I recently finishing reading John Moody’s book entitled, “Kiss It Good-bye. The Mystery, the Mormon, and the Moral of the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates” written about Moody’s boyhood-hero Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Vernon Law. Two overriding themes jumped out at me as I read the book.
The first was Mr. Moody’s devotion to Law is such that he suggests the ridiculous notion that if Law would have not been hurt on the bus celebrating the Pirates clinching the National League pennant in 1960 (the Mystery) and that had Law went on to win 20-games for the next seven seasons (1961-1967) that he would be in Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. If that were true, he most certainly would be as that would have given Law eight consecutive 20-win seasons including the 1960 season.
Moody wrote on page 227: “Lets assume that Law had been healthy after the 1960 season and that he had won 20 games in each of his seven remaining seasons with the Pirates….Instead of the 60 games that Law won from 1960 through 1967, let’s assume he won 140 more, for a total of 242, and that he lost the same number as he really did 147….Those kinds of numbers would have put him in the realm of Juan Marichal….” Talk about a stretch by Moody!
To put that preposterous notion in perspective, the great Sandy Koufax had only three 20-win seasons in his entire career. Tom Seaver had only five 20-win seasons in his Hall-of-Fame career never having more than two consecutive 20-win seasons. Marichal had six 20-win seasons in his entire career winning 20 games four consecutive times.
Roger Clemens had six 20-win seasons in his career, never more than two consecutively. Randy Johnson had three 20-win seasons in his career. Pedro Martinez had two 20-win seasons in his career. Bob Gibson, a contemporary of Law’s had five 20-win seasons in his career, three of which were in consecutive seasons. Jim Palmer had eight 20-win seasons, four of which were consecutive. One can see how Moody’s devotion to Law impairs his thinking and judgment.
Secondly, what jumped out at me, is Moody’s contempt and dislike for the Pirates Hall-of-Fame right fielder Roberto Clemente. Multiple times Moody goes out of his way to express his disdain for Clemente, in of all places an autobiography of his boyhood hero Law.
Moody wrote things I have never read written about Clemente in any previous book. For example:
On page 289: “The book on Clemente was that he was a coward. Buzz him up by the skull and he had the manner of a pup who’d just been whipped.”Throughout the book, Moody cannot help himself in hiding his dislike for Clemente. On page 253: “Clemente got beneath the drive, gloved it with his infuriatingly casual, palm-up basket catch, and the game was over.” Would Moody call Willie Mays’ same-style of palm-up basket catch infuriating as well? Has anyone else ever done so of either Clemente or Mays? Evidently, it was infuriating only to Moody.
Even when praising Clemente’s undeniable talents and athletic ability, Moody injects his subjective negativity. On page 151: “The club also had a cocky and super-talented new right fielder named Roberto Clemente.” Clemente’s talent was recognized by everyone that ever watched him play, but cocky is strictly Moody’s opinion and he must have felt compelled to interject his negativity towards Clemente. Was it truly necessary?
On page 165 and 166: “When he was fit and motivated, Clemente answered criticism with accomplishment.” When was Clemente non-motivated? I have never encountered any writer ever claiming that Clemente was ever non-motivated.
Moody continued: “He challenged pitchers with an arrogant wave of his head, as if daring them to throw the ball past him.” Again, note Moody’s use of the negative adjective arrogant. I recall no one ever stating Clemente waved his head arrogantly.
On page 241, Moody wrote: “Watching Clemente on tape now – the arrogant way he made himself at home in the batter’s box…..”
On page 283, Moody wrote: “Shantz made Face go to a full count, then lifted a high fly ball to right, which Clemente put away with his arrogant basket catch.”
By my count, Moody used the following negative adjectives and terms regarding Clemente: cowardly, infuriating, arrogant (3x), cocky, and unmotivated, in a book not about Clemente, but he felt it necessary to write those things about Clemente in a book about his idol Vernon Law?
No other player in the book is subjected to as many, if any, negatives in Moody’s book. For me, this detracted a great deal from Kiss It Goodbye.