Ron Darling is a graduate of Yale University. To those who follow baseball, though, he is best known as a pitcher for the 1986 World Series-winning New York Mets. Darling uses his classroom erudition to look at the game of baseball from the pitcherís mound. What ensues is an intelligent take on the preparation that a pitcher goes through prior to a game and the strategies that he uses to outsmart batters during the game.
Given his long career (he pitched for a couple of other teams besides the Mets in 13-plus seasons), it is understandable that the games he recounts are the singular ones that involved him - his first game against the Philadelphia Phillies in 1983, his World Series start against the Boston Red Sox in 1986, and a few others of note. In these games, he takes the reader through the minutiae of game preparation (surprisingly, Darling preferred to take a short nap in the trainerís room a couple of hours before his start!) and the subtleties of teaming up with his catcher to get major league hitters out.
All but one game description (there are nine game stories to represent the nine innings of a typical game) deals with baseball at the highest professional level. The one that is not is a college game between Yale University and St. Johnís University that featured virtuoso pitching performances by Darling and another major-leaguer-to-be, Frank Viola. Astute readers may be aware of a wonderful essay in The New Yorker by the estimable Roger Angell that chronicles the same game from the stands. Darling describes the game as he saw it, and his description provides a wonderful bookend to Angellís own.
This is a book for the baseball lover, particularly for one who seeks to know more about the game than the box score. Darlingís depiction of the myriad nuances that the pitcher conjures up during a game allows one to enjoy the game at a deeper and more satisfying level.