I received a review copy of Mark Frost’s Game Six: Cincinnati, Boston, and the 1975 World Series: The Triumph of America’s Pastime in October, but just got to it now because my book queue at the time was running around 3-4 months. (Thanks to Ulysses and Christmas, it’s now closer to six.) I started it right after finishing Mrs. Dalloway (more on that book later) and put it down before I got to page 20, because it is garbage – florid prose with huge, unsourced, inaccurate statements on baseball would kill even a great story, which I’m not sure Game Six even offers. The phrase that killed me was in a fanboyish passage on Fred Lynn: “what was beyond dispute the most sensational rookie season of any player in the history of pro baseball…” If Frost wants to argue that Lynn had what was – to that point, I assume – the greatest rookie season in MLB history, I suppose there’s a case to be made, and he could probably weasel out of an argument behind his bizarre choice of “most sensational,” which now joins “most feared” in the pantheon of phrases the innumerate like to use to try to argue their way past the stats they don’t understand. But “beyond dispute” set off alarm bells – in a book with no stats or sources, it’s like saying “check my work” – and it didn’t take long to cook up a dispute:
(OPS+ from Baseball-Reference; wRC+ and wOBA from Fangraphs.)
So Ted Williams – who, by the way, played for one of the two teams in Frost’s book – had 37 points of wOBA+ over Lynn despite being three years younger during his rookie season. But it is “beyond dispute” that Lynn’s season was the “most sensational” ever by a rookie? Okay, sparky. I’ll just put the book down now, because when I read a baseball book, I want it to at least get the baseball stuff right.
That quote wasn’t the only problem I found in the first fifteen pages; Frost is clearly out to lionize his subjects, including the reporters who covered the game, and he prints inner monologues from long-dead people that have to be his own interpretations or creations, which had me questioning every statement that wasn’t backed up by an actual quote from someone involved in or covering the game. If this was a book about a famous soccer match, perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed these inaccuracies or errors and just kept right on moving, but knowing a little about the game and even knowing some of the people mentioned in the book (or at worst being two degrees away), I found it unreadable.