Play Hungry: The Making of a Baseball Player Book Review

In Play Hungry: The Making of a Baseball Player, Pete Rose tells the reader the story of how, through hard work and sheer will, he became one of the unlikeliest stars of the game.

Play Hungry by Pete Rose


I have personally read and wrote book reviews on well over seven-hundred books in the last decade and a half… and as such… I feel qualified to have established a number of CARDINAL/DODGER-RULES-ON-BOOKS-I’VE-READ.

One such rule is that when an author writes multiple autobiographies… and starts once again at the beginning… each autobiography… is… and… literally has to be the same. And so this reviewer’s rule applies in spades here.

Additionally… you would think that Pete Rose after playing twenty-four years in the Big Leagues… and playing in more games (3,562 | Top 1,000 Career Leaders for Games Played)… and having more at bats (14,053 | Top 1,000 Career Leaders for At-Bats) than any player in history… would have a hell of a lot more individual behind the scenes… by game… by at bat… behind closed doors… interesting… and tantalizing… detailed stories to tell. If you did think that… like I thought that… we’d both be wrong.

Before I continue discussing… what I feel was a sub-par performance… let me at least give a semi-positive… for some potential readers. Despite the numerous draw backs… the book (275 short pages… with many blank pages between “part” dividers… and the part dividers having nothing but a short title on it.)… is a very quick read… however…

Though any true baseball fan knows how much Rose hustled… and was a self-made ballplayer… when he tells you that… literally for the thousandth time… you have to say… enough… is enough. I will also state for the record… and I am not exaggerating here… But Pete Rose states he won the Rookie of the Year Award… more times than any person in the history of baseball literature. I want to repeat this… THROUGHOUT THE BOOK HE KEEPS TELLING YOU HE WON THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD! Another thing that is literally the core… the soul… the heart… of almost every page… is the impact on his life… and his undying love and admiration… for his late Father… Big Pete. Though… that too… seems over repeated… I would stop myself… as I was reading the book… and periodically… look myself in life’s mirror… and know that if I was famous enough to write an autobiography… I would almost assuredly place my Dad on the same pedestal.

Being that I’m an old-school-stat-freak… I believe the handling of the most important stat in the book was handled sloppily… and could have easily been managed better. What I’m referring Pete Rose 1986 Donruss Baseball Cardto is Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record [Top 1,000 Career Leaders for Hits]. When Ty Cobb retired… and on his original Hall of Fame plaque… it states he had 4,191 lifetime hits. Sometime decades after his retirement some archival work later changed the total to 4,189. Well in the middle of the book in the picture section… there’s a picture of Rose getting a hit with the caption “The moment I became the Hit King in 1985 topping Ty Cobb with my 4,192nd hit.” Then 130 plus pages later on page 249… it says… “I’d be in striking distance of Ty Cobb’s all-time record of 4,189 career hits.” There is absolutely no explanation to a potential reader on this important discrepancy within the book.

Perhaps the two chapters of the book that I enjoyed the most… was the one entitled “Frank and Vada”.. about how one of the all-time greatest… toughest players to ever lace on a pair of spikes… Pete Rose & Frank Robinson (AP Photo / Paul Shane)Frank Robinson… and smooth as silk Vada Pinson… took the rookie (Hey did Rose win the Rookie of the Year Award??? Just kidding!) Rose under their wings… and taught him what it meant… and how to become a real Major Leaguer.

The other chapter I loved was when Pete went to Viet Nam on a goodwill tour with Joe DiMaggio. I have to admit… that with the hundreds upon hundreds of baseball books I’ve read my entire life… I never read anything complimentary about DiMaggio after his retirement… I was taken aback… when Pete said: “I was so glad they had me in the same group as Joe. We’d hear mortars going off all around us and rockets being fired out of helicopters, and I was so scared I didn’t even know how scared to be. But Joe never flinched. Once I saw Joe’s demeanor, how he treated the situation and how he treated the soldiers, my fear went away and I was actually happy. My philosophy was: if it’s good enough for Joe DiMaggio, it’s good enough for me. He was so polite, so humble, everywhere we went.”

Pete Rose was never known as a homerun hitter… and he certainly doesn’t hit one with this book.

Amazon: Play Hungry: The Making of a Baseball Player

Reviewer: Rick “Shaq” Goldstein

Three Stars

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