Cover Image: 108 Stitches

108 Stitches

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108 Stitches is a book from MLB Pitcher Ron Darling, which had some controversy surrounding it with some mentions he made about players on the 1986 Mets team.  Unfortunately he was supposed to make a CT appearance promoting this book that I was hoping to attend, but it ended up getting canceled.  I thought this book contained a lot of fun and interesting stories about his teammates as well as some stories about his time as an announcer for the game which he has been doing not only for the Mets games on SNY but some playoff games on TBS as well.  Most interesting were his stories about Yogi's buttcrack (I never thought I'd ever type that!), Harvey vs Collins in the World Series and Wilmer crying.  The latter two I had watched on TV so it was interesting to get another perspective of these events.  While this book took me nearly a year to read, I blame my grad school load and not Ron's writing style - had I had the time to actually devote to reading this book I am sure I would have finished it much sooner - but the chapters were set up in such a way that it was perfectly find to read one here or there and come back to it much later and still be able to enjoy the full story put forth.

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review, I was not otherwise compensated.
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108 STITCHES by Ron Darling is subtitled "Loose Threads, Ripping Yarns, and the Darndest Characters from My Time in the Game." I hesitate to criticize what I am sure is a well-intentioned collection, especially because the best part of this text is a quote from Mickey Mantle: "You don't realize how easy this game is until you get up in that broadcasting booth." However, Darling does not succeed in offering amusing stories.  He makes an encouraging start with a reference to the "88 inches of waxed red thread holding together two cowhide covers," but then he really struggles to hold together any theme.  For example, he writes about a ball player named Darling (fair enough) and morphs from that man's second marriage to a spouse swapping scandal from the early 1970's. Other than the fact that two players from the Yankees were involved, what does that have to do with baseball? It is also disconcerting that the author chooses to highlight certain names when they first appear;  it seems that the index would accomplish the same task. I love baseball and wish this review was more positive, but appreciate the opportunity to leave honest opinions.
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108 Stitches is basically complied of stories from Ron Darling's days in minors and majors as well as his time as a baseball commentator. The stories focus on his teammates, opponents, coaches, managers and a few of baseball's legendary players. 

So I really enjoyed the book. I know there is some controversy over some of the stories he wrote and why he chose to share them. Honestly this book is no different then any other book a former athlete write about is playing career and the teammates they played with. Yes it might have been wise to rethink a few of the stories he included but in the end he's the author and it's his book . 

With that being said I enjoyed reading about his time as a player. My Dad huge Mets fan and always talks about the '86 Mets. I wasn't born yet when Darling and his teammates won the World Series. So I always enjoy reading books about the players from that team. Also, I liked how he included his thoughts on where the game is headed today. Many things have changed since he was a it was really interesting to read that! 

Overall a really enjoyable read and I recommend it to any Met's fan or just a fan of the game itself. 

"The shift, perhaps, will come and go. What remain will be the characters of the game...the character of the game...the game itself." 

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.*
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Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, is defined by its stories.

None of our American pro sports leagues have the same lengthy history within the culture. Nor do they have the same reverence for that history. Baseball is about narrative, a constant tale-telling that is built around connecting the present to the past.

Ron Darling’s new book “108 Stitches: Loose Thread, Ripping Yarns, and the Darnedest Characters from My Time in the Game” is about telling those stories, all through the lens of his own experience in the game. And he’s got plenty of experiences to talk about – a 13-year major league career where he won 136 games as a starting pitcher and two decades in the broadcast booth.

Darling’s conceit is a simple one: A series of stories about the various figures with whom he crossed paths over the course of nearly four decades in professional baseball. All told, there are 108 tales – just like there are 108 stitches on a baseball.

These stories range all over Darling’s baseball timeline. He tells stories of former teammates and managers, spending much of his time discussing his eight seasons with the New York Mets. Darling talks about his four-year run in Oakland some, but his focus is largely on those Mets teams of the mid-1980s. Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez (who also pops up in Darling’s broadcasting stories) and so many more Mets – some less well-known than others – appear throughout.

