Monday, September 10, 2012

Review of Donnie Baseball: The Definitive Biography of Don Mattingly by Mike Shalin

     I just finished reading Donnie Baseball: The Definitive Biography of Don Mattingly by Mike Shalin on my Nook.
    Now let me start by saying that Don Mattingly is my favorite baseball player of all time. I was lucky enough to see him play, and he's the best player that I have ever watched. In my opinion, he played the game the way it should be played; he wasn't flashy, he never put himself above his team or the game, and he never cheated to win or extend his career.    Having said that, I was very disappointed in this book.
     This book sounded like an audition tape for Mattingly's hiring as the Dodgers' manager last year (his hiring was announced while the author was writing the book). It was basically 137 pages (that's what the counter on my Nook said, anyway. It seemed a little longer) of managers, former players, and broadcasters telling us what a great guy he was. Not that I disagree, but I was expecting a few more anecdotes than there were. There was a very short story about Stump Merrill threatening to bench him back in '87 if he didn't cut his hair, and another really short story about Dallas Green playing peacemaker when George Steinbrenner ripped Mattingly in the press in the offseason in '89. There were a few mentions of Mattingly's first wife, Kim dashed throughout, but no mention of the divorce and what led to it. And somewhere towards the end of the book, it was mentioned in passing that Mattingly remarried last year (one brief sentence). Mike Shalin is a good writer, and he tried to cover a lot in the book, but it didn't seem like the people he interviewed for the book gave him much to work with. I realize that Don Mattingly wasn't a hellraiser like Billy Martin or Mickey Mantle, and that there probably aren't a lot of wild and crazy stories to tell. But I'm sure there must be more stories than there were in this book. And after the fourth or fifth time you read that someone said "he was a great guy, he really knows the game and he taught me a lot", it does get a little repetitive. I do have to admit, there was one part of the book where Shalin talks about the fact that Mattingly played the game before steroid use was rampant. He asked him point blank if he would have used steroids if he could have, and brought up Mike Schmidt's quote on the subject. Mattingly's answer was honest, and a little bit surprising.
     I think the best part of the book was the photo section that was included at the end, but even that section left me wanting. Maybe I'm biased and had some unrealistic expectations about this book because Don Mattingly was one of my heroes growing up, but I was really hoping to enjoy this book because I was hoping to learn a few things about him that I didn't know. But I was left disappointed, because it seemed more like a testimonial than a biography. With the material he had, I'll bet he could have written a great article.

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