I want to send a copy of TRADING MANNY to Dustin Richardson, the 26-year old relief pitcher who just became the latest ballplayer to get tagged with a 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s drug agreement.
It was reported by the New York Times in this story that Richardson’s had an astounding cocktail of banned substances in his system that included some five different steroids. Richardson was no big-league star; he knocked around for a couple of years with the Red Sox during the ’09 and ’10 seasons before returning to the minors last year. When his drug test came back at the end of last season, he was found to have been stacking drugs like one of those champion cup-stackers, a dizzying amount of chemicals.
I was especially struck in the story about the comments from his mother, reached at her Kansas home, who said, “Dustin realized it was the biggest mistake of his life.” And she hoped someone would give him another chance.
I want to send him a copy of MANNY — and her, too — not as a nyah-nyah-we-caught-you exercise. There’s plenty of that going around without me adding to the noise. But I truly believe that ballplayers like Richardson have somehow forgotten the spirit that got them into baseball in the first place as kids, and the childlike wonder that still makes kids fall in love with the game and its players. TRADING MANNY is kind of a reminder that it’s okay to play clean and resist the pressures to do something so dangerous to yourself in order to try to get ahead. In baseball or any other walk of life.
I hope for Dustin Richardson’s sake — and the sake of his mom — that he can come back to the game and his life without needing drugs.
You’re gonna win a lot of radio trivia call-in contests with this one. Ask the host/dj/shockjock what the first words to the popular song, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” are. And then nail him with this:
“Katie Casey was base ball mad.
Had the fever and had it bad;
Just to root for the home town crew,
Ev’ry sou Katie blew.
On a Saturday, her young beau
Called to see if she’d like to go,
To see a show but Miss Kate said,
“No, I’ll tell you what you can do.”
“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don’t care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.”
From Jack Noworth, 1908, via baseball-almanac.com
Joe's glove, signed by athletes, coaches and baseball fans on his TRADING MANNY journey
No, not that Manny. I’m referring to my book TRADING MANNY, which will be published in March 2012 and which I’ll be writing about a lot here. The subtitle is a tricky thing, and we’ve been kicking around different versions with the publisher for several months now. It orignally started as “Re-Discovering Baseball with My Son Joe in a Season of Steroids & Scoundrels.”
Well, that was rather a mouthful, and would have taken up the whole cover.
Then I tried, “Teaching Joe That Baseball Matters in a Season of Steroids & Scoundrels.”
Not bad, but anyone browsing in a bookstore wouldn’t have known who Joe was, would have to work a little bit to realize that it’s a baseball book, and wouldn’t grasp the essence of the father/son journey of the book.
So the publisher came back with “A Story of Fathers, Sons and Reclaiming the Game.” Which I didn’t like. It never said baseball, never said Journey, and when I hear the word “reclaiming” I think of engineers reclaiming something out of soil. Too technical, a little harsh.
So I came back with “A Father & Son’s Journey to Take Back Baseball.”
Not bad, it almost flew, but we really didn’t “take back” baseball.
So this week the publisher came back with this:
TRADING MANNY: How a Father and Son Learned to Love Baseball Again.
I think we’ve got a subtitle.