The Head Game: Baseball Seen from the Pitcher's Mound

Roger Kahn, Author, Kahn, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $31 (336p) ISBN 978-0-15-100441-6
Meticulous research about baseball's early days combined with interviews of prominent modern-day hurlers form this lively look at the evolution of pitching. Kahn (The Boys of Summer, etc.) follows the development of such pitches as the curve ball, the slider and the split-finger fastball, and he profiles several successful pitchers, beginning with Hoss Radbourn, who started 68 games in 1883, completed 66 and posted a win-loss record of 49 and 25. Those are amazing numbers compared to pitching standards in 2000 when most pitchers don't start more than 30 games and 20 wins combined with four or five complete games is considered an outstanding season. Kahn devotes the largest section to Christy Mathewson, who pitched for the New York Giants at the turn of the century, won 373 games and threw 80 shutouts. His most impressive feat, however, came early in his career, when, in the 1905 World Series, Mathewson pitched three shutouts in six days. Mathewson is clearly Kahn's favorite pitcher: he ranks him as the best pitcher of all time. Kahn also allots a considerable amount of space to the debate about the effectiveness and morality of the brush-back or knockdown pitch, a particularly relevant topic in light of Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens's beaning of Mets catcher Mike Piazza this summer. Kahn's love and knowledge of baseball is evident throughout this latest work in his baseball oeuvre, and his many fans will be especially pleased by his examination of the head game. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/11/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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