Also, don't forget, there are still three days to enter the giveaway drawing for a copy of "Pride of the Yankees." Go to the review of that book (the previous review on this blog) and leave a comment before June 4. The winner will be picked at random from all commenters on June 5.
“Fastball John” by John D’Acquisto and Dave Jordan
Baseball, memoir, Giants, Padres, Angels, Expos
September 13, 2016
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
John D’Acquisto didn’t have a memorable major league baseball career – as a journeyman pitcher, he compiled a 34-51 record with a 4.52 ERA. However, many of his experiences in the game were memorable to him, and he recalls them, along with what happened to him after baseball, in this terrific memoir co-written with Dave Jordan.
D’Acquisto was a first round draft choice of the San Francisco Giants and he took a typical route through the minor leagues to reach San Francisco. He writes about his growing pains, his puppy love feelings for women, especially one he called “Katie” (he kept the real names of women he encountered out of the book), and his chance encounters with major league stars such as Richard “Goose” Gossage.
He keeps up the excellent storytelling through his time in the major leagues, through his surgery, the trades, his release from the California Angels which he attributed to being a player representative during the 1981 players’ strike and even the thrill of being in a pennant race when he pitched for the Montreal Expos during their run to the National League East title, in which they ultimately finished second behind the Philadelphia Phillies.
D’Acquisto brings this same level of great writing when talking about his life after baseball. Whether it was his marital issues (he was married three times), his success and subsequent trouble with a career in finance and the legal issues he faced that earned him prison time for fraud, he spoke with the same candor and humor that he did when talking baseball. I thought that was quite impressive that he could relieve his time in prison or the double crossing done to him by a former Giants teammate without sounding bitter or angry.
Throughout the book, D’Acquisto uses music of the times to also express how he is feeling or what he is doing at the time. One of the most clever connections to music was the chapter when he wrote about his surgery by Dr. Frank Jobe. It is now known as Tommy John surgery, but it wasn’t at that time. D’Acquisto compared his negative feeling about needing surgery to the sad thoughts he had about “a new song from a legendary rock group on the cab radio, a sweet ballad, very trendy for the time period. You think it’s sad that this amazing band, who authored so many hard-charging, fantastic tunes during your high school years, is now throwing this soft slop at the pop charts. You wonder what happened to their fastball.” He was talking about the song “Miracles” by Jefferson Starship, formerly Jefferson Airplane. While if the song reference was left at that it would be great, the final line of the chapter about his surgery when he steps back on the field for the first time afterward makes the chapter my favorite in the book. “If only you believe like I believe.”
Because there are so many musical references like this that fit his story, that makes this book very different than the typical sports memoir. Between the vivid detail, all of clever use of popular music and his frequent sprinkles of humor, this book is certainly one that all baseball fans should read. It would be easy to compare this book to “Ball Four”, but that really isn’t fair because they project entirely different messages. This one is quite upbeat despite all the trouble D’Acquisto encounters. This was a highly entertaining, highly satisfying read.
I wish to thank Instream Books for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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