Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-7-13

7/13/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Top of the 1st
FULL SWING
We admire great baseball writers and have great respect for great sports writers, but when it is all said and done what we love the most are great writers. Great writers appreciate the craft, bring the written word to a new level, make you smell, taste, hear, see, and most importantly, enable you to feel what they are writing about. I just finished FULL SWING: HITS, RUNS AND ERRORS IN A WRITER’S LIFE by Ira Berkow and I can tell you that Berkow is that kind of writer and this memoir is an outstanding example of his ability.

I will admit I was predisposed to like this book. Not because I spent four hours with him on Memorial Day as he interviewed me for an article he wrote about the Brockton Rox and the work of Jim Lucas (http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F30D14FE3B550C778DDDAF0894DE404482) but because for years I have been reading Berkow’s work in articles like the one he wrote earlier this week for the New York Times on 81-year old Wayne Terwilliger and his diamond stud earring (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/11/sports/baseball/11wayne.html?n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%2fPeople%2fB%2fBerkow%2c%20Ira). Berkow, in this book, quotes New Yorker writer EB White, who wrote, “All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular, although many men are born upright.” I like to think I write this review as upright as possible.

Berkow has seemingly met them all from Judge John Sirica of Watergate fame to Ronald Reagan, to Joe Louis, to author Saul Bellow, to jewel thief Bobby Comfort. Berkow’s humble upbringing in the streets of Chicago has enabled him to respect those who achieved success, but never be intimidated by those who flaunt their power. His greatest influence was another gifted writer from the Times, Red Smith, who provided feedback and guidance to the young inexperienced Berkow, simply because Berkow asked in a fan letter.

As I read FULL SWING I felt as if I were experiencing a multi-course meal of exceedingly high quality. The kind that foodies like Mark Bittman, a friend and a brilliant writer for the Times, must frequently experience. As I started reading, I felt as if I were tasting an appetizer. Oh how, I was looking forward to Berkow writing about sports, but he was telling me about his early life on Springfield Avenue on the West Side of Chicago. The more I read, the more I took pleasure in this appetizer and when he moved on to the next course, I was saddened to see it end. I wanted more, but the next part of his life was here and it was just as delicious.

As I continued to read, it was like d