Collision at Home Plate

The Lives of Pete Rose and Bart Giamatti
by James Reston, Jr.
New York, Harper Perennial, 1992

This is a book about a very important subject, one which is still debated among baseball fans -- what exactly did Pete Rose do, and how and why was he banned from baseball? I've been trying to finish the book for several years and have not been able to, because it is so poorly written. I'm sure this is just a shortcoming of mine, for which I apologize. In the future, I will endeavor to persevere.

The author of Collision at Home Plate seems to be the type of person who can't throw anything away. Any stray fact he picked up in his research must be passed on to us, no matter how irrelevant. Johnny Vander Meer was one of Pete Rose's managers in the minors. Instead of just reminding baseball fans that Vander Meer was the guy who threw back-to-back no-hitters, Mr. Reston spends several pages recreating the entire drama of Vandy's second no-hitter in Brooklyn. Nice story, but what's the point? Pete wasn't even born when it happened. In writing about Giamatti, Mr. Reston has to explain to us what al dente spaghetti is, and that Sal Mineo was Puerto Rican, and what George Bush might have done in the Skull and Bones club at Yale. The tangents are maddening.

The book tries to illustrate the completely different worlds which Rose and Giamatti lived in. Perhaps the author lacked confidence in the intelligence of his audience, and didn't realize that some of his readers might understand both a ballplayer and a professor. Perhaps this book should have been written by W.P. Kinsella, who would end it by having Pete become a professor at Yale and Bart become head of the Foxwoods Casino.

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