Roy Sievers: “The Sweetest Right Handed Swing” in 1950s Baseball Book Review, by Rick “SHAQ” Goldstein.
NICE BALLPLAYER… AND NICE AUTHOR = VERY NICE BOOK… BUT TOO MANY WHAT IFS!
If you’re tired of reading baseball books… that have too much sex… too much domestic violence… too much drug use… too much steroid use laced with lame excuses… and yearn for the good old days of America… in the 1950’s… when it really was true that our culture revolved around… “MOM-APPLE PIE-AND-BASEBALL”.. then Roy Sievers: “The Sweetest Right Handed Swing” in 1950s Baseball will be a nice respite for you.
Right from the outset of the overall books layout… right after the table of contents… before you even reach the preface… in the area where many books have two-to-three line platitudes from famous people who supposedly read an entire pre-release copy… when in reality I have seen interviews (one very recently) where these individuals have admitted they never even read the books their names were linked to. Well the author and publisher have done a wonderful thing in this book… that to me really sets the stage… for the type of individual (Roy Sievers)… you’re going to read about… and the type of author (Paul Scimonelli)… that is going to lead you by the hand through the wonderful career of a Major League player… you would have been very proud to know… to have your kids look up to… and on top of all that… root for him even if he wasn’t on your favorite team.
What is provided in the area heretofore wasted with hollow ringing boiler plate statements… is instead… enriched with quotes from Roy’s former teammates… opponents… announcers… and writers… and to the person… the most important comments they make are regarding what a wonderful person Sievers was… in addition to being a really good ballplayer and teammate!
Following those wonderful real-life-earned-quotes… is a preface… by the author… who himself is not a baseball writer… who spent his life in the music industry… and is living out a childhood dream by writing a biography of the man that was his idol as a baseball loving child… HOW COOL IS THAT!
When the author tells about taking his allowance each week to buy a five-cent pack of Topps baseball cards each week… and how the lousy player’s cards… could end up in the spokes of your bike… instead of your hallowed collectable piles or scrap books.. the only thing missing to be exactly my childhood… would have been if the author… mentioned how months after putting the cards in their rightful place… if he described always going back to those cards… and inhaling them deeply to get another whiff of that sweet smelling pink bubble gum that came in each pack… if he had said that… I would have thought he spied on my childhood.
The author talks about going back to St. Louis Browns (Roy’s first team… and for you youngsters out there… the St. Louis Browns are the team that eventually became the Baltimore Orioles!) reunion as an adult and old men telling him about seeing Roy hit a homerun… “And for that brief moment when they were speaking with me, they would no longer be William or Robert or Wendell; they would be Billy, Bobby, or Skip. They were kids again.” Isn’t that what loving baseball is all about?!… The reader can already start to feel a bit of baseball magic and nostalgia in the air. And here to me… is the most beautiful part of the book… right here in the preface:
“BASEBALL WAS THAT UNSPOKEN BOND BETWEEN FATHER AND SON. WHAT FATHER REALLY KNEW HOW TO TALK TO A FOURTH-GRADER? BUT FOR THAT DAY AT THE BALL PARK, FOR A FEW HOURS, YOUR DISTANT DISTRACTED FATHER BECAME YOUR “DAD”… YOUR DAD TOOK THE TIME TO PACK YOU AND MAYBE A FRIEND INTO THE CAR AND TRAVEL TO YOUR HOMETOWN STADIUM, ROOT FOR YOUR HERO TO HIT A HOMER, MAYBE KEEP SCORE TOGETHER. IT WAS DURING THAT TIME THAT WE TRANSFERRED OUR HERO WORSHIP FROM PLAYER TO FATHER. BOTH WERE LARGER THAN LIFE.”
If that beautiful baseball sentiment and poetry isn’t worthy of the “Field of Dreams”… nothing is!
The remainder of the book follows Sievers career from the lowly awful Browns to the lowly awful Washington Senators… and then brief stops with the White Sox… Phillies… and Senators once again. You’ll learn of Roy’s all-star appearances (1956, 1957, 1959, 1961)… his long… long… dismal slumps… his multiple and career diminishing injuries. But through it all Roy Sievers… remains a hard working… wonderful human being… admired by all.
More enlightening to me… as a lifelong baseball fan… is not the comments from teammates and competitors ranging from Frank Howard to “The Splendid Splinter” Ted Williams… but what a great owner Bill Veeck was to his players… especially Roy. I always knew how wonderfully crazy… and fan-centric he was to fans… but this book really opens up to the world how simply loving and wonderful he was to his players. Sievers stated he was the greatest owner he ever played for.
Now you’re probably wondering why I gave this book a four-star rating… instead of a five… after all these beautiful things I’ve shared with you. Well here are two reasons why… first just about every time the author had a quote from someone… the type size changed from normal… to absolutely freakin’ miniscule… I mean tiny. It got so bad… that every time I was turning a page… I held my breath… and hoped there wouldn’t be more miniscule printing. And I’m not talking about italicized… or bold printed… or thinly printed… it got so bad I started a web search to see if could rent a Hubble Telescope for a few days.
The second thing was the author listing so many “what-ifs” as far as Sievers having a possible Hall of Fame career. What if he was healthy… what if he was on a winning team… what if the fences were closer in… etc. etc. Well… you could “what- if” every player and every stat in history. What if Ted Williams didn’t miss five-and-a-half-years in the military… what if Mickey Mantle was healthier… what if they had invented Tommy John Surgery when Sandy Koufax was pitching. To me it took away from the overall story… and Roy Sievers was such a good person… a good ballplayer… a good teammate… no “what-ifs” were needed to enhance those facts!
Reviewer: Rick “Shaq” Goldstein