Cover image for The perfect season : why 1998 was baseball's greatest year
The perfect season : why 1998 was baseball's greatest year
McCarver, Tim.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Villard, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiv, 270 pages ; 21 cm
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GV863.A1 M22 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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GV863.A1 M22 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Nineteen Ninety-Eight was the greatest season in baseball history. While Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa engaged in an epic duel for baseball's most coveted individual record -- Roger Maris's 61 home runs, the New York Yankees set new standards for team excellence and established themselves as one of the greatest clubs in the history of the game.          Tim McCarver broadcast the climax of each of these extraordinary achievements and is uniquely positioned as a former player, a commentator, and writer to put 1998 into its proper perspective. McCarver is baseball's best analyst and, as he showed with Tim McCarver's Baseball for Brain Surgeons and Other Fans, he is as eloquent and witty on the page as he is behind the microphone. In The Perfect Season, McCarver revels in the homer race and the Yankees but shows that the season contained so much more, ensuring it will stand out as the best there has been. Star players performing to the height of their powers broke records set by true legends of baseball, linking today's players with those who exist somewhere between myth and memory: Ruth and Cobb; Gehrig and Mays. The Perfect Season describes the accomplishments of veterans like Juan Gonzalez, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mike Piazza, and Barry Bonds, and of the exceptional young players who hold the future of the game in their hands: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Kerry Wood. Tim McCarver also laments the passing of some friends and colleagues: Richie Ashburn, Harry Caray, and Dan Quisenberry, and celebrates the careers of some stars who retired after the 1998 season.          The Perfect Season is a comprehensive account of 1998 and the perfect souvenir of baseball's greatest year. With it, fans can remember the season in which they got back into the habit of watching the game and reestablished baseball as America's Pastime.  

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

For many fans, the magic of the 1998 baseball season extended no further than the 136 home runs hit by Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa as they went neck and neck down the stretch toward immortality. McCarver, a fine player during his 21-year career and a well-known broadcaster, examines many of the other fascinating occurrences of the 1998 season in a series of 39 brief essays. Most focus on individuals, including Cal Ripken and his decision to end his consecutive-game streak; Joe Torre and his growth as manager of the Yankees; and Dan Quisenberry, the retired relief pitcher who succumbed to brain cancer in his mid-forties. McCarver knows baseball and shows real insight into the mindset of the players. --Wes Lukowsky

Library Journal Review

From the noted sports commentator. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

-McCarver is a baseball insider-a former major league player and now a TV analyst of the game. The Perfect Season recaptures the momentum of 1998 far beyond the memorable home-run race that turned Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa (photographed together on the book jacket) into synonyms for superior baseball. In chronological order, the authors make it clear that the year had more than two icons. Teams, coaches, players, and announcers who brought luster back to America's pastime by approaching the sport with dignity and perseverance are featured in the 39 opinion-packed vignettes. Most of the stories involve record-breaking performances. Each one is notable, but McCarver doesn't laud them all. He comes down hard on bad attitudes, even from guys on a hot streak. However, he writes glowingly of sportsmanship that transcends time, as in the posthumous tributes he pays to Richie Ashburn, Dan Quinsenberry, Harry Caray, and his former teammate, Roger Maris. Without being preachy, the book proves that the Hall of Fame is only one peak in baseball. The stories are brief and can be read in any order. Each one is loaded with stats and play-by-play insights wrapped with as much heart as enthusiasm. Being a baseball aficionado is not required; enjoying reading about personal, hard-won victories is.-Karen Sokol, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



