Robert Mayer, Author . Houghton Mifflin $18 (336p) ISBN 978-0-618-32961-8

Mayer plays into the baseball book clichés, from a childhood spent hitting "spaldeens" with broomsticks in the Bronx streets and wolfing down Nathan's hot dogs in Coney Island to his eternal lament at the Brooklyn Dodgers' move to California. What sets his book apart is his writing: he's a natural storyteller, his prose alternately knowing, self-effacing and neurotic. To wean himself from the departed Dodgers, Mayer throws himself behind the hapless Mets in 1962, attending their first game as a beat writer, then continuing his allegiance as he flees crime-ridden New York for New Mexico. When the Colorado Rockies are born in Denver a few decades later—seven hours away, they're the closest team to Mayer's Santa Fe home—he wonders how it will affect his Mets devotion: "If God no longer keeps an apartment in New York, must I?" he wonders. The book frequently has little to do with baseball: Mayer's relationships, his travails as a writer and peculiar obsession with food serve as alternately distracting and engaging subplots. His literary ambitions at times stretch too far (ebullient catcher Gary Carter is described as "a springtime melody of a Met"). Readers may wish Mayer spent more time explaining his decision to quit as manager of a softball team, a dream job for any baseball lover with a mind for strategy, after just a few weeks. But Mayer offers an entertaining look into an obsessive—and contentedly so—baseball mind. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/17/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!