They’re all fairly short snippets, snapshots of a life lived in the big leagues. The book is fashioned as a sort of “Six Degrees of Ron Darling” game, where he offers up tales of people who have crossed his path. Some of these interludes are lengthy, where Darling goes deep on his feelings regarding certain players and managers who have been a part of his baseball experience. Others are more ephemeral, as Darling had just a brief interlude with them before the moment passed.

And while those lengthier stories are engaging and fun to read, the briefer tales are almost more interesting in their way. There’s something fascinating about the transient nature of professional baseball; with players and coaches moving from team to team, there’s a steady stream of these figures on the fringe, people who quietly appear and quickly duck out again just as quietly. Hearing Darling’s memories of THOSE guys, the transitory figures … it’s nice to get some deeper cuts.

But of course, “108 Stitches” isn’t just about these other people. It’s also about Ron Darling’s connection to them. Throughout, we’re allowed a glimpse into Darling’s memories – by recalling these players from his past, he can better contextualize the recollection of his own career. We get stories of moments on the mound, yes, but we also get tales from the dugout and the locker room and the broadcast booth. We even spend some time with Darling outside the stadium as he adjusts to being a young kid living in Manhattan.

While he spends plenty of time sharing his thoughts about those he feels helped him along the way, Darling is also unafraid to make his feelings known about someone he didn’t like. Truth presented in an unvarnished form is always going to rub some the wrong way, though to be fair, he doesn’t let himself entirely off the hook.

It’s worth noting, however, that there are a couple of stories in the book that have drawn considerably more attention than the rest. One in particular involving a former teammate has been a bit of a lightning rod, with vehement denials and threats of lawsuits and whatnot. Still, with a few exceptions, the book is largely celebratory in tone, embracing a “for love of the game” attitude that’s hard to resist.

“108 Stitches” is an old-fashioned baseball book from an old-fashioned veteran of the game. Darling is an intelligent, old-school baseball lifer, one who loves the game and loves what it has given him. This book is an entertaining guided stroll through some 40 years of one man’s baseball memories, a fun read for any fan with a fondness for the game’s rich narrative tapestry.
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Like the 108 stitches on a baseball, long-time New York Mets pitcher, and now broadcaster, Ron Darling ties together his many years in the game and offers 108 interesting stories/anecdotes about the players he played with and against over the years.

Darling, RJ to his friends, attended Yale and his books normally are a cut above other baseball memoirs. He's interesting and speaks and writes well. How many other ballplayers' memoirs include comparisons to world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma? This is not the typical ballplayer memoir.

Most years, I typically read about 10 to 15 baseball books each year and I'd call this one of the better baseball books I've read in recent years. I'd recommend it to baseball fans, even those who, like me, who aren't Mets fans.
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his book is not your typical sports memoir. It is a book of interesting stories about people the author, a former player for the New York Mets, the Montreal Expos, and the Oakland Athletics and a current broadcaster for the New York Mets has met and worked with and/or competed against over the course of his baseball career. If you are looking for an expose of all that is wrong with baseball and those involved in it, this is not it. If you are looking for a loving tribute, that only touches on everything that is good or pure about the game, this is not it either. It is merely one person's view of a life in baseball using anecdotes to illustrate what it was like to know, work with and/or compete against some of the most famous, infamous, and lesser known people in baseball history.  If you were a fan of the New York Mets and/or Oakland Athletics during the time of Mr. Darling's tenure with either team, the book will be like an insider guided nostalgia trip for you. However, even if you were not a fan of either team during that time or even if you were not even alive during that time, if you love the sport of baseball and you are interesting in its history and learning more about some of the great characters on all sides of the game from someone who knew them, you will enjoy this fascinating book.
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I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  

From the publisher, as I do not regurgitate the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it.

This is New York Times bestselling author and Emmy-nominated broadcaster Ron Darling's 108 baseball anecdotes that connect America’s game to the men who played it.

In 108 Stitches, Ron Darling offers his own take on the "six degrees of separation" game and knits together a collection of wild, wise, and wistful stories reflecting the full arc of a life in and around our national pastime.

Darling has played with or reported on just about everybody who has put on a uniform since 1983, and they in turn have played with or reported on just about everybody who put on a uniform in a previous generation. Through relationships with baseball legends on and off the field, like Yale coach Smoky Joe Wood, Willie Mays, Bart Giamatti, Tom Seaver and Mickey Mantle, Darling's reminiscences reach all the way back to Babe Ruth and other turn-of-the-century greats.