August 29, September 2, and September 19 Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, and Alex Rodriguez Talk about star power. A few years after the advent of the Three Tenors, The Three Shortstops made their first big splash. Just as Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carerras had done much to popularize opera with the masses, the equally dynamic trio of  New York's Derek Jeter, Boston's Nomar Garciaparra and Seattle's Alex Rodriguez would rekindle America's interest in baseball in the post-strike years. They were able to have such impact on a disgruntled public by injecting the sport with an exciting blend of youth, talent, and undeniable class.            The three young superstars are always talked about in the same breath, for obvious reasons.  First of all, they became instant-impact players at early ages and at virtually the same time--Jeter at 22 and Rodriguez at 21 first played extensively in 1996, Garciaparra  at 24 debuted in 1997. Second, they have other similar credentials: Jeter and Garciaparra were Rookies of the Year; Rodriguez was second to Juan Gonzalez in the MVP race in 1996 and Garciaparra and Jeter finished second and third to Gonzalez in 1998; all three have been All-Stars (with Rodriguez becoming the youngest All-Star shortstop in '96).  Also: As is indicated by their many rave quotes about each other's play and personalities, they quickly formed a very public mutual admiration society -- in fact, Jeter and Rodriguez have become the best of friends. Most significant, because there are three of them rather than just one groundbreaker -- as was the case with Cal Ripken, Jr. -- they have had the enormous effect of forever redefining the shortstop position. (Ozzie Smith changed the position also, but only defensively.) It's not just that they are tall for shortstops -- Rodriguez and Jeter are 6'3" and Garciaparra is 6'0" -- but that they are all both excellent fielders and excellent power hitters. They have exhibited the range, grace, and creativeness to rank just below Gold-Glovers Omar Vizquel and Rey Ordonez in the field, so in years past they wouldn't have been required to hit for average, must less power. Yet these three do both. Last year, Jeter, who became the first Yankee shortstop since Phil Rizzuto in 1950 to collect 200 hits, batted .324, Garciaparra .323, and Rodriguez .310. And they had pop in their bats: third-place hitter Rodriguez drove in 124 runs, cleanup hitter Garciaparra had 122 RBIs, and Jeter knocked in 84 from the second spot in the order. Only once in a blue moon is an excellent fielding shortstop associated with the long ball -- again, the 6'4" Cal Ripen, Jr. was an anomaly -- yet consider that last year all three shortstops hit milestone home runs:                                                                On August 29, in an 11-6 victory over the Mariners that resulted in the Yankees clinching a postseason spot the earliest in their history,  Jeter made a leaping catch, scored 4 runs, and had 3 hits, including his 17th homer to set the team record for shortstops. He would increase his new record to 19 homers by season's end.         On September 2, Garciaparra hit a 9th inning grand slam to give the Red Sox a 7-3 win over the Mariners and become only the fifth player to have 30 homers in his first two years in the majors. He would finish the season with 35 homers, five more than his rookie total.         On September 19, Rodriguez belted his 40th homer of the year in Seattle's 5-3 road loss to Anaheim to become the third player, following Jose Canseco and Barry Bonds, and the first infielder to have 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in a season.  This was his biggest achievement of 1998, but on the 22nd, he would smash his 41st homer to break Rico Petrocelli's 1969 record for American League shortstops, and would go on to hit 42 homers and steal 46 bases. Rodriguez and Garciaparra are frightening to pitch to because they have the long arms to give them exceptional plate coverage and the power to drive an outside pitch over the fence the other way.  Rodriguez, in particular, has extraordinary power to right-center, and it boggles the mind when you see him drill the ball 425 feet that way and then remember that he's also a fine-fielding shortstop. Jeter has an inside-out swing that enables him to go the other way on an inside pitch but rarely does he hit any ball over the fence the opposite way. Yet, oddly enough, he jolted one ball out to right at Yankee Stadium early in the season that probably outdistanced anything Rodriguez and Garciaparra hit that way all year. Knowing that I don't concede that a tightly-wrapped ball is the reason for so many homers in the majors, Joe Torre told me that Jeter's mammoth opposite-field drive into the upper deck in right was proof that the little white rat was wrapped tighter than a pro wrestler's corset. I suppose if you were drafting a fantasy-league ball team, Alex Rodriguez would be the shortstop you'd pick first because of his combination of power, speed and  average -- he was the third youngest to win a batting title when he batted .358 in 1996 and everyone expects him to repeat. The complete package, he is projected to become, if he's not already, the best player in baseball. However, right now, according to no less an authority as Jim Kaat, Nomar Garciaparra is baseball's best all-around shortstop. He isn't the base stealer Rodriguez (or Jeter is), but if the young Californian hadn't missed three weeks last year almost all of his stats (his least favorite subject) would have equaled or bettered the young Mariner's extraordinary numbers. Plus he has an edge over Rodriguez in the field. Perhaps their power gives Rodriguez and Garciaparra a slight edge over Jeter with the bat, but I rate him the superior fielder. They come in on the ball as well as Jeter nor do they have his range. For instance, Jeter goes into the hole better than anyone in the league, including the remarkable Vizquel. Watch how he plants his foot and throws with a strong, accurate arm.  