No baseball so far this season thanks to the Corona Virus, so I’m trying to catch up on my baseball reading. One of the books I had on my list was 108 Stitches by Ron Darling. For those of you who don’t know, Darling was a starting pitcher with the New York Mets from 1983-1991 and an integral part of the 1986 team. He’s written a few books before and is now part of the broadcast team for the Mets along with Keith Hernandez and Gary Cohen.
This book stirred up controversy when it was published, which I’ll get to in a bit. It’s a series of anecdotes about many of the players Darling met throughout his career. Unfortunately, the structure is a bit schizophrenic. He seems to begin with an A to Z recollection of all the players his list of teammates produced, but skips over many and later on recalls them in various chapters under different subjects. Sometimes it’s hard to follow. Thankfully, it’s not supposed to be a book with one overall story. It reads more like an anthology. For that reason, I suspect it will only entertain the serious baseball fan and dedicated Mets fans.
Darling doesn’t just talk about his interactions on the playing field. He spends some time talking about living in Manhattan during the season and the restaurants and clubs he visited. When he revealed where he was living his first few seasons in New York, I realized he was about a block away from where a guy I dated at that time lived. I probably ran into him on numerous occasions and never knew it.
The baseball anecdotes are what everyone is looking for, though, and Darling delivers. He talks about players inside and outside of the game. It’s sort of like Jim Bouton’s Ball Four but is a bit edgier. Bouton told some wild stories,, but never anything that felt like he was calling out other players. Darling doesn’t have a problem doing this. He owns up to his own bad behavior as well, owning up to an incident with Mookie Wilson which he is ashamed of. Having met Wilson myself, I can say he’s one of the most affable guys out there and certainly didn’t deserve what Darling said about him.
When Darling is dishing up the baseball gossip, it brings up his credibility. The incident that everyone was talking about is his revelations about Lenny Dykstra’s racial harassment of Boston Red Sox pitcher Oil Can Boyd during the 1986 World Series. Dykstra swears it didn’t happen and has actually sued Darling (I looked to see if it was resolved and I can’t find information). The African-American players who were on the Mets in 1986 said they don’t remember that happening. Oil Can Boyd himself has said he didn’t hear it, but admits when he is warming up for a game he tunes out and is in the “zone” so he probably wouldn’t have heard it. When asked if he believed it happened, he said “yes.” Dykstra doesn’t have a good reputation in or out of the game, so there’s that.
Other players Darling doesn’t present in a favorable light include Mackey Sasser and Frank Howard. He is honest about amphetimine and steroid use he saw in the game during his time there. This is not a book to throw to your kids to read, because it’s not a flattering portrait of what it means to be a ballplayer; or a broadcaster for that matter as he pokes a bit at Bob Murphy. Other people have said the revelation was disrespectful – I think it’s just another baseball story.
The other books I’ve read by Ron Darling I liked better, but this was fun. Likely, it was enhanced by missing my baseball games this year.
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