A few years ago I looked at the bookcase in my living room full of my wife's Vampire paperbacks and decided we needed a shelf dedicated to baseball books. About once a month I was adding another tome to the collection, and two full shelves(plus another bookcase) later Steve Stone's 'Said in Stone' joins the rotation.
There are some great stories in this book. The first hand accounts of dealing with Bill Veeck, Chuck Tanner, and even Ron Santo are the best parts. Take this little excerpt about Doug Rader for example:
In this one game in Houston, there was a popup over the third-base dugout. We had the third base dugout, and everybody on the bench stoop up to see if this popup would stay in play or not, and we were up on the rail to see if the ball would come into the dugout...
Well, a ball was hit over the dugout, and six or seven of the players got up and watched the ball going into the seats. Rader came over to field it, and he knew the ball was going to be in the seats. It was just like an old three stooges segment: Rader just went right down the line through six or seven guys and slapped them right on the side of the face, then ran back laughing to his third base position.
He talks about a time with the 1973 White Sox where manager Chuck Tanner wanted catcher Ed Herrmann to shave his mutton-chop sideburns, so to get his message across, he picked him up by them and suspended him in the air for about 10 seconds telling him how much he admired that look.
There are 10 straight pages in the first baseman chapter dedicated to Dick Allen. Its great. Pages 68-77 are full of good stuff, like how Allen asked Stone to dinner when he first joined the team, only to ditch him at the hotel front desk for a few hours, and then finally called to let him know he was traded to Cleveland (even though he wasn't).
Another 10 pages are devoted to Ron Santo, specifically how Steve Stone harassed him constantly. He called him Mr. Tomato head because of how pissed off Ron would get when Steve was messing with him:
After Ron had his second leg removed, I asked him, "Why don't they make the prosthetics long enough so you can stand 6'5" or 6'6"? Instead of being 6'1" all your life, you could see over the crowd. It would be great, you could be as tall as the players."
Ron wasn't impressed.
"They couldn't make me 6'5" because I wear a size 12 shoe," Ron said.
"Ron," I replied. "You have no feet. You could wear Bozo the Clown's shoes, and it would make no difference!"
Ron had no clue.
I loved the personal stuff in here. Early on he mentions how Bill Veeck signed him after he became the first free agent for the Chicago Cubs in 1976. The rule was a team owned the players rights for five years then, but Veeck said he wouldn't have enough money for that so he would grant Stone his free agency again after the first year. This gesture was rewarded with a second year of service since Bill Veeck was upfront with him and was willing to take a chance on Steve who was coming off an injury shortened season. There is something good enough to warrant a chuckle every 10-20 pages throughout the first half of the book, sometimes unintentionally:
When you look for a good first baseman, you see the Mark Teixeiras, the Derrek Lees, and Paul Konerkos of this world.
So yeah, there are a couple times you can tell Stone Pony works for the White Sox when you read 'Said in Stone'. I love Paully as much as the next guy, buy I recognize that Teixeira is a far superior defender. I'm not so sure Lee belongs in that company anymore either, but that one made me laugh.
The main thing you get with this book is 'a thorough breakdown of each baseball position and how to play it correctly' as the publisher puts it. Its very informative in that regard, and great if you don't know the game all that well and want to learn more about each players responsibility on the field. Unfortunately, some of this stuff is pretty remedial if you are like me and watch about 200+ games a year and have a pretty good handle on what each position player is supposed to be doing.
The Chapters break down like this: Catching, Pitching, First Base, Second Base, Third Base, Shortstop, The Outfield, Managing, The Front Office, The Commissioner, The Future of the Sport.
The first five chapters all have the personal stories I described sprinkled in there among them, but for some reason the anecdotes are absent in the second half of the book. The Hermann story is in Chapter 1 because he was a catcher. The 10 pages about Dick Allen are in the first baseman chapter, and the Santo stuff in the third base chapter because thats where he played. Shortstop and the outfield chapters are missing any funny or interesting stories about guys who played there. The book becomes a how to manual describing the responsibilities of each position exclusively. Fantastic if you are new to the game and just learning its nuances, but a bit tedious for the well informed. Unless you love the wheel play that is. Oh man does he talk a lot about the wheel play in this book. I think every possible variation is discussed in precise detail.
The managing chapter was interesting to me, since that is the first thing we like to attack when the Sox run into outs or waste one of their last three remaining outs bunting a guy over to second base. Well, he cites Earl Weaver as one of the best managers ever a couple times and says Weaver absolutely hated giving up an out with the bunt. Later Stone proclaims we are returning to a small ball era, and seems to value the bunt much more than I do personally. He does talk about being more of a risk taker early, and tighten up as you run out of outs later in the game as a solid way to manage a team, so I'd be curious to here his honest thoughts on the whole sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning strategy that we have seen fail twice this very week.
I was really looking forward to the front office chapter, because in the acknowledgements he thanks sss favorite and White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn as well as general manager Kenny Williams for helping him with that part of this undertaking, but what we get is just a fairly generic overview of what the front office is responsible for. The different organizational strategies on scouting was something I didn't have a whole lot of knowledge about, so I found that somewhat interesting, but we dont get any White Sox specific insight from his sources at all.
If you don't follow the sport as freakishly close as I do, there is plenty of knowledge to be gained by reading this book. Even if you do have 50 books on baseball already and watch every game the Sox play there is something in here for you, too. A lot of the personal stories are about his days with the White Sox, although the Twins and Gardenhire get a little too much love for my liking. In that respect, its a lot like listening to a Sox game when there isnt a lot going on in the field.
Because Steve Stone has been broadcasting games most of my baseball watching life I could actually hear his voice in my head as I was reading his book. Especially because the book is full of phrases and adjectives he uses on tv like "the best pitch in baseball is strike one." He knows his stuff, and the side stories are amusing. I couldn't help but think that he could probably handle the booth himself like Vin Scully does someday.
All in all it was a good read. A fine distraction from the terrible baseball the White Sox have been playing over their last 10 days, but I would have liked a couple Harry Caray stories in there. He was partnered with Harry in the Cubs booth for 14 years. That doesn't merit a single mention? I think he should have put some Harry Caray stories in there, the guy was larger than life. There weren't really any personal stories in the whole second half of the book. Surely he could have mentioned Harry broadcasting from the outfield in that chapter to break up the description of an outfielders responsibilities. The Hawk was noticeably absent, too. There should have been a broadcasting chapter.
EDIT: As RWShow pointed out, the stuff with Harry was probably left out because he already wrote that book. You can find it at amazon here.
I'd recommend buying this book if you love baseball but don't understand every aspect of the game just yet and want to know more. If you are already well versed in that sort of thing, there is still plenty of stuff here for the knowledgeable Sox fan, like how Steve Stone thinks he was traded to the White Sox because he wouldn't bean someone for no reason coming in out of the pen for the San Francisco Giants.