Like the 108 stitches on a baseball, Darling's experiences are interwoven with every athlete who has ever played, every coach or manager who ever sat in a dugout, and with every fan who ever played hooky from work or school to sit in the bleachers for a day game.

Darling's anecdotes come together to tell the story of his time in the game, and the story of the game itself.

The only great thing about chicken pox at age 52 (and being a super- speed reader) is you can easily read and review four+++ books a day..and this was an excellent book to have spent an hour or two (or many more on your side) with.

This may get me murdered for treason (I am 🍁🍁Canadian🍁🍁 to the core), but I hate hockey and I love baseball - and I adore baseball movies. I had hoped that this would be a book full of quick anecdotes and facts (almost like a "book of lists" kind of deal) but this was more of a collection of essays devoted to legendary kind of stories about legendary players, coaches, etc.  I wanted more beer and hotdogs in the bleachers and got more steak and scotch in the owner's box. 

If you remember the old days and like wordy-reads, this is the book for you - if you are a trivia freak like me, this is not necessarily your kind of book. As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use on Instagram and Twitter) so let's give it  ⚾🧢🌭
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If you like Ron Darling...this is probably the book for you. He tells about all the players he has played with, the managers he played under. All have a little story about those players...maybe a prank or where they lived or what they were really like off the field. It is easy to read, in that it is a cohesive kind of memoir.
   Not really a pure baseball book. Reads exactly like what it is: A retired player reflecting on the past.
I did not hate this book, but not going on my top ten baseball books to read list either.
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Ron Darling can be described as a baseball lifer, first as a player as he enjoyed a moderate amount of success as a pitcher with the New York Mets, Montreal Expos and Oakland Athletics. He is now a successful broadcaster for the Mets and also for TBS on their national baseball telecasts.  Having spent decades in the game, he would naturally have many stories to tell and he does so in this, his third book.

At the beginning, Darling tells the reader that baseball has its own “six degrees of separation” and that is how everything in the game is somehow connected, but makes a better analogy by describing the makeup of a baseball and its 108 stitches.  Pull one story out of his memory and he connects it with another, which is related to yet a third one and soon one will see how everything in the game is connected, just like the 108 red stitches keep a baseball together.

Darling also drops names of the people in his story in (almost) alphabetical order and these people, mostly players who were teammates at one time or other broadcasters, range from the obscure to the superstar.  Most of the stories are about the Mets, since that is the team with which he has spent the most amount of time, but there are also good stories about his time with Oakland as well.  He was only on the Expos for about two weeks, so he doesn’t recall much about them, but is able to portray that transitional period about as well as one can expect.

These anecdotes can range from hilarious to poignant.  There is one chapter on crying in baseball which was probably the best, as those were the touching stories and a reader will almost tear up when reading some of those.  The best of these for me was the one on a young player in a late season game.  The young player had struck out in the second inning, killing a Mets rally.  The Mets got things going again in the third, the young man’s turn came up again – and the manager pinch hits for him.  This left that player demoralized and was sobbing on the bench – and his teammates felt sympathy instead of the usual indifference.  I left the names out so as not to spoil the story, but this is an example of the prose that Darling produces throughout the book.

The book ends with Darling’s take on the modern game, one which he views from the broadcast booth and while he is critical of many of the strategies of today’s analysis-driven game, he doesn’t come across as a grumpy old man as many former players can do.  Instead, he offers illustrations of what makes today’s baseball different from when he played.  It is a fitting conclusion to a book that starts slow, but picks up steam and ends up being a fast, fun read for hard core baseball fans.  Readers who are more casual fans may not pick up on all the names as easily, but should still be able to enjoy reading about some of Darling’s favorite people and stories. 

I wish to thank St. Martin’s Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I love reading baseball books but don't know too much about actual players in MLB. I enjoyed the varied and insightful anecdotes Ron provides in this book as he recounts his life in the minors, majors and beyond. I found the format a little fragmented. Just as I was captured by one anecdote, Ron quickly moved on to another - perhaps the trade-off for his covering so many names in this one book. 

