The book: “In the Time of Bobby Cox
The Atlanta Braves, Their Manager, My Couch, Two Decades, and Me”
The author: Lang Whitaker
The vital stats: Schribner, 240 pages, $24.
The pitch: With the Dodgers emersed in a four-game series against the Atlanta Braves tonight, you’ve no doubt noticed the glaring omission from the visiting dugout: No more Bobby Cox.
Unless you’re completely enthralled with the recent history of the Atlanta Braves, you’ll likely omit this book from your shelf as well.
Whitaker, the executive editor of SLAM magazine and a former SI.com columnist, uses the former Braves skipper as an entry point on how his life has gone to date, and how he deals with things based on what Cox may have taught him.
What Would Bobby Cox Do? We somehow missed on getting that rubber band for our wrist.
Lang estimates he has seen Cox manage more than 1,000 games, even from a TV set in New York. So he knows his muse very well.
“We can’t rely on much in life,” he writes, “but I know Bobby will be there for me day after day, week after week, month after month. … Bobby Cox has to be the single most important person in my sporting life.”
We could think of a few better role models, but, OK, go on …
Knowing that baseball is such a personal experience and opens itself to several memorable memoirs written in that vein — like last year’s “Cardboard Gods,” for example, or the 2005 Thomas Oliphant book, “Praying for Gil Hodges” — we want to give Lang enough space to see what he can do here. But we just don’t feel the connection.
He has what appears to be enough amusing chapters titles to grab our attention — such as “Chapter 3: How Andruw Jones is Like Your Grandmother Dying.”
Is that while he’s playing center field for the Dodgers?
More on Jones, from page 129: “The moment I first saw Andruw in a Braves’ uniform, I gravitated toward him for reasons I didn’t fully understand. I’d never seen him play before and had no idea what he looked like, but I knew he was being heralded as the next Mickey Mantle or Junior Griffey, so he had to be pretty good. I was almost giddily attracted to Andruw. And I will admit part of it was that I have always just liked the way ‘Andruw’ is spelled. It’s just a cool name. The next dog I get, I’m naming it Andruw.”
When he came to L.A. and hit .158 in 75 games to justify a $14.7 million salary, “dog” was the operative adjective.
In the end, Lang hits the realization that even someone he counts on to be there has to leave.
From page 228: “It took me a few days but what I eventually had to accept was that no matter ho wmuch I care, no matter how hard I try, I can’t control the future. What I can affect is how I approach each day.”
Yeah, well, that happens. Try Prozac.
How it goes down in the scorebook: Maybe it’s just as simple as not having as much invested in the Braves, or Cox, or knowing about the stories of Cox’s involvement in domestic violence issues.
Maybe he’s a swell guy. But then again, Lang doesn’t really reel us in as much as we’d hope into caring about this parallel life. As much as the publishers would like you to think (from the marketing), there’s not as great a connection to a Nick Hornby book as you’d think. Not even Nick Esasky.
If you need a backpage review to base your interest on this, here’s one: “Atlanta Braves fans will read Lang Whitaker’s book to the final page.” –Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In the end, what this does is give us reason to be cautious when Dodgers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully decides to leave. Books like this one will be all over the place.