Starting and Closing: Preseverance, Faith and One More Year by John Smoltz with Don Yaeger


Starting and ClosingReviewed by Allen Hott

No doubt one of the best pitchers in baseball when you look at all of his statistics, John Smoltz explains why he did some of the things he did during his great career. For those of you not familiar with Smoltz he pitched from 1985 to 2009 with (mostly) the Atlanta Braves, the Boston Red Sox, and the St Louis Cardinals. Born in Michigan John always wanted to play for the Detroit Tigers and in fact he was signed by the Tigers. But Detroit traded him to Atlanta while he was still in their farm system so in fact his beginning and hoped for ending became Atlanta.

His parents always had hoped that he would continue in music for a career as he was an accomplished accordion player by age four. He loved the music and still plays that accordion for relaxation but at an early age he became engrossed with baseball.

John was part of the great Atlanta Braves franchise that won 14 consecutive division titles during the 80’s and 90’s. He was part of a great pitching staff that included Gregg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and others. Several members of that staff are considered virtual shoo-ins for the Baseball Hall of Fame. And that definitely includes John!

He played in 8 All-Star games, won a Cy Young Award for being the best pitcher in the National League in 1996, and won the Silver Slugger Award for Pitchers in 1997. However what really stands in his records is the fact that over his career he won 213 games and saved 154 games. Only one other pitcher in baseball history has both won and saved that many games in a career. By the way also John amassed 3084 strikeouts of opposing hitters in his career. Another Hall of Fame number for sure.

This book isn’t about his numbers or accomplishments as much as it is about the perseverance and determination that John showed throughout his career. As a pitcher much wear and tear occurs to the arm and shoulder. John undoubtedly had more than his share of both.

But throughout he continued to battle and fight back by changing his delivery in various ways and by moving from starting pitcher to reliever. On his physical shortly after arriving with the Braves, their doctor found that every joint in his elbows, knees, ankles, and hips was double jointed and hypermobile. This unique physical setup was not necessarily suited for a baseball pitcher!

However John used that natural looseness as part of his pitching ability. He basically used his arm as a slingshot as he released the ball giving him more power and more accuracy. But all of those attributes did not stop him from getting wear and tear from throwing as many innings as he did.

John really explains many things about his injuries, comebacks, and even some of the run-ins that he had throughout his career with the media and even some of his bosses. He doesn’t knock anyone but explains how and why things happened. One of his biggest regrets is that he didn’t get to finish his career with the Braves. Besides working toward his dream to play on the Senior PGA tour, John now stays busy with his charitable work and working to spread his Christian faith.

Once you “Start” this book you will find it very hard to “Close”! Great reading about a truly great performer and individual.

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