My favourite parts were his reflections towards the end, where he was able to gather momentum and link the stories together in a more free-flowing manner. Given my limited knowledge of the MLB players mentioned, I still loved this book for Ron's ability to take me behind the scenes of the baseball world. I also appreciated his candour about his own actions in the past and his own thoughts towards others - it's not often someone is so forthcoming in a memoir in this way. For someone familiar with all of the players mentioned, I imagine it would be even more rewarding.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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What's the next best thing to having dinner with Ron Darling?

Reading "108 Stitches" by Ron Darling.

This is one of those books that's thankfully easy to describe, and easy to read. In a sentence, the former New York Mets pitcher and current broadcaster tells stories about his life in baseball.

This is book number three for Darling, who seems to take some delight in coming up with new twists to describe his life in the game. Last time, for example, he wrote "Game 7, 1986," as he told what it is like to come up short on a personal level in the biggest game of his life - the last game of the World Series - but see his team win the championship in spite of his efforts, and not because of them.

This is even simpler. Most of the new book is devoted to anecdotes about Darling's baseball connections. He started with a list of his teammates over the years, and he played long enough to have a bunch of them, and started jotting down notes. He works his way from A to Z during the course of this book, with some side trips to other personalities.

In other words, it flows like a normal conversation between two people - except only one person is doing the talking. And, let's face it - if you were having dinner with Ron Darling, wouldn't you want to shut up and let him talk?

There are all sorts of stories here, as he goes from the minors to the majors, and from one team to another. Some of them are funny, of course. But others are surprising. Take for example the tale of how Don Zimmer called him over to talk one time when Darling was in the Rangers' organization (pre-Mets), and told him to get a new baseball glove. Why? Zimmer could tell from the dugout when Darling was pitching that the hurler was about to throw a breaking ball through an opening in the back in the glove. In other words, he was tipping his pitches.

Then there's Frank Howard, manager of the Mets early in Darling's stay in New York. Howard, not a favorite of Darling's, apparently drove through an exact change lane in the mid-1980s and threw money in the old coin basket. And waited. And waited. When he was asked what he was waiting for, Howard said he put in a five-dollar bill and was waiting for his change.

Or how about the time he and Keith Hernandez had a meal with Lauren Bacall? He wanted to talk about movies, she wanted to talk about the Mets' chances. Betts turned out to be a baseball fan.

While most baseball lifers have some good stories, it's a little surprising that Darling rarely holds much back here about people he doesn't like at other times. Former Buffalo Bisons' manager Jack Aker hardly spoke to Darling in the minors, leaving the young pitcher mystified. A teammate sprayed Darling one day with tobacco juice, even though it was Darling's first day in the majors and his uniform was nice and clean. Welcome to the Show, rookie. Darling's lack of personal respect for star slugger Frank Thomas leaked into their relationship during TBS broadcasts.

The one odd part comes at the end, when Darling goes off on a decent-sized rant about the state of baseball today. In particular, he's not happy with the how the game is played at times, particularly when it becomes a slave to analytics. That includes such topics as defensive shifts, five-inning starters, and the running game mostly taken out of the tool box. Darling makes some points, but it's a not what I was expecting.

I wouldn't pick this up for the young kiddies who might be fans of Darling's work on broadcasts. The language and a few of the exploits are R-rated. I also know that some people like the authenticity that profanity brings to a story, so they won't be offended.

"108 Stitches" (the number on a baseball, naturally) goes down very easily and quickly. It meets its goal for entertaining the reader ... even if you have to supply the dinner.
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I love baseball. Absolutely love baseball. I also love a good story, so this book was a homerun for me (I promise, that's my only baseball pun). And while I doubt anyone who doesn't love baseball would read this book, let me just go ahead and tell you that this book isn't for a casual fan. 

There is a lot of name dropping in this book, and it got a little... annoying, honestly. It's not like I thought there wouldn't be name dropping or anything, but some of them are so obscure that I focused more on who Darling was speaking of rather than the story he was telling. Some of the stories themselves were a little dry, and while they made sense to the over-arching plot of the book, my eyes definitely glazed over a bit while reading.

