I just received word that my review of Playing with Tigers: A Minor League Chronicle of the Sixties, George Gmelch’s memoirs of his stint in pro baseball, is now published in the Oral History Review. My blurb will be available in the new I was fortunate to nab this book for review while at the Oral History Association meeting in Minneapolis. While not giving too much away (though my review alludes to plenty), the most fun I had while reading the book came from remembering so many assorted ballplayers’ names that hadn’t crossed my mind since I was a kid. I mention this in the review, but details had to be cut for time, space, and relevance.
Two of these were Gar Finnvold and Dana Kiecker, both of whom were pitchers in the Boston Red Sox organization in the early 1990s. One of my early baseball memories was watching Finnvold pitch a 7-0 complete game shutout for the AA New Britain Red Sox. Because of the internet, I can definitively say this was in 1992, and with a little more digging, I could probably find a date, too. Anyway, he finally got the big call-up in 1994, and never notched a Win despite losing four games before being injured in time for the Players’ Strike to end the season. He spent two more years with Pawtucket before either being released or calling it quits. Today, he sells real estate in Florida. As for Kiecker, I don’t have many specific in-game memories. I did, however, own his Fleer ’91 card and I always thought he had a funny, apt name for a pitcher. I vaguely remember watching a Red Sox game sometime in 1992 and hearing the announcers talking about how Kiecker was working some job for UPS that required him to wear a suit. I was confused because I was young and I didn’t know how the world (and pro baseball, as a strange microcosm thereof) worked. Thanks to the internet, I was able to find this retrospective piece the Boston Globe wrote about him in 2004. He’s doing fine.
Unlike many of the players mentioned in Playing with Tigers (including Gmelch himself), Finnvold and Kiecker had their respective moments in the sun. So many young men passed through the professional baseball underworld without making so much as a blip on the organization’s radar. In some cases that Gmelch had to work through in order to write this book, players don’t even have accessible extant records of their careers at all.
What I’m trying to say is: if you grew up watching baseball, then you will love this book. The academic and research-related reasons I enjoyed it are in my review, which you can access via the link here.