Sunday, September 11, 2016

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

Countless books and articles have been written about the stars and legends of Major League Baseball, but what about the unsung journeymen, the men barely scraping by just for a chance to be called a professional? Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball is the book about them.

Writer John Feinstein covers just about everything there is in minor league: the players, the coaches, the stadiums, the announcers, the umpires, the life on the road, the zany antics teams conduct to drum up business, the craziness, the heartbreak, and the triumph. Whether they are young prospects looking to crack the big leagues for the first time or aging veterans striving for a comeback, these guys toil on the road for a chance to live out their dreams. Sometimes they achieve them. Sometimes they don't.

Feinstein interviews many players involved the minor leagues, including players, coaches, announcers, umpires, and even Jamie Farr, aka Klinger from MASH because of his connection to the Toledo Mud Hens. There are many stories, some happy, some sad, and some just plain fascinating, and the reader appreciates the roller coaster of emotions these players (and others) endure, from personal success and glory, however fleeting, to resentment, bitterness, confusion, and heartbreak.

The book is an easy enough read but occasionally drags. Feinstein repeats many points and sometimes over-explains things. The book loosely follows a minor league season - often jumping back in time to explain someone's background - but it could have used more solid structure. It feels random at times when certain stories and topics brought up.

Still, it's hard not to feel sad for those people whose careers end and joy for the players who get a tap on the shoulder to see the manager because they're being called up. Even if it's only for one game and they're not a future superstar, they achieved their dreams.

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