Doug Glanville: A Book That's Interesting But Superficial

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Doug Glanville wasn't the greatest player to ever play major league baseball. He lasted just nine seasons in the majors, playing for three teams, and getting only 1,100 hits. He was never exactly a household name. But unlike most of the people in the majors, Glanville was a college graduate. And not just any college graduate, he was a graduate of an Ivy League college.

Glanville, for the past several years, has written an online column about baseball for The New York Times. And not long ago, Glanville's book, The Game From Where I Stand, was released to the public. It's not so much a memoir as it a series of experiences and ruminations about baseball and Glanville's part of the game.  

Having played during the heart of the steroid-era, Glanville proclaims his innocence, but he talks about the culture inside baseball that drove many of his teammates and fellow players to take the performance-enhancing drugs.

And he doesn't so much as condemn those who took steroids, but he does come down hard on the culture and baseball management that found players who weren't willing to take the steps that his famous teammate, Sammy Sosa, did to become a great player.

But the book is about more than steroids. Glanville talks about how a player's life changes as he works himself up the baseball ladder from the low minors to the major leagues. He talks about the difficulty of being accepted by the older players. Glanville uses Sosa as an example, talking about how Sosa's attitude toward Glanville changed when he discovered that Glanville was friends with Michael Jordan - Glanville and Jordan met when the two played against each other in the minors during Jordan's NBA exile.

There's some good stuff in the book about how to settle into a new city, a new home, and there's some really good material on what it's like for a player to have to pick up his life and move during the middle of the season because he's been traded. He discusses the code for dealing with girlfriends and wives. He talks about what it's like to realize that he's no longer the best player on the field, and what it's like to realize that a career is over. He talks about the isolated world of the player - he lived across the street from a Phillies teammate, but they only saw each other the ballpark.  

And since Glanville was on the 2003 Cubs, he talks about the infamous game six in the NLCS in which the Cubs went from a sure thing for advancing to the World Series, to losing the game, then losing game seven.

One good thing that Glanville does when discussing the Steve Bartman/Moises Alou incident from that game, and throughout the book as a whole, is that he fails to make excuses. Bartman's play for the ball in the stands didn't cause the Cubs to lose that game, or the series. The Cubs did it to themselves. And to Glanville, every action a player takes during his career is his own act, and the player has to accept responsibility.

The book's a well-written, quick read. And Glanville has some really good things to say. But ultimately, it ends up being kind of superficial. Glanville's an engaging writer, and he tells good stories. But it just seems that he's touching the surface, that there's so much more he could tell, that there's so much he's holding back.

The Game From Where I Stand is an engaging read, but it's ultimately forgettable. Jim Bouton, Sparky Lyle and other players have done much better at exploring the psyche of the baseball player, and with helping us to understand their lives. And Dirk Hayhurst's The Bullpen Gospels, released earlier this year, does a better job with the life of the modern minor league player. Glanville's got the makings of a really good story to tell.  Perhaps his next book will go deeper.

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