by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
July 1, 2010
Upon learning that Doug Glanville had written a book revealing the hidden
life of a baseball player and the social mores surrounding the game, the first
question that popped to mind was, "Why hasn't anyone written this before?"
After reading The Game From Where I Stand, it's hard to believe that anyone else
would have made it work so well as Glanville did.
Most baseball books either have a co-author or a ghost writer involved in the
production. The Game From Where I Stand is all Glanville, and that's
evident as his narrative voice leaps off the page. He saunters through
various aspects of being a ballplayer in an easy stream of consciousness,
dropping dry one-liners and making numerous well-turned phrases along the way.
Most baseball books also have an agenda, whether it's the author trying to
portray himself in a better light, cast a shadow onto his rivals, or to simply
create shock value. Glanville's book is not self-serving and unbelievably
candid. Glanville understood what his strengths and weaknesses as a player
and a person were. He shares them all honestly, so that it neither comes
off as arrogant or falsely modest.
In the book's introduction, Glanville reveals his intention for the work: "[T]o
open up the hidden world of baseball players, to reveal the human side of the
game and the human side of the men who play it."
Those of us that have been inside professional clubhouses and have
interviewed players tend to feel as though we have an advanced understanding of
this "hidden world." While you do attain some understanding of what
players go through by chatting with them in their clubhouse, The Game From Where
I Stand shows that there is an awful lot more going on even further behind the
There is a top secret "family room" at every stadium where the players'
relatives hang out. There is a hierarchy there amongst the players' wives,
and you must have approval from the Queen Bee to admit someone new into that
inner circle. Glanville goes into detail about what happens when the
unwritten rules of this family room are not observed and what transpires when a
player brings in a disruptive girlfriend into this sanctuary.
And shockingly, if that girlfriend isn't of the same race as the player, that
will create problems as well - or at least it did ten years ago when Glanville
was playing. The Game From Where I Stand doesn't spend too much time on
racial issues, but the fact that it still played a role at all more than 50
years after Jackie Robinson's debut is astounding.
Don't let this fool you into thinking that the book is all about heavy,
serious topics. Glanville not only is able to inject humor into more
serious issues without demeaning them, but also has several sections of the book
dedicated purely to fun stuff. If you've ever wondered which ballplayer is
the best dressed, best video game player, or had the smallest feet for his size,
Glanville lists all that and more in his "All-Star team" of random tidbits
thrown into the middle of the book. At one point, he tells about how he
tactfully asked Ugueth Urbina about why Urbina showered fully clothed.
Glanville's memorable wins and losses in Kangeroo court are certainly good for a
few laughs. If you've ever wondered why players loved to go to Montreal
despite their atrocity of a ballpark, Glanville delves into that subject with
But The Game From Where I Stand isn't just about life off the field.
Glanville talks about how veterans are usually assigned to face the toughest
pitchers in a veteran/rookie platoon, how some outfielders worry about defensive
positioning while others stand in the same spot for nine innings, who the best
players were at spotting a pitcher who was tipping his pitches, why
well-intentioned advice from a hitting coach can sometimes backfire, and much
There's not much bad to say about the book, but I have to mention a few
things to make this a balanced review. While his metaphors are usually
enlightening, the "ballplayer bubble" that Glanville discusses at one point is a
bit unclear. Glanville's take on the Bartman incident is nothing you've
never heard before, and since Glanville played on that 2003 Cubs team you might
have hoped for something more insightful. Although his stance on
performance-enhancing drugs is mostly refreshing (anti-steroids without sounding
too pouty, self-righteous, or judgmental), it's hard to get behind his opinion
that the leak of some of the 104 "anonymous" positive tests from 2003 is a worse
crime than the players having taken the illegal substances themselves. And
I write that as someone who tends towards being an apologist for baseball
players who used steroids.
Even if you're an ex-ballplayer yourself, you will enjoy Glanville's
beautifully articulated account of life as a ballplayer. If you've never
played baseball professionally, you'll certainly learn some things that will
surprise you. In either case, The Game From Where I Stand will leave you
smiling throughout the read and laughing out loud at various points. I'm
not even sure that you need to be a baseball fan to enjoy the book, but as a
baseball fan, it is most assuredly a must-read.
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.