Day 13: 30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’09: How odd, the man is out of baseball now

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The book: “Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit”

The author: Matt McCarthy

How to find it: Penguin, 304 pages, $25.95

Where we’d go looking for it: Here’s a link to Barnes & Noble (linked here)

The scoop: The book has taken a somewhat life of its own, in a James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” that has at least been spared from an Oprah Winfrey tongue lashing.

The story of McCarthy’s trip through the Angels’ minor-league system — particular, the rookie-league Provo team in the heart of Mormon country — has already the fish-out-of-water plot for a Yale graduate with a degree in molecular biophysics. Since the Angels though enough of the left-hander to draft him in 2002 (in the 21st round), McCarthy figured, what the heck, give it a shot.

You don’t need an Ivy League brain to figure that this opportunity only comes once in a lifetime. There’ll be plenty of things to fission things together later.

So, he writes the book about his one summer as a pro — about playing with racist, steroids-taking teammates, pitching for a profane, unbalanced manager (Tom Kotchman) and observing obscene behavior and speech that in some ways reinforce the popular image of wild professional ballplayers. That’s enough to raise some eyebrows.

On Feb. 16, Sports Illustrated did a long excerpt of it. During a Feb. 17 Q-and-A with USA Today (linked here), McCarthy, now a first-year resident at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center focusing on cancer patients, says he realizes that what took place was seven years ago, but he took good notes.

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“My senior year in college, it looked like I was going to get drafted, so a lot of my friends and family said, ‘Document what this is like, it’s going to be such an interesting experience for you.’ I think they were saying that because they realized it was going to be a short-lived experience for me. So I went out there keeping this journal. I kept a very detailed account of what was going on. And the season ended, I got cut and my career was over — and it wasn’t until a couple of years passed and I realized what a special experience this had been for me. I watched to see what happened to the guys I played with — all kinds of things. And as the years passed, I started thinking about it, and it was actually when Bobby Jenks recorded the last out in 2005 World Series and he was the hero that I thought this is such an interesting situation.
I wrote a manuscript and handed it to a friend of mine who writes for Sports Illustrated and he loved it, and things started rolling from there.”

At the time, some players who’d caught wind of it were already saying there were things in it that weren’t true. And, for Angel fans, that included players like Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, Erick Aybar and Tony Reagins, who’s now the team’s GM.

On March 2, the New York Times had a piece (linked here) that questioned some of the facts presented in the story, things that didn’t synch up right with dates.

Said McCarthy: “I think that there are a handful of details that I did my best to re-create. For the most part, it’s a detailed account of what was going on. If somebody comes out and says, ‘I would never have said that, therefore it’s not true,’ I can’t do anything about that.”

Kotchman, the newspaper said, wrote a 13-page letter to Penguin publishing alleging inaccuracies and requesting it be examined before publication.

On March 9, McCarthy defended his book again in USA Today (linked here): “It bothers me to have been careless on some of these small details, especially when I was painstaking about most others. … I trusted my notes and my memory on some smaller details, and there were obviously a few instances in which I didn’t have things quite right. That’s my fault, and I’ll take the blame. … But if people are waiting for me to break down and confess that I made everything up, it’s not going to happen.”

On March 13, David Davis also had a piece on the authenticity of the book for the L.A. Times (linked here)

McCarthy’s parenty company publisher, Viking, said it’s likely a revised version of the book will be released, according to USA Today.

How it goes down in the scorebook: Not so much like Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four,” despite the intent. But with a couple of grains of salt, there’s probably some truthiness to it. And that alone provides some kind of insight into the fact that stupid boys will be stupid boys.

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