Day 28: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — Denehy’s rage against the baseball machine, in recovery mode

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  • The pitch: If you’ve got yourself a 1967 Topps #581 rookie card of Tom Seaver — which, on the collectors’ market can go beyond $1,000 — hang onto it. The value may have just gone up.
    The guy on the left has a story to tell, too. Perhaps no two players appear on the same card but go opposite directions. Fast.
    “Tom Seaver won 311 games with an ERA of 2.86, pitching himself into the Hall of Fame,” Denehy explains on page 6 of this book. “I, on the other hand, finished my career with a one-and-ten record and a 4.70 ERA.
    “And yet, compared to Tom Seaver, my life was far more entertaining and interesting … With my career over in the mid-twenties, I had to figure out how I would live the rest of my life, and that hasn’t been easy. …”
    It gets more heartbreaking from there. One page over, still in the first chapter:
    1968 Bill Denehy (r)“I was a dreamer. And time after time I figured that if I could come up with some grandiose idea, some magical plan, I could provide my family with all the trappings of success for a person no longer in major league baseball. I felt driven and under tremendous pressure to succeed, in part because my ex-wife’s mother thought I was a loser. I suffered great agony having never been able to prove her wrong.”
    He had anger issues, a “wicked temper,” as he puts it. He was self-destructive. He became addicted to the amphetamines that were prevalent in the ’60s for MLB players. He drank way too much.
    “The root of my anger and my trouble with women began with the nuns in Catholic school,” he confesses. “These sex-starved sadists never should have been allowed around children. I thought they were a menace to society.
    “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned.”
    From there, the tone continues as if Denehy was speaking in front of a group of recovering (fill in the blank).
    To find out just how short “Baseball Bill”‘s career went, look him up again on BaseballReference.com. (He actually sells himself short above in giving his career stats. His ERA was really 4.56, after a year with the New York Mets, three games for Washington playing for Ted Williams after he was actually traded to the Senators for manager Gil Hodges, and, after two years in the minor leagues, a season in Detroit playing for Billy Martin).
    To find out just how a man named William Francis Denehy’s life has gone since then — including a stint as a pitching coach in the Red Sox organization tutoring Roger Clemens and coaching Jeff Bagwell in college — make the journey with him as he battles all kinds of demons and now finds himself blind because of the residual effects of too many cortisone shots to his ailing arm and without an MLB pension.
    A book filled with plenty of regret and bitterness leaves you wondering about how this could have just as easily happened to a guy named Tom Seaver if one bad pitch didn’t derail a promising career.

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