This book delivers what it's selling, though. It was interesting to me, an avid baseball fan, to see all the connections Darling made during the book. This is also one of the view books where I really loved the preface; there was this extended metaphor about the game of baseball as the actual baseball itself that I found strangely beautiful and moving. 

I got through this pretty quickly, so I definitely see myself going back through it more slowly to really appreciate the story being told. If you're interested in the history of baseball told in a non-linear, somewhat creative way, this is the book for you.

10/10 would recommend to die-hard baseball fans; 7/10 would recommend to everyone else.
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Overall, this is an interesting book about former MLB pitcher Ron Darling’s experiences and viewpoints on baseball- both in his playing days (70s and 80s) and also on contemporary baseball. Darling is currently a commentator for the Mets, so he is connected with baseball and has lots of knowledge about the game and the stories that come out of the game. There are some great stories, but sometimes the book is hard to read because the voice of the author seems…..what is the right word….douchey?  I like the idea of the stitches and how different stories are tied or stitched into other stories.
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108 Stitches, by former MLB pitcher and longtime broadcaster Ron Darling is a loosely organized collection of memories, stories, and all the other outright crazy shit from his lifetime in the game. As a self-admitted "slightly less than legendary" player, Darling has seen everything during his stints with the New York Mets, Montreal Expos, and Oakland A's. He even managed to win a ring in one of the most memorable World Series ever in 1986. The 108 stitches, by the way, represent the construction of the baseball itself. Pulling one thread reveals an important baseball story in his life, then connected to another, soon showing how everything within the game can be connected. This concept is expressed through Darling's seemingly encyclopedic memory of players and coaches, almost all of which have a memorable story that you've never heard before.

It has become a tired description (mostly thanks to politics) when someone "tells it like it is," but honestly, it's the best way to describe Ron Darling's colorful musings in the book. 108 Stitches is not a poetic or misty-eyed remembrance of America's Pastime. Ken Burns Baseball and Field of Dreams have their place in baseball history, but this is more focused on the real shit, expressed in it's raw original lexicon. Darling doesn't try to soil the game in any way, and there are plenty of truly beautiful moments discussed. However, playing in the 1980's alongside people like Lenny Dykstra and Darryl Strawberry, it's important and well-executed for the authors in taking special care to -sigh- tell it like it is. 

The conversational tone is what makes this book really shine. Darling spills his guts on hundreds of baseball personalities with reflections of both on and off the field memories. It all feels like he's hanging out in the living room with us, cracking open a few beers and orating about how Frank Thomas was a big whiny baby, or how Moneyball subject Billy Beane elaborately tried to pick up girls. Darling also takes great care to describe the problems with baseball lifers, as a lot of baseball people are complete dicks (a story about his first big league manager spitting tobacco juice on him will be forever stuck in my mind). 

I try to think about players from the current era of the MLB sharing stories like this and I think it's going to be a struggle. The ball players of the 1980's might be the last great storytellers. While the massive, culturally separating size of the paychecks top players get today is one thing, I just don't see modern players being this articulate. There's no desire to make memories anymore, no tall tales to share. With everything documented on social media, and cameras in everyone's hands 24/7, baseball lore is going to be tougher to cultivate and record with each passing year. Oh yeah, there's that and the infield shift. That really sucks too.

Verdict: 108 Stitches by Ron Darling is a fantastic memoir that digs into nearly every facet of baseball culture from the last 30 years. This is not a book for baseball n00bs, as the content is raw, unfiltered, and meant for the baseball lifers (or lifer fans) like himself. That being said, if you're someone that wants to take in the greatest game that's ever been invented from a new, straight-shooter perspective, this book should be in your library in April 2019.

St. Martin's Press generously provided with an advanced review copy of 108 Stitches. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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A really clever and enjoyable book as the old Mets pitcher takes us on a guided tour of his long, varied and successful career through a series of linked stories and anecdotes featuring many of the players, coaches, managers and personalities who he met and had dealings with throughout his career.

Well written and never less than fascinating, he provides some interesting insights into the make up, personalities and peccadillos of the stars and also less well known names of the time.

Perhaps he has pulled his punches from time to time in order to protect the guilty but this is a rollicking good read and is a perfect dip in and out of gift for anyone who followed baseball in the 80s and 90s.

Highly recommended.
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