A couple of years ago, Bob Netherton and I had a chance to interview Jerry Reuss. I can’t remember exactly how we got the opportunity, but I do remember that we talked so long with Reuss that our time eventually completely cut off. He had plenty of interesting stories to tell us on that day.
I don’t think he was planning to become an author, but with the full baseball life he led plus his penchant for telling stories that made him look good and not-so-good, it’s not surprising that he eventually got around to putting them on paper. Bring In the Right-Hander is a revealing look at Reuss’s career, from his start with the Cardinals all the way through his final days as a Pirate.
There are a lot of fascinating tales between the covers of this book. You can read about his negotiations to sign his first deal with the Cardinals, as he was able to squeeze enough extra out of the organization for his parents to enjoy a vacation. You can find out how a player hears that he’s been traded and what he does afterwards. You can find out what it’s like to get one last shot at the big leagues and how it feels to get a standing ovation after you leave the mound for the last time. You’ll also learn how a ballplayer can get just about anything to eat if he has a few signed baseballs.
Reuss played for a number of teams, of course, but most of his stories revolved around his time with either the Pirates or the Dodgers. I got a kick out of him telling about the time he could tell that Vin Scully was in the middle of a story, so he stepped off the mound, grabbed the rosin bag, and let the maestro finish his work before Reuss started his. Given how well Scully tells a story, the only downside was that Reuss probably couldn’t tell which story Scully was regaling the audience with.
Most of this readership probably will find his few years with the Cardinals the most interesting. Reuss gives an insight into the mindset of the club around the time of the Steve Carlton trade. He talks about playing for Red Schoendienst. He talks about being with the club in New York when the Mets clinched their first pennant and the craziness that ensued from that. Lots of incredible stories featuring names that many of us have grown up with.
Reuss apparently was a big prankster in his career and you get to hear about a lot of them. From entering a tense room after a playoff loss sans pants or goofing on umpire Frank Pulli with a signed baseball, Reuss tended to do what he could to keep things light. Did they always work out? Well, I don’t know that I’d go that far. But it makes for some interesting reading, there’s no doubt about it.
If you are a fan of that era of baseball, the late sixties through the eighties, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes, inside-the-clubhouse stuff in there and it’s a very fast, very enjoyable read. The only downside is that Reuss limits himself to his playing career instead of getting into some details of his broadcasting time after the playing days were through. I think, given the rest of the book, there had to be some stories there that would have made for some great reading as well!