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Pride and Pinstripes
The Yankees, Mets, and Surviving Life's Challenges
By Mel Stottlemyre with John Harper

Reviewer: Marc Maturo,; Lifetime member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) and sports copy editor for The Journal News, White Plains, N.Y.

Throughout the baseball world and the world at-large, the name Mel Stottlemyre is synonymous with class -- and for good reason. Through his words and through his actions -- and throughout John Harper's fifth book -- Stottlemyre exudes class, to use a cliche. But it's a cliche well worth using in this case because even at his most confrontational -- and not often at that -- Stottlemyre seems to be a voice of reason. In only one or two instances does Stottlemyre even begin to exhibit a trace of rancor: in discussing his breakup with the Yankees, the club for which he pitched superbly, and decades later when, as pitching coach for the Yankees, he talks about the internal strife between the staff in New York and the annex in Tampa, Fla., most notably the so-called pitching guru Billy Connors, a favorite of the boss, George Steinbrenner.

By all accounts, Stottlemyre has handled life's up and downs, its most terrible challenges -- such as the death of an 11-year-old son to leukemia and his own battle with multiple myelona -- with the utmost grace and fortitude, and this comes across in this autobiographical work like one of his patented hard sinkers: to the point, with no curves.

Here it is, take it as it is:
On Steinbrenner: He can be the greatest guy in the world, as long as things are going his way.
On Joe Torre: He's the best, personally and professionally.
On former teammate and pitcher Stan Williams: Long before Frank Thomas of the White Sox came along, Stan was the Big Hurt, only his nickname was based on the way he felt many a morning. He was my first roommate on road trips and it was a bit of an eye-opener, that's about all I can say about that. I didn't room with him very long.
On Joe Pepitone, another former teammate: He should have been a truly great player if he dedicated himself to the game a little more.
On today's salaries: Anybody who played in my era can't help but be a little envious.
On his early pitching coach Jim Turner: I'm not sure why Jim messed with me after winning 20 games (1965), but it was a lesson that came in handy as a pitching coach. I became a big believer in the old adage, don't fix it if it ain't broken.

Stottlemyre recounts much more and reveals much more, of course, giving the reader an inside look at his days as a player and a coach, always with a keen eye for detail and always, dare we say it, with class.

Stottlemyre brings up the famous harmonica incident on the Yankees team bus with then-manager Yogi Berra and Phil Linz and the impish Mickey Mantle. Yogi told Linz to put the harmonica away, not exactly in that manner, but when Linz didn't hear Yogi and asked Mickey what Yogi had said, Mickey said: He said, play it louder! It was just one side you learn about Mantle, who could display a temper as bad as anyone's. Stottlemyre rates Mantle alongside Paul O'Neill and Lou Piniella. Mantle, remembers Mel, didn't explode as often as O'Neill or Piniella but when he did, everybody scattered. Mantle was one of the strongest guys Stottlemyre ever saw: "I don't think he ever lifted a weight in his life but his arms and hands were unbelievably powerful, which explains his tape-measure home runs.

Mel's observations flow freely throughout and are interesting, even in hindsight. He talks about how the Yankees scouting department blew their pick in baseball's first draft, selecting a nondescript pitcher Bill Burbach, who went on to win a total of six games in the big leagues. Somehow they overlooked a guy named Johnny Bench, who was picked by Cincinnati. To make matters worse, says Mel, Bench was from Oklahoma, the state with famous ties to the Yankees as the home of Mantle and Bobby Murcer.

Stottlemyre doesn't spare the Mets, either. The Mets loved Gregg Jeffries, and that became a sore point in the clubhouse. He retells how Buddy Harrelson of Miracle Mets fame later managed the club and was out of his element. "I saw him age considerably before my eyes," remembers Mel, also noting that the club was too soon in breaking up the 1986 team.

Stottlemyre also discusses his time with Dallas Green, the only manager he actually clashed with, and GM Joe McIlvaine. Mel sets the record straight: A lot of people thought I left on my own, but I was fired.

But this book is more than a recitation of anecdotes and vignettes and one tale actually tells it all about Stottlemyre. When Mel finally went public with his fight against cancer, he received many encouraging letters from fans who also were stricken with dreaded disease or had family members who were so stricken. Some of those letters included phone numbers. Stottlemyre, despite his own troubles, took the time and made the effort to call as many of those people as he could. "It was kind of funny because people were shocked to hear from me," writes Mel. "But I got a lot of satisfaction knowing I was helping somebody, because I could usually hear it in their voice that it meant a lot to them."

This book, of course, is replete with Mel's pitching observations, and you won't want to miss his brief analyses of former and current Mets and Yankees pitchers. They are worth your time on their own, from Randy Myers to Randy Johnson. In truth, almost every word is worth your time, even though one would have liked to hear firsthand from some of Mel's family members, from his teammates, from his opponents. But that is the only blemish on Pride and Pinstripes. Pick it up. It's an easy, interesting read about one of the classiest players to have worn a uniform.

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