Books: McCarthy is baseball's odd man out

by Greg in

odd-man-outThe Cape Cod Baseball League attracts top college players from universities everywhere, but very few come from the Ivy League. On my current CCBL roster I see Wareham has a pitcher from Harvard, but you won't find many Ivy Leaguers on Cape teams. From reporting in Jim Collins' narrative account of a season on the Cape we know that players from the big state schools think their brainiac Ivy League teammates are, uh, a little strange. Collins, by the way, is quoted on the book cover.

Former Yale left-handed pitcher Matt McCarthy explores this theme  in his very funny, insightful and somewhat flawed memoir, Odd Man Out, a first-person account of  a year on the mound as a minor league misfit. For college and summer league fans, we learn about the aspirations, plans and inner-workings of college and rookie professional players.

I enjoyed the story so much that I read it in just two sittings. Over the course of nearly 300 pages we follow McCarthy from his entrance to the Yale baseball squad -- one of the worst in the school's long history -- through his first and only complete professional season., which he spent in Provo, Utah.

I thought the locker room stories about Erick Aybar, Quan Cosby, Joe Saunders and Bobby Jenks were money. Coach Tom Kotchman's "rally dildo" and Dice Clay impersonations also were memorable. We also learn about the daily psychology of a rookie trying to get ahead, the economics of living paycheck to paycheck, the use of steroids, slumpbusters, drinking and petty fights.

I mentioned earlier that the story is flawed. Shortly after the book came out this year, news stories began to appear in which former teammates and coach Kotchman took issue with McCarthy's facts. Upon close examination, the flawed facts seem minor and the accusations seem more to me like a campaign to undermine someone who broke the cardinal rule of professional baseball -- never talk outside about what happens inside a team family. Fair enough, but I suspect that much of the story is true and probably more honestly reports on this early stage of pro ball than any book since Ball Four, which created its own stir back in the day.

The Cape League makes a brief appearance on pages 26-27 where McCarthy talks about his close friend and Yale teammate Jon Steitz, who reportedly played for the Orleans Cardinals. McCarthy writes that Steitz threw a no-hitter for the Cardinals. I see no mention of Steitz on the Cardinals website nor do I see his name in the list of Cape alumni provided by the league. If any of you remember Steitz throwing a no-hitter for Orleans I'd love to hear about it.