The best and most influential baseball book all-time arguably is "Ball Four," the rollicking autobiography of a season with the 1969 Seattle Pilots, written by relief pitcher Jim Bouton. It was a game-changer in the genre, the first book that really seemed to take a reader inside a big-league locker room.
Matt McCarthy attempted to create the same thing for the 21st century in "Odd Man Out," a book about his summer as an obscure minor-league pitcher with the 2002 Provo Angels in the rookie-level Pioneer League. He covers a lot of controversial topics, saying he had teammates who were racist or took steroids or generally led lives of, well, wild minor-league baseball players. A few of those players are now in the majors, including Angels starter Joe Saunders and infielder Matt Brown.
Enough people liked the book that it's been aggressively promoted, and an excerpt was even published in Sports Illustrated in February. But now the author is under fire, answering allegations that perhaps the book should be moved from the non-fiction shelves across the aisle to fiction. Even SI is a little nervous about the allegations.
Several times in the book, which he devotes mostly to the antics of libidinous teammates and his manic manager, Tom Kotchman, McCarthy directly quotes people stating incorrect facts about their own lives and tells detailed (and mostly unflattering) stories about teammates who were in fact not on his team at the time. The book’s more outrageous scenes could not be independently corroborated or disproved; several teammates who were present said in interviews that they were exaggerated or simply untrue.
“Some of this is true, and some of it is made up,” said Alex Dvorsky, McCarthy’s catcher that summer. Added pitcher Adrian Goas, “I thought to myself that I must have been on a different team than he was.”
Responded McCarthy, to the Times:
“I think that there are a handful of details that I did my best to re-create,” said McCarthy, 28. “For the most part, it’s a detailed account of what was going on. If somebody comes out and says, ‘I would never have said that, therefore it’s not true,’ I can’t do anything about that.”
Now it wouldn't be the first time that a ballplayer lied to cover his posterior - the entire steroids episode has obviously taught us that. But while Bouton's book is regarded as truthful these days, the jury is still out on the latest contribution to the genre.