Recently a package arrived on my doorstep from Amazon. This was, I assure you, nothing new. But when I ripped open the package, wondering which online shopping overindulgence had produced this particular parcel, I realized it was something special. My copy of It's Where You Played the Game had come in.
A little background: when I was in high school, I worked at a branch of the public library on the north side of town, a small neighborhood library in a converted house. You can read about that if you're interested here; working at the library was an incredibly pleasant job and if it paid a living wage, I might still be doing it. Anyway. Working at this library, I came across books while wandering amongst the stacks that I'm still attached to to this day, and have eventually special-ordered in out-of-print editions from Amazon's extensive network of secondhand bookstores.
It's Where You Played the Game is one of them. I am sure that, as with another of my cherished books from around this same time period, The Cool of the Wild, no one has ever heard of this book.
It was written by two Red Sox fans from Western Massachusetts, Mike and Luke Ryan. The premise: where a child is first assigned to play on his youth baseball team dictates his personality for life. Each of its chapters is devoted to "the mold"--the aspects of the particular position that help shape character, and "the finished product", the adult person irrevocably formed by this childhood experience.
It's a fun book, a funny book, and a fantastic and comprehensive catalog of position-stereotypes, ones that are sometimes fun to apply to your favorite Major Leaguers. It's also fun to try to guess which Major Leaguers played where--the key to the authors' theory is that it's the first year that determines personality, not the eventual playing career. I'm not sure, but it seems to me few Major Leaguers are still playing their Little League positions; I could be wrong.
According to this book, for example, Edgar Renteria was not a shortstop but a beleaguered right fielder. Mark Bellhorn was probably a spacey third baseman. Billy Mueller was almost assuredly a wiry, fiery shortstop. On the other hand, in personality according to the book's theory, Kevin Millar is the quintissential first baseman--a wanna-be forever aware of his own shortcomings. Manny is the ultimate left-fielder: utterly clueless. And Johnny Damon, with an aura of space around him, an emphasis on material wealth, and natural athletic ability, has probably been a center fielder all his life.
Even creepier: Jason Varitek played shortstop in Little League. According to the book, shortstops often become catchers later on because of their admiration for the position and athletic ability. Shorstops are also known to defend first-year "mold" catchers, who are often fat roly-poly kids who are picked on. "Mold" shortstops, as a matter of fact, are the fiercest defenders of their teammates on the field. See also: this.
It goes on and on like that. It's not just a funny, amusing book--it's also a fun game.
I'm also incredibly attached to this book because when my mother saw me reading it back in high school, she said in awe, "You really will read anything." She meant it as a compliment, and even encouraged me to mention it in college essays as an example of my thirst for diverse forms of knowledge. Little did she know...
There's one thing I can't figure out: which position I fall under. I never played youth baseball; that might be part of the problem. But if I had, what would I have been? I still can't decide.
Anyway, I highly recommend this book: I'm putting up a link to it on my new sidebar list. It's out of print and a little bit hard to get, but for me, anyway, it was worth the hassle.