Monday, March 12, 2007

McLain, Again, Misses An Opportunity To Take His Own Bullet

Denny McLain's book is mistitled.

His latest autobiography, I Told You I Wasn't Perfect, is out, and this isn't a book review, for I haven't read it. Nor do I plan on it. I'm getting enough snippets from the newspapers to know where Denny is going with his latest rewriting of history.

It's mistitled because if there was ever a perfectly named memoir for McLain -- at least one that was told in the first person -- it would be I Told You It Wasn't My Fault. Such a named publication could be placed on a bookstore's nonfiction shelf with at least a small measure of credibility.

McLain throws the usual suspects under the bus, like fellow starting pitcher Mickey Lolich ("Lolich was miserable in the middle of the '68 season because I was going so well and he was pitching so badly," McLain writes, according to published reviews. "There's nothing worse than somebody wallowing in his own misery, and Mickey was a miserable guy in 1968."), but he also unleashes some venom toward Al Kaline, albeit in an unfactual manner.

He chides Kaline for missing 40 games in 1968 after jamming his bat into a bat rack in anger, then accuses the media of covering it up by reporting that he broke his arm after being hit by a pitch thrown by the A's' Lew Krausse. The truth, as usual, eludes McLain. Kaline's bat rack incident happened in 1967; the broken arm was factual, and indeed occurred in 1968.

Also in the book, McLain "exposes" the supposed alcohol-drinking excesses of manager Mayo Smith.

"Mayo drank so much that it usually took him three or four innings to sober up and get his head into the game."

Whether Smith drank too much, I don't know. But even if he did, it must not have affected his ability to manage; the Tigers won 103 games in '68, and you don't win that many with a drunk for a skipper.

I've already spent too much time on McLain's book, cowritten by broadcaster Eli Zaret. Because in it, he fails to own up to anything of any real significance. Jerry Green, semi-retired and writing for the Detroit News online every Sunday, offers up a nice preview of the book for those interested, here. Green does give a nod, however, to the poignancy when McLain talks about some of his personal tragedies, including the death of his 26-year-old daughter. So Denny does have feelings; that much I suspected.

It's a conscience that I'm still trying to find.


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