The Cy Young Catcher by Charlie O’Brien and Doug Wedge (2015)
The Cy Young Catcher
by Charlie O’Brien and Doug Wedge
Texas A&M University Press, 2015
The Cy Young Award is the highest individual honor a pitcher can receive after an outstanding season. During his major league career, catcher Charlie O’Brien played with thirteen different pitchers recognized as the best pitcher in the league. Some of those pitchers were at the end of the road (Pete Vuckovich, Steve Bedrosian, Jack McDowell), while others were in their primes (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Roger Clemens, Pat Hentgen). Some were still learning how to effectively pitch at the big league level (John Smoltz, Chris Carpenter). O’Brien utilized his wisdom behind the plate to call the pitches that would get batters out and help his team win, and his pitchers trusted him to make the right calls.
The Cy Young Catcher is a thirteen-chapter book in which O’Brien discusses working with these thirteen pitchers, but it is so much more. With his conversational tone, O’Brien discusses the ups and downs of his career, what worked and what didn’t, and what went on in the clubhouse. He expresses disappointment with Darryl Strawberry‘s selfish attitude at the end of the 1990 season, and explains how he encouraged Chipper Jones to take infield practice more seriously. He mentions Dwight Gooden‘s hospitality when he first arrived in New York, attributing some of the young pitcher’s substance abuse struggles (which he never personally witnessed) to his desire to be liked. He also discusses the allegations of steroid use by Toronto teammate Roger Clemens, stating his opinion that Clemens never used, pointing out that he even refused to use a scuffed ball in a game because he considered it cheating.
O’Brien is also known for developing the hockey-style catching mask, and writes about the difficulties he faced in getting approval from baseball to use it in a game. He peppers the books with compliments about various managers and umpires, and gets a few digs in as well. The Cy Young Catcher is a highly entertaining book. The language may be a bit too salty for younger readers, but mature readers will enjoy his stories and recollections of his major league experience.