Richardson recounts amazing career but less graceful with faith story

Memoirs tell all kinds of stories, and I’ve always been a little partial to baseball stories.

impact playerBobby Richardson’s Impact Player: Leaving a Lasting Legacy On and Off the Field reads like a cross between conversation with an interesting grandfather and a house call from an overbearing evangelist. Richardson’s point, clearly, is to write about his faith in an effort to convert. I found his proselytizing to be far less appealing than his perspective on the highlights of his career as a second baseman for the Yankees in seven World Series; he remains the only player from a losing team ever to be named World Series MVP.

I’ll confess: I got the e-book for free, and I didn’t know Bobby Richardson was a Yankee until I began reading it. I hate the Yankees. But honestly, that part was OK. Turns out, he was part (a big part) of the Yankees in the late ’50s and early ’60s before George Steinbrenner’s money-mongering ways (and that makes the Yankees stuff more palatable).

Faith is tricky to write about, and I’m not sure Richardson does it well. At one point, Richardson writes, “Bunting is an underrated weapon for a player to possess. Remember, bunting is more about attitude than ability.” I wish Richardson would have bunted when it came to writing about his faith rather than swinging for the fences. His chapters about Mickey Mantle are a great example of what “team” means; Mantle was a legendary womanizer and drinker, Richardson a well-behaved Christian, yet these two very different men were good friends and great team mates. But I could have done without Mantle’s deathbed confessional; it read like Richardson was claiming victory for Mantle’s conversion.

Stats-loving baseball fans, Yankee fans, fans of 1960s baseball, evangelical Christians — all would probably love this book. By the way, the e-book does a great job with the pictures of Richardson highlights at the end; I imagine in the “real” book those photos are in the middle of the book, but they are stunning even in the e-version.

Impact Player makes me want to read Mariano Rivera’s “The Closer,” an autobiography currently in Publisher’s Weekly’s Top 10. Mariano, of course, is also a Yankee, and I’ve read he talks about his faith and Christian values in the book. I wonder if he’s more successful at personalizing his faith rather than Richardson.

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