The 1991 World Series was the first that I remember watching as a kid. My elementary school friend was rooting for the Twins, so naturally, I chose the Braves. While I was in awe of the spectacle and being able to watch the players that I knew from all of my trading cards, I knew very little of what was happening in terms of storylines and strategy. So when I was given a chance to review Tim Wendel’s new book “Down to the Last Pitch”, I jumped at the opportunity.
While the format is simple (one chapter for each game), the book is much more than just seven game recaps. In fact, actual play-by-play narrative only takes up a small percentage of the pages. Wendel goes in and out of the games with backstories on players and each of the clubs involved. While “Down to the Last Pitch” is advertised as a book about the 1991 World Series, it’s really about that AND the game of baseball during the late eighties and early nineties.
There were a couple of instances where the author got a little sidetracked, talking about a subject that had little to do with the rest of the story. For example, he went from Otis Nixon’s cocaine problems to Alan Wiggins and his complications with AIDS. He also spent time on Pete Rose and the Dowd Report, 19th century baseball player turned evangelist Billy Sunday, and kids playing multiple sports. Some of these stories certainly weren’t necessary to the telling of the 1991 World Series, but I enjoyed them and had no problem with their inclusion.
Just about every player who had a role in the series has at least a page or two dedicated to them and their story. Some of course, more than others. Kirby Puckett has almost the entire sixth chapter because Game Six was pretty much his, while John Smoltz and Jack Morris dominate Game Seven and its pages. One of my favorite stories was how Lonnie Smith once had a plot to kill John Schuerholz (his GM with the Royals) and how Schuerholz later became Smith’s GM once again in Atlanta.
This book is for anyone who wants to re-live one of the greatest World Series in history. Or if you are younger than thirty, you can live it for the first time. If you just want what happened on the field, buy the DVD or read the play-by-play on Baseball-Reference.com. But if you want much more than that, you’ll enjoy this book.