Garciaparra (who made a sensational play in the hole in the playoffs) and Rodriguez make this play, too, but not with the consistency of Jeter. Even better is how Jeter goes to his left. If you're in the park on this play, you might hear teammates of the batter yell from the dugout for grounders to stay down because they know shortstops usually need the ball to come up to make a clean play. But Jeter is the rare shortstop who will stay down with the ball, pick it up and throw across his body to make the play. It's an extraordinary talent. I also like his smarts. For instance, last year he seemed keenly aware that his second baseman Chuck Knoblauch was having throwing problems, so Jeter always made sure to get the ball to him on double plays quickly enough for him to have time to make an easy pivot and throw. What Jeter does on the double play balls reveals the surprising maturity about the game that all three of these young shortstops possess. Throughout their brief careers, we've heard their managers, coaches and veteran teammates expound on how they can't believe these guys play and act like they've been in the big leagues for years. I remember years ago when Mets rookie Greg Jeffries was slightly miffed with me for revealing on the air that he was at least two inches shorter than the 5'10" that he was said to be in the media guide because, as the young bachelor told me, "there are a lot of women who watch the game."  (Baseball lover President Nixon told me, "If Jeffries is five feet ten, then Dukakis is six feet tall.")  Jeter, who the joke goes leads the league in proposals from fans, Rodriguez, and Garciaparra don't have such considerations. They let "image" take care of itself and concentrate on playing and winning. They have the correct priorities, know their responsibilities on the field and in the clubhouse. Jeter, whose father is black and mother is white, has proved to be the ideal person to stick dead center into a clubhouse with players of all colors and nationalities. Even at his tender age, players of all ilks have gravitated toward him, which is why he is being groomed to be a future Yankee captain. It would already be a suitable role for Jeter, who has the poise and toughness to handle such a job -- even if former Yankee captain Graig Nettles did wonder, "What does this mean -- that I'll get to call the coin toss? What has really impressed everybody about the Three Shortstops is that despite their tremendous success and extreme popularity that they have exhibited both a love for the game of baseball and a respect for its past players and traditions. When you hear Jeter talk about growing up (in New Jersey and Michigan) and loving the New York Yankees, you believe how thrilled he is to be wearing pinstripes and playing for fans in hallowed Yankee Stadium. You know he believes he has been entrusted to carry on the great tradition of his team and takes that responsibility very seriously.  One can appreciate his knowledge of baseball history when he expresses his gratitude to Jackie Robinson for paving the way for all the black players who have followed him into the majors.  But when he goes on to say that Rachel Robinson "had just as much a role as he did, maybe even bigger," you realize just how real is his passion for the sport and all the people who came before him. And the other two players have the same respect for the game. In fact, Alex Rodriguez grew up watching Mets games and was such a fan of Keith Hernandez that he would wear No. 17 in honor of his idol. I think that his choice of a favorite player indicated an early appreciation for players who were as adept with the glove as they were with the bat. That's the type of player Rodriguez has worked tirelessly to become.   Because they were fans of the game, all three shortstops have a remarkable dedication to it. That's why Rodriguez is famous for taking extra fielding practice. That's why Jeter puts past accomplishments aside and says honestly, "In baseball, until you hit 1,000 and have no errors, you'll always have something to work on." That's why Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe can write, "Many a ballplayer will look you squarely in the eye and tell you how he's not about the stats or the money, that the only thing he cares about is the final outcome, even as insincerity oozes from every pore -- and then there is Nomar Garciaparra, [who] when [he] says he couldn't tell you his stats is telling the gospel truth." Jeter, Rodriguez, and Garciaparra recognize their vital roles in helping baseball reclaim it's spot as America's pastime as it heads into the 20th century. They are the leaders of an exciting crop of young players that includes Kerry Wood, Ben Greive, Vladimir Guerrero, Ugueth Urbina, Todd Helton, J.D. Drew, Scott Rolen, and Andruw Jones.  Of being regarded as saviors, Rodriguez (in Inside Sports) says candidly, "I think being poststrike players has a lot to do with the labels they put on us.  Saying that we're going to save the game -- that's a lot of pressure for a young guy.  I think you just have to go out and be the best person you can be, on and off the field, and let the chips fall where they may." Jeter concurs, "Alex and I have talked about this before, and what we've decided is, what you see is what you get.  We're not going to try and go out and act a certain way -- we're going to act as we've always acted.  If people want to see us that way, I have no problem with that." Garciaparra pretty much sums it up: "I get the strong feeling that there are a lot of players in our generation who accept the responsibility for returning baseball to its rightful spot as the most popular sport.  I watch Jeter and Rodriguez and many others, and I know that they feel the way I do -- that the players before us made this a great game, and that we respect what we have been given." It's clear: Not only has the shortstop position blossomed because of these three young sensations, but under the influence of these first-class baseball citizens, the sport itself is in good hands.     Excerpted from The Perfect Season: Why 1998 Was Baseball's Greatest Year by Tim McCarver, Danny Peary All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. xi
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosap. 3
Richie Ashburnp. 21
Harry Carayp. 28
Kerry Woodp. 36
Mike Piazzap. 44
David Wellsp. 52
Dan Quisenberryp. 59
Juan Gonzalezp. 62
Jose Cansecop. 68
Larry Doby and Don Suttonp. 72
Dennis Martinezp. 78
Albert Bellep. 82
Joe Torrep. 87
Eric Davisp. 97
Barry Bondsp. 102
Paul Molitorp. 107
Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, and Alex Rodriguezp. 112
Jim Abbottp. 120
Randy Johnsonp. 123
Roger Marisp. 129
Manny Ramirezp. 138
Cal Ripken, Jr.p. 142
Roger Clemensp. 149
Jeff Kentp. 155
Jason Kendallp. 158
Craig Biggiop. 161
Tom Gordonp. 165
The New York Yankeesp. 170
Ken Griffey, Jr.p. 183
Curt Schillingp. 191
Rickey Hendersonp. 196
Dennis Eckersleyp. 201
Shane Spencerp. 207
The Wild Cardp. 211
The American League Division Seriesp. 218
The National League Division Seriesp. 226
The American League Championship Seriesp. 235
The National League Championship Seriesp. 246
The World Seriesp. 256