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Thursday, Mar 30, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Just Around The Corners

Who wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall in a locker room? Thanks to John Feinstein, readers have been treated to an insider's view for two decades. It started when he wrote "A Season on the Brink," a stunning example of total access reporting. Since then, Feinstein has probed the inner workings of the Baltimore Ravens' coaching staff ("Next Man Up"), taken a peek behind the scenes at the Final Four ("Last Dance") and revealed the agony and ecstasy of aspiring golfers ("Tales From Q School"). His latest work is just as ambitious, as Feinstein follows the 2007 seasons of two major-league pitchers: Mets left-hander Tom Glavine and Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina.
"Living On the Black: Two Pitchers, Two Teams, One Season To Remember" (Little, Brown and Company, $26.99) is a hefty book (526 pages), but an absorbing read. Feinstein takes a pair of opinionated veterans and picks their brains all season about the art of pitching, also relying on the thoughts of teammates, coaches, managers and families to present well-rounded, intimate portraits. Both pitchers "live on the black" - working the corners of the plate, changing speeds, outthinking the hitters. Guile and finesse are their weapons. Glavine is approachable and makes Feinstein's job easy. Mussina, on the other hand, can be testy - but Feinstein, who has dealt with Bob Knight and Brian Billick (and whose portrayal of Billick actually made the reader like the Ravens' coach), earns his trust. What makes this book so engaging is that each pitcher faced adversity during the season, creating unexpected drama that helped give an edge to Feinstein's narrative. Glavine achieved his 300th victory but ended his season on a sour note, getting shelled in the regular-season finale as the Mets completed an eye-opening collapse and missed the playoffs. Mussina struggled, spent time on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring and suffered the indignity of being yanked from the starting rotation late in the season. Feinstein's only glitch is his penchant for referring to Tropicana Field as a Tampa venue, rather than St. Petersburg. Otherwise, this is another excellent story, told by one of sports' best storytellers. BOSTON BUFFET: Die-hard fans of the Red Sox Nation will enjoy veteran sportswriter Nick Cafardo's romp through team trivia and stories in "100 Things Red Sox Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" (Triumph Books, $19.95). All the greats are there: Ted Williams, Yaz, Manny, Carlton Fisk, Tony C. and the Rocket. Jog your memory with the Impossible Dream, the Red Seat and the Jimmy Fund. Learn about the history of the Citgo sign that towers beyond the Green Monster. Revel in Dave Henderson's feats, and cringe at the decisions to use Denny Galehouse and keep Dave Stapleton on the bench. Even those who root against the Sox will enjoy parts of this book (yes, Bill Buckner and Bucky Dent are included). SPEAKING OF SOLIE: For longtime Tampa Bay area pro wrestling fans, an upcoming biography of Gordon Solie will be a must read. Solie's daughter and son-in-law, Pamela and Bob Allyn, are putting the finishing touches on "The Solie Chronicles," and it is not just about wrestling. There also will be plenty of attention given to Solie's auto racing involvement at the old Golden Gate Speedway, where he honed his deadpan announcing technique. In 2005, the Allyns published "Gordon Solie ... Something Left Behind," an eclectic collection of Solie's poetry and personal writings. This biography should be the perfect complement to the Allyns' first effort.