Book Reviews

What I’m Reading: March 2015

The New york Mess: Mookie Wilson’s story :From Game 6 to trite-psycho-analytical diatribes….

I wanted to like this book….;-)

I really hate the manner in which modern “biographies” and “autobiographies” are thrown together these days. I was actually naive enough to think this book was written by Mookie Wilson and would include a detailed account of his playing days on the Mets. Instead one can tell rather early in this book that “co-author” Erik Sherman has written virtually the entire text and Mookie himself is the real ghost writer.

Not that there aren’t a few things in it that diehard Met fans will enjoy- like the desrciption of that final at bat in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, which begins the book. it’s exciting to visualize that final inning from Mookie’s perspective as he mentally calculates the steps that lead to his unlikely trip to the plate at that late hour….and his last mad dash towards first base as Buckner makes the error of a lifetime. Mookie WIlson was the batter in one of the most exciting World Series games of all time and his style of playing played a great part in how that game ended. His never-say die attitude at bat, his speed and determination as a baserunner…and more importantly to Met fans- his optimistic attitude which created a bond right from the start of his career in New York in 1980.

So chapter 1 starts out great with Mookie’s recount of Game 6…that is 18 pages long. Since this is a “biography” you would think that we’d re-wind now back to Mookie’s life and begin the tale of how he became a professional baseball player…nope…chapter 2 follows with a 20-page account of Mookie’s relationship with Bill Buckner in the years after the famous game. Perhaps this seemed liked an innovative idea when they were throwing the book together but it is written in an almost child like manner that is painful to digest. It goes in to Buckner’s career details, the lack of recognition he got in his career, his problems with some of the fans, some incidents with signing autographs etc…after 20 pages you might think the book has morphed in to a Bill Buckner biography as written by Mookie WIlson…or Erik Sherman.

My suggestion to Mookie and Erik…if/when you ever revise this tombe…..take out this chapter and replace it with a detailed account of MOOKIE’s career with the Mets from 1980 through 1985…which is barely even detailed in the following chapters. When we finally get to Mookie’s life in chapter 3 we do get some details on his childhood in South Carolina and the trail that led to his embrace of baseball and his faith in Christianity. It is pleasant enough but the style of writing makes it all sound ‘lah-dee-da’…like a kids book.

In chapter 4 Mookies professional career is developing as he is signed by the Mets in 1977 and plays several years in the minors. Oddly the title of this chapter seems to imply a connection between Mookie’s career and that of the great Willie Mays and is titled ‘The Say Hey Kid and Me’. it starts with Mookie recounting a meeting with Mays in 1984 at Candlestick Park. Nothing else is mentioned about this 1984 meeting and it is used only to recount Mookie’s 1977 meeting with Mays at an instructional league in St Petersburg, FL. Unfortunately nothing is described about this meeting either and Mookie then jumps to a discussion on how he determined that his grandfather’s real surname was Mays…and not Wilson.
It seems however that Mookie was discouraged from determining who this grandfather was and where he may have hailed from so it goes in to a dead end with Wilson (or Sherman) declaring that “it is kind of a neat thought” to think that Mookie might be related to Willie Mays….kind of.…my advice…take this chapter or at least this anecdote out as well….why invoke Willie Mays and then never even talk about him?

Chapter 5 finally seems to be setting us on the path of a linear narrative of Wilson’s career. Unfortunately, probably due to the using of the “modern sports bio” template” it soon is reduced to a series of trite psychological descriptions of the players and people Mookie was associated with. When the book does focus on “baseball” it falls in to rather bland play-by-play and game-by-game descriptions that we’ve all seen and heard in previous books. As die-hard Met fans will know Mookie Wilson developed rather quickly in to a Met superstar, over the course of the years 1981 through 1984 he was recognized as a tough out, with blazing speed, adequate defense and a hitting style that recalled the great Pirate Manny Sanguillen. With perhaps just a bit more discipline Mookie could have been a career .300 hitter and have a plaque in Cooperstown.

But you will find nary a mention of any of Mookie Wilson’s stats in this book (heck it doesn’t even have an index or bibliography)…which is a problem as when we do finally get to hear from Wilson on his reaction to being railroaded out of his starting position on the Mets (in 1985) to his eventual trading to Toronto (in 1989), his anger is somewhat perplexing as the book failed to illuminate how great a player he was in those early days.

But we do get to hear about Dwight Gooden’s cocaine problem, Gary Carter’s ego problem and Lenny Dykstra’s gambing problem…plus a whole chapter on Billy Buckner’s anger management issues…Mookie was a great player…..a definitve and beloved Met…somehow all of that is lost in this 260 page New York Mess book…;-D