Perfect I'm Not: Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches, and Baseball

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9780060508241: Perfect I'm Not: Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches, and Baseball

Forget the perfect game. Forget the World Series rings. Forget the legendary carousing, the barroom brawling, the heavy-metal head-banging, and the endless supply of uncensored, often havoc-wreaking quotes. Forget the feuds with dumb-assed fans, wrong-headed managers and the entire city of Cleveland. Even if Perfect, I'm Not was to blindly (and insanely) ignore all those amazing aspects of David Wells' life as a major leaguer, his story would still bounce off these pages as a wildly entertaining and jaw-droppingly honest look at the game of baseball. Nothing less would be possible. Wells simply isn't wired for spin-doctoring. He has no "delete" button. He pulls no punches. In a sport that's now largely populated by a bland collection of well-dressed, personality-free, cliché -- spouting Stepford jocks, Wells clearly holds the title of "baseball's most beloved bad-ass".

From rookie ball amid the beer-soaked, frozen tundra of the Great White North, through Winter Ball amid the easy women and explosive diarrhea of Venezuela, Perfect I'm Not explores Boomer's long, strange, often insane climb through the minors. And from the Siberia of the Blue Jays' bullpen, through intensive training with a brilliant little Yoda known as Sparky Anderson, the book also examines how Boomer grew from a mediocre reliever, into a solid, reliable, hugely successful starter. From there, after tortured dealings with Marge Schott in Cincinatti, and Pat Gillick in Baltimore, the book follows Boomer deep inside the New York Yankees' dugout, right through the teams' fairy-tale seasons of '97 and '98. It stands with David on the mound through his legendary perfect game.

It documents his high-profile love affair with the night-life of New York City, and then explores just how devastating it felt to be unceremoniously dumped for Roger Clemens. Perfect I'm Not also follows Boomer through his chronic back pain of 2001, then surgery, rehab, uncertainty, and one pinstriped Christmas miracle, courtesy of Boss Steinbrenner. And though the 2002 season may have enjoyed a less than perfect climax, it nonetheless rounds out the book with a Yankees reunion that kept Boomer smiling from February, right into October.

Perfect I'm Not gives readers an unprecedented, all-access pass to every major league stadium in the country, providing a first-person perspective of life on the diamond, as well as an uncensored, warts-and-all, insider's guide to life inside locker-rooms, hotel rooms, planes, dugouts, buses, bedrooms, restaurants, titty-bars, and more. It's great fun. It's real. It's as close as you're ever gonna get to making the show.

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Review:

Perfect I'm Not is, indeed, not a perfect book, but as in baseball, literary imperfection can make for a thrilling ride. Part Horatio Alger, part libertine, Wells peppers the narrative of his rise from poverty in Ocean Beach, California to baseball fame and fortune with numerous prurient tales from behind the locker room door. He is frank about the use of steroids among his fellow players and he's not afraid to burn major bridges (one must assume they were already on fire) in his ferocious attacks on such baseball luminaries as veteran general manager Pat Gillick. And the story behind his woozy perfect game is legend. All this is entertaining stuff and worth the price of admission.

The book, however, falls too often into a pattern of explication and justification for Wells’s "entertaining" run-ins with the law, baseball management, players, and even his own family. We learn that young Dave Wells once punched his sister and broke her jaw, but, he explains, this was because his sister had scraped his sunburned back with her fingernails. This childhood story is then repeated--in a grown up form--several times. In many cases, it does seem that he is justified in claiming innocence--or at least in claiming he got an eye for an eye. But repetition of these explications--which even include bad pitching performances caused, we learn, by nascent physical problems (elbow, shoulder, bone chips, gout, back)--take away his agency in his own story. The hero is always a victim. In the end, then, the book is as flawed as its author, offering entertaining insight--some perhaps unintentional--into the man and his game.

--Patrick O’Kelley

About the Author:

David Wells is one of the most colorful, honest, outspoken and genuinely funny beings on this, or any other planet.

Chris Kreski was a writer and consultant for MTV and a head writer of The Daily Show. He cowrote Star Trek Memories and Star Trek Movie Memories, as well as several other books with William Shatner.

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