Davey Johnson: My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond tells the story of Davey Johnson, a baseball player-turned-manager who, among other accolades, guided the 1986 New York Mets to a World Series Championship. Johnson co-authored the book with author Erik Sherman and discusses his early days with the Baltimore Orioles, his playing stints in Japan, and his return to the United States where he finished his career with the Chicago Cubs in 1978.
There are many avenues in the book to explore, but Johnson’s interest in sabermetrics will certainly catch readers’ attention. With a strong interest in math and computers, Johnson used computers to calculate different possible lineups for the Orioles. Johnson once processed punch cards with each possible lineup through 27 out 162 times using data from the 1968 season. He used the results to argue that he should bat second in the lineup. This anecdote is one of many about Johnson’s fascination with numbers. His love for numbers served him well in baseball, as well as a successful real estate investor.
Readers will be surprised to find out that Johnson played many significant roles throughout his baseball career. He saw Hank Aaron break Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974. Johnson also saw Sadaharu Oh also surpass Ruth when he played for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. He also played a major role in urging the Washington Nationals’ to draft Bryce Harper, who Johnson recognized as a future superstar. All in all, Johnson would finish his playing days with four-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner before becoming a big league manager.
Davey Johnson’s Book is a Classic Example of Grace and Agility
Some baseball players write autobiographies in order to settle a score, or tell their side of the story about a controversial issue. Davey Johnson’s autobiography isn’t quite one of those books. While Johnson’s book isn’t void of these topics, he easily could have been more critical than he was about certain people such as George Foster, who once called Johnson a racist, or about Dwight Gooden’s struggles with drug addiction. Johnson instead focuses on his teammates’ and players’ contributions to the game while holding them accountable for their mistakes. While he doesn’t mince words, the book makes it clear that Johnson cared deeply for everyone he worked with, regardless of how they felt about him. Johnson prides himself on the fact that he treated all of his players equally while holding himself responsible as a manager for their well-being.
Davey Johnson is a Real Family Man
While Johnson certainly admits to being cocky at times throughout his career, co-author Erik Sherman articulately and eloquently captures Johnson’s devotion to his family. The book goes into detail about Johnson’s daughter, Andrea, who had been a nationally ranked amateur surfer in the late 1980s who died of complications from Schizophrenia in 2005. In 2011, Johnson also lost Jake, a stepson, who had been visually and hearing impaired throughout most of his life. In the pages detailing these hardships, readers don’t see an overly-confident and cocky ballplayer. They see a man who stopped at nothing to do everything he could for all of his children. Anyone who reads between the lines will clearly see the man has a heart of gold.
Johnson’s book is one of the better and more insightful baseball autobiographies covering the Modern Baseball Era. Johnson’s book sets itself apart from other autobiographies by giving his side of the story without sounding vindictive. He doesn’t just gloss over the major events in his baseball career either. Johnson pays attention to specific detail and gives praise to others where praise is due. After reading My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond, sabermetricians, baseball historians, and general fans of the game of baseball will have gained a new and insightful perspective of the game that Davey Johnson clearly loves so much.