Finishing William Zinsser’s Spring Training (Pages 124-190)

Friday morning we rode over to Mississippi Gulf Coast to eat some po boys and do some shopping. It was evening before we made it back and later still when we got the kids to bed. Then it was Miller time. I finished William Zinsser’s Spring Training over a couple of High Lifes before heading to bed after midnight.


Front flap


Back flap

My opinion of Spring Training didn’t change – it’s light, easy, entertaining reading. Baseball fans will enjoy it. But (unless you’re a Pirates fanatic), it’s hardly essential reading. On the whole, I give it 7 out of 10.

Eyes Off the Ball 

While the book isn’t great, it has its moments. For instance, Zinsser discusses the art of the double play with Pirate coach Tommy Sandt, who tells Zinsser how shortstop Rafael Belliard and second baseman Nelson Norman used to practice the double play in the minor leagues –


Eyes closed? Nelson Norman tries to turn two for the Rangers

[They] “… got so good that they practiced turning double plays without looking. They would close their eyes and do it. On a ground ball to the shortstop, the first guy would catch it and then close his eyes and throw to second, and when the second baseman caught the ball he’d close his eyes and throw to first. After you’ve practiced enough you don’t even need to look at first base – you just wing the ball and it gets over there. But it’s all practice; it’s a rhythm that you get” (p. 136).

Roush Moved “with the regal indifference of an alley cat” (p. 141)

IMG_0688Another passage that I enjoyed concerned Zinsser’s visit with 94-year-old Edd Roush, who in 1988 was the oldest member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Zinsser finds Roush living in a small house with his seventy-something daughter, Mary. She provides the following on her father –

A doctor told her “‘Don’t worry about him, Mary – he’s too ornery to die.’ He has at least six beers every day. Last month at the Governor’s Dinner in St. Petersburg… he sat up on the dais like George Burns, smoking cigars. He’s always been independent-minded. He had sense enough to put his money in stocks, not to build a big house, and always to buy Ford cars” (p. 149).

North to Pittsburgh

Zinsser provides a nice close to the book by attending the opening day at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Zinsser watches the opener with Pirates general manager Syd Thrift. Spring Training has a nice description of both the sellout crowd and the game. Then, Zinsser wraps things up by describing the rest of the 1988 season and the surprising developments afterward.

In 1988, Zinsser believed that the Pirates were a team on the rise. The three consecutive division titles they won from 1990-1992 show that he was prescient.

Final Box Score

Spring Training is a fun, light book for baseball fans. I wouldn’t go the trouble to seek it out, but – if you see a copy – it’s certainly worth reading.

10th Inning


Mitchell told Sports Illustrated about the other side of the dream

For a different, bleaker look at Pirates’ spring training (and minor-league life), see Bobby Mitchell’s excellent Sports Illustrated article “And You Dream About Tomorrow” from March 21, 1983. It’s here – I was in 5th grade when that article came out and I remember that it made me “sadder but wiser” about the way professional baseball worked.


About mobilemojoman

I have been a Mobile resident for about a decade. Working as a college professor keeps me off the streets and pays the bills. I am married to a woman (the MojoWoman) who is a much better person than I am and we have two beautiful girls who keep us both jumping. My interests are varied - food & drink, sports, politics, exercise, books, travel, Mardi Gras, and all of life's rich pageant. In the future, I'd like to learn more about sailing, photography, Cajun/Creole cooking, making beer and wine, and writing.
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2 Responses to Finishing William Zinsser’s Spring Training (Pages 124-190)

  1. Harry Miller says:

    Mr. Zinsser spoke at my college graduation. Most people didn’t know who he was.

    “Change is a tonic,” is one thing I remember he said.

    Another thing I remember is his warning us not to care too much about finding a “stupid job,” which doesn’t fly when I try it on my students at South.

  2. Harry – Zimmer’s a great writer. His baseball book is a short, fun read. I wondered if he used the book as a way to get an expenses-paid trip to spring training. That’s nice work if you can get it.

    You might have some luck convincing students that jobs aren’t everything. I doubt you could sell that to their empty-nest parents.

    Thanks for the comment. See you around 🙂

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