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'A Nice Tuesday' by Pat Jordan

Memoir of comeback is strictly minor-league

Sunday, May 30, 1999

By Bob Hoover, Post-Gazette Book Editor

 
 

A Nice Tuesday

By Pat Jordan

Golden Books
$23.00

   
 

Pat Jordan’s first memoir, “A False Spring,” ensured him a place in the baseball book Hall of Fame. The 1975 work endures because it told the story that so many American males know intimately, but seldom talk about -- failure in sports.

There are more than a few men who are haunted by an image -- the called third strike, the dropped fly ball, the bad throw -- that comes back to them no matter how old they are.

Jordan’s failure was more spectacular. He was a $50,000 bonus baby for the Milwaukee Braves, but his pitching career fizzled out in ignominious collapse in 1962 after a few minor-league seasons.

Now in his late 50s, Jordan is a busy free-lance magazine writer, but it appears the promise of another “A False Spring” has lured him to the memoir trade once again.

And, what a plague this memoir business has become lately, a stream of confessional writings, one more embarrassing than the next.

Jordan has caught a whiff of this siren’s call. “A Nice Tuesday” is ostensibly about baseball, but it is really about Jordan’s need to impress readers the way he did baseball scouts 40 years ago.

You can guess the premise: Former phenom takes to the mound at 56 to exorcise his demons -- and write about it. But before we get to the moment when our hero fires his first pitch, we must endure Jordan’s monologue on his geriatric sex life, his obsession with dogs, his childhood, his divorce and estrangement from his children and his current family relationships including the obligatory father-son thing.

The point when Jordan brags about how he and his wife played out a scene from a porno movie should have sent me to the concession stand for a beer, but I hung around to learn about his “comeback.”

Like so many writers (see “Slouching Toward Fargo”), Jordan visited the St. Paul Saints, the fun-loving minor league team, for a story and was offered a chance to pitch as a promotional stunt.

Years away from baseball, not even playing catch, Jordan committed himself to a tight training schedule of throwing and was able to regain much of his pitching ability.

One thing led to another and on July 29, 1997, Jordan pitched the first inning for the Waterbury, (Conn.) Spirit, not far from where he grew up. He met his “teammates” a few hours before the game, threw his inning (a walk, a strikeout and two groundouts) and left without even learning his catcher’s name.

Even Jordan was underwhelmed by the experience. Months of hard, physical work and emotional reflection for three outs. A promotional gimmick for a minor-league team. A life in baseball boiled down to a handful of pitches.

Only a few months after his return to the game, Jordan “hangs up his spikes” (leaves them in his car, really), with the need to prove himself a great athlete dismissed. No big deal.

A less egotistical writer might have found more to consider from this experience, but a childhood of fame and praise has left Jordan with tunnel vision pointing only to him.

And despite Jordan’s satisfaction with himself, it’s not much to look at.

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