Kings of the Hill: An Irreverent Look at the Men on the Mound, by Nolan Ryan with Mickey Herskowitz, ISBN 0060183306
Four out of five stars
This book is not in the “Ball Four” genre, where the dirty laundry of major league baseball is put down in the clearest of inks. While Ryan does spend some paper in talking about a few pitchers that did a figurative self-immolation in engaging in behavior that was not in the best interests of their major league careers, it is more about their strengths and weaknesses as pitchers.
Yet, in some of those instances, he is a staunch defender of his fellow pitchers, pointing out that while their actions were inappropriate, they should not have had the negative consequences to their careers that they did. For example, he expresses sympathy for Denny McLain, the last man to win 30 games. Ryan points out that McLain was heavily injected with cortisone in his pitching shoulder during his magical 1968 season. Although McLain did some rather stupid things, the reality is that his arm was burned out in those years where he was so heavily used.
Ryan is surprisingly candid about pitchers throwing at batters, although he is focused on doing it as retaliation and protection of teammates rather than as an act of meanness with the purpose of getting batters out. There are also many top-ten lists, such as top ten pitchers with the nastiest sliders, top ten most dubious distinctions a pitcher ever suffered and top ten pitching records that will never be broken. While one should always be careful when saying a record will never be broken, think the Lou Gehrig streak of consecutive games, one of them simply cannot be broken. That is the lowest batting average for a season by Bob Buhl. For it is mathematically impossible to have an average lower than 0.000.
This book is not deep in the weeds of baseball, just a rendition of one pitcher’s long-term experiences with other players, mostly pitchers. Although he sometimes brings in the hitters to give the reader some perspective.