Miami might be the worst place for a baseball manager to mouth off about the virtues of a onetime pitcher named Fidel Castro.
That’s what Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen did this spring, earning himself a five-game suspension and sealing his image as a man who could say anything, and probably will.
In a book less about management than about the way Guillen manages, Morrissey captures the essential Ozzie: one part motivator and one part motor mouth. In an age dominated by spin, Guillen is unscripted, though not unlikely to spin out of control. He loves the limelight, he loves baseball and he loves being a baseball manager because it keeps him in the game and at the center of attention.
Guillen managed the White Sox to a World Series championship and managed to get in trouble in his new lair, Miami, in record time. His management style is the sum of all his experience plus the sum of all ownership fears.
“It takes a certain kind of person to absorb abuse, to want to absorb it, to actually seek it out for the purpose of staging a head-on collision,” Morrissey writes.
Years like 1968 don’t come along very often. It was the year of the Tet offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, rioting outside the Democratic National Convention, unforgettable images of earth from Apollo 8. It was also the last year baseball’s post-season included only two teams.
You don’t see teams like the 1968 Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals very often, either. They were stocked with talent -- Mickey Lolich and Denny McLain, Willie Horton and Al Kaline, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda and Roger Maris -- and they provide the principal characters in Tim Wendel’s “Summer of ’68” (Da Capo, $25), a chronicle of that splendid season in that tumultuous time of tension and transformation.
The two teams glared at each other all season -- everyone knew they were the best -- and in October they collided, producing a masterly World Series. The Tigers prevailed, though it is possible to say that in that autumn classic nobody lost.
This is one of those rare baseball books in which figures as diverse as Bill Russell, Joe Namath and Tom Hayden march through its pages. The year 1968 marks us still, and Tim Wendel has reminded us why.
Now skip ahead a bit and consider Ron Guidry, whose career as pitcher and coach spanned the years 1975 to 2007, and Yogi Berra, whose tenure went from 1946 to 1989. An odd couple, perhaps. An unforgettable one, surely.
In a well-loved ritual, each year since 1999 Berra has flown to Tampa, Florida, to be met at the airport by Guidry, two legends off on a spring training spree.
“It’s like I’m the valet,” Guidry would say. “Actually, I am the valet.”
“Driving Mr. Yogi” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26) is Harvey Araton’s story of two men as intertwined as the letters in the Yankees’ logo, sharing old-timers’ laughs and lore -- and perspective about a game that worships past heroes.
This spring training ritual brought Berra back to baseball and, in his tutelage of the new crop of Yankees, steered young players back to the game’s basics. But as much as this book is about baseball, it’s really about friendship, respect and the enduring lessons of the past.
As he aged, Yogi forgot some things, but mostly they were his shaving cream and Q-Tips, easily replaced. It’s what he remembered -- the baseball lore and wisdom -- that he shared.
The message of this book, like David Halberstam’s 2003 classic “The Teammates,” about Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dominic DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky, is that baseball’s old timers know a good time, and lived in one, too.
(David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this column: David M. Shribman at email@example.com.