On the cover of the new book Jerry Reuss finally got around to writing is a picture of him standing on the pitcher’s mound looking mostly irritated, and of Tommy Lasorda, looking mostly blurry, in the foreground. Blurry Lasorda, it can be assumed, is about to remove irritated Reuss from the ballgame.
“Bring In the Right-Hander!”
That’s the title of Reuss’ book. This picture of him and Lasorda, taken right before the latter is about to speak those words to the plate umpire, is an excellent choice for the cover.
But if I were the Left-Hander, I still would have used the picture of the two of them taking a whirlpool bath together.
Yes, it’s mildly disturbing, at least if you don’t know Reuss, or aren’t familiar with the loads of fun the longtime Las Vegan and part-time 51s broadcaster had while pitching baseballs in the major leagues for 22 seasons.
But if you saw that photo of him and the LA skipper in the whirlpool on the book cover at Barnes &Noble, you probably would want to know the story behind it. And if you couldn’t find it by quickly rifling through the chapters, you might buy the book, even if you weren’t a Dodgers fan.
There’s also a picture of Reuss dragging the infield as a de facto member of the Dodgers ground crew with his hat cocked to the side like Fernando Rodney. Only this was the 1980s.
Still, Lasorda fined him big time.
It’s a good thing it never rains in Southern California. If if did, Jerry Reuss probably would have been the guy putting the tarp down.
Reuss, who won 220 games in the majors, pitched a no-hitter against the Giants and twice was a National League All-Star, said he had wanted to write a book for a long time. He had been contacted by people who wanted to help him write it. But he wanted to tell his baseball stories in his words, not some old sportswriter’s words. That was important to him.
A lot of Opening Days came and went without the book getting written.
Opening Day 2010 came and went.
A few months later Reuss and his wife, Chantal, were watching TV when David Letterman asked the comedian Tom Dreesen to tell the story about the autographed baseball from Lasorda to home plate umpire Frank Pulli that somehow managed to slip into a game — Reuss was the one who had signed Lasorda’s name.
Only Dreesen didn’t tell the story the way Reuss remembered it.
They would talk on the telephone and tell baseball stories both remembered. There were laughs from the upstairs office. Chantal Reuss told her husband he should write down his version of the Frank Pulli story.
Jerry Reuss emailed the story to his wife, because it was too long to text. He heard her laugh out loud downstairs.
“Got any more?” she asked.
He did, and so now Jerry Reuss has a book, published by the University of Nebraska Press, available through Amazon.com. It’s not a kiss-and-tell book, although there is a picture of Steve Garvey smooching Reuss during batting practice after Garvey had been traded to the Padres.
Reuss tells his baseball stories chronologically, like Vin Scully reading off the lineup. From the joy of breaking in with his hometown Cardinals in 1969 to the melancholy of bowing out with the Pirates in 1990, Jerry Reuss was one of only 29 players to have appeared in major league box scores during four decades.
He also was one of only four big league ballplayers to have sung for Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show.” (Reuss, Steve Yeager, Rick Monday, Jay Johnstone — aka “Big Blue Wrecking Crew.”)
Each story has its own headline. It’s an easy read, easier than pitching to the Expos when Reuss was playing.
There’s not a whole lot of inside baseball in the book, except for maybe Game 5 of the 1981 World Series. That was the biggest game Reuss ever pitched in. Way bigger, he said, than his no-hitter, because all he got for pitching that no-no was a big screen TV that didn’t fit in his living room.
He received a ring the night after pitching that complete game in October against the Yankees.
“All that stood between beating the Yankees three in a row was Aurelio Rodriguez. With fifty-six-thousand-plus standing, I got two quick strikes on Rodriguez. Then I did something I never did before delivering the next pitch. I paused and scanned Dodger Stadium from the upper deck in left field all the way around to right field and took in the moment. The inner voice, absent throughout the game, returned and said ‘This is the time you waited for your entire life. Make it count ...’ ”
The story about him and Lasorda in the whirlpool is pretty good, too.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski