Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: Total Mets (2012)

By David Ferry

Has David Ferry had time to do anything but work on "Total Mets" in the past few years? Has he talked to his wife in that span? Does his child recognize him?

Goodness, the first impression from this book is that it is a very impressive piece of work. I'm relatively sure that it contains the longest known description of Jay Hook's career in the 700-plus pages within the covers. (For the record, Hook pitched for a bit more than two seasons for the Mets and gets almost four pages here.)

The idea behind "Total Mets" is to celebrate the first 50 years of play by New York's National League baseball team. And then celebrate it some more. You'll never see any subject covered more thoroughly.

The book starts with a year-by-year description of the team's fortunes in those 50 seasons. For what it's worth, it's a bit of a surprise that Ferry didn't cover how the team came about. It's an interesting story, as New Yorkers worked to get a replacement team once the Giants and Dodgers packed up for the West Coast after the 1957 season. One plan even involved setting up an "expansion league" called the Continental.

Even so, we jump right into the opening 1962 campaign, one of the worst seasons in baseball history. There are plenty of details about the next 49 years told along the way, and no season gets overlooked. There are full individual statistical recaps of each year included too. The 1969 and 1986 seasons don't dominate the narrative in this section ... which is a good idea in a book like this.

Then it's on to the player biographies. Ferry originally wanted to write biographies of every Met who every suited up for a game - and still has plans to publish such a book - but someone probably realized that doing that here might have collapsed some bookshelves. So we get 50 biographies, hitting everyone from Marv Throneberry to Mike Piazza. Tom Seaver goes from page 346 to 364. It's tough to say whether a little trimming might have made it more likely for readers to dive into a particular portion, but it is, after all, "Total Mets."

General managers and managers get their due in succeeding chapters. It's a great idea to look back on the GMs and cover what they did while on the job. It's followed by good-sized reviews of the postseason games that have been played over the years (good to have the box scores), plus plenty of team and individual records. Just don't think that the records are completely up to date, as they don't include the 2012 season.

What helps the text considerably is that Ferry, while admittedly a Mets' fan from childhood, takes a journalist's approach. He'd better, since he works for the Associated Press. In other words, Ferry is not constantly glowing in his words. He's willing to criticize when necessary, and that covers more than the Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi trade. That helps gives praise that much more credibility.

If there's a complaint to be had here, it probably centers on a lack of pictures. There are some photos scattered about here, but there are plenty of pages with nothing but text on them. That makes it a little less than inviting, at least on a skim basis. My guess is that it's a matter of economics. After all, this book checks in at under $30 retail, which is something of a bargain considering the information involved.

"Total Mets" obviously isn't for everyone, as its overwhelming nature will limit sales to true believers. But those fans who remember the night when Tug McGraw beat Sandy Koufax in Shea Stadium in 1965, as a for instance, will give this an extra star. This is nothing if not thorough.

Four stars

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