005 World Series while playing for the Chicago White Sox). 




    All nine men featured share what they have liked best and least about Triple-A baseball.  For the managers, they agree that the best moments are telling players that they are being called up.  For a good emotional story, nothing beats that of the time an eleven-year veteran was crying when he was finally promoted during September call-ups. There are humorous stories about the ballparks and travel adventures.  There are human drama stories, especially for some of the older players such as Tomko who wonder at the end of the season if it is time to call it a career or try “one more time.” 




    These types of stories, ones that make famous athletes seem at least a little more like “ordinary people” is a strength of Feinstein’s writing.  He does that in most of his books on any sport, and this is another one of those books that is a winner because of that human element.  Between extensive interviews with each of the men featured (and hundreds of others as well) and the research into each man’s career and achievements, the reader will feel like he or she is sitting in the stands at Lehigh Valley, Norfolk or Durham.  That moment when the player receives his good news of needing to report to Tampa or Boston to join the big club will make the reader cheer. 




    If you are a baseball fan, like human interest stories or just want to see what it is like to be on the cusp of celebrity status, read this book.  Feinstein has made these types of books a joy to read and this is another outstanding book in a long line of them. 




    Did I skim?
    No.  




    Pace of the book:  
    Excellent.  The book took the reader through the 2012 Triple A baseball season through all of the stories chronologically and at a very good pace.  The stories in each were long enough to be meaningful but short enough that the reader could follow them easily.




    Do I recommend?  
    This is a great book for all baseball fans, no matter what level of the game they enjoy. Feinstein brings the experience of the game from the clubhouse to the manager’s office to the field onto these pages that anyone who loves this game will enjoy.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2014

    Feinstein being Feinstein! And anyone reading this will be glad

    Feinstein being Feinstein! And anyone reading this will be glad he is!
    A neat twisted story = you might think its about baseball but ends up being about the people in baseball. A terrific story telling us outsiders what it is like to be on the inside. As is often the case the people in celeb. status are not what we think they are.
    A good baseball read and a great human interest story! Feinstein is brillant at this stuff!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    Dark

    No i didnt it could have been an imposter

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    Jasp

    Ok i believe u ttyl. Vanishes to vt

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2014

    Book Binding was damaged - very disappointed.

    I bought the autographed edition and my book binding was torn - very disappointed - won't do that again!

    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 12, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted April 3, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2014

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    Posted March 28, 2014

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