A GREAT view of the field at AT&T Park in Chattanooga during their pre-season open house!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

BOOK: Everything Happens in Chillicothe by Mike Shannon

As you might guess, I really enjoy reading books about baseball. I read a lot of books in general, and I like talking about them. I probably read 5 times more than I ever review on my 2 blogs. If I don't like a book, I won't write about it at all. If I like a book, I write about it.

I hate to rank books. There are many great books out there. I would hate to say that I like one more than another. It just doesn't seem right.

There are things about certain books I like more than others. I like stories about underdogs. I like baseball stories from the lowest levels of the minors. I enjoy the human element in a story. I hate a book where a player is trying to justify why they cheated, or where they try to explain why what they did was not so bad. I appreciate humans being humble.

I have read a lot of great baseball books this year alone. I love many books. When I am asked what my all time favorite baseball book is, I scratch my head. I might ask the person asking me about what they like in a baseball book. If they are a fan of the 50s era Yankees, they might not appreciate a book about the 86 Mets. I will try to think of a book they will like.

If I had to come up with one book that is just great for any baseball fan, if I was forced to disclose my one personal most favorite baseball book ever, and considering my personal biases when it comes to a good baseball book, I would name Mike Shannon's "Everything Happens in Chillicothe." I might answer that question reluctantly, out of respect for all of the other great underrated books out there, but this is my favorite.

"What is the book about?" one might ask.

The book is about a one eyed umpire.

I know what you are thinking. "A one eyed umpire?!?! That's just wrong! Why would someone write a book like that! That's insensitive!"

Relax pal. This isn't a work of fiction. It is a real book about Max McLeary (he does exist!), a real professional baseball umpire- who happens to have one eye.

Mike Shannon is a thoughtful writer, and he correctly decides that following the Frontier League's most interesting personality around for a season would make a great read. I thank Mike Shannon for this.

You get a lot of book for your money with this one. It is 400 pages, but the book is so good, the size won't matter. Don't be intimidated. You will bury your nose in this one and enjoy every moment.

I won't even attempt to summarize it, but it is a good book about quit a character. In fact, Max is such a fascinating person this would be a good book even if he had two eyes.

Max really seems to enjoy umpiring, going to Frontier League games, high school games, etc. He really makes next to nothing doing it. Also, it seemed to me that many of the players in the league had developed a respect for him.

Not to give anything away, but there is a very touching and sad moment in the book involving Max going to see a AAA game in Indianapolis. Max has not maintained a good relationship with his son, Marty McLeary. His son, oddly has become a AAA pitcher and Max makes the trip to see him pitch. After the game, Max makes an attempt to talk to his son.

Mike Shannon really covers the Frontier League and gives some rich info on the leagues history. There are other great Frontier League stories in this book too (including a fun one about a player wining big at the Casino in Evansville).

If you read this book, you come away feeling like Max is a buddy. You feel his pain at times, and grow to like him.

I emailed Bill Lee (President of the Frontier League) a couple of years back and asked him about Max's current status. He told me that Max was involved with a college league team near Cincinnati. Still involved with baseball.

So, here it is. My favorite baseball book.

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