Niagara Gazette


April 14, 2014

BASE PATHS: Wendel's latest worth a look

Niagara Gazette — During one of these spring postponements or rain delays, you might choose to pass the time with Tim Wendel’s latest, “Down to the Last Pitch.”

It may be a bit extravagant to describe the 1991 World Series between the Twins and Braves as one of the greatest ever, but Wendel, Lockport native, certainly does it in life size.

This is like Wendel’s eighth book — who’s counting? — since his internship at the Courier-Express back in the deadball era. He’s written several on the influence of Latins on the game, the what-if reverie “Castro’s Curveball,” a wartime novel drawn from his experience as a forest-fire fighter and now this 240-page play-by-play of the Series won by (spoiler alert) the Twins on wounded pinch-hitter Gene Larkin’s bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 10th.

Wendel brings such research and detail as to note that the plate umpire mentioned to Larkin that the outfield was playing in. With one out, that doubtless came as no surprise, but still. The plate blue as hitting coach? Hard to figure.

Then there’s Jack Morris’ staying on the mound for the Twins in extra innings, his pitch count well into triple digits on three days’ rest, and Wendel’s discovery that Minnesota manager Tom Kelly cared more about time on the mound than pitches. (Base Paths, believe it or not, does it the same way.)

Seventh game, top of the 10th, scoreless, Morris to Kelly: “I’m not coming out of this game.” Kelly, turning away: “Oh, hell, it’s only a game.”

Earlier, Morris lays out a case for passionate baseball that should be power-pointed at every instructional school. “If you don’t relish that, you’re in the wrong business.”

Wendel manages to work in practically a history of the game between pitches, and Base Paths will stand up for any book that rats out Pete Rose and Jane Fonda in practically the same